Archive for the ‘Blog entries’ Category

Nets v. Knicks in the 2009 finale

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

I’m not going to lie… heading into the 4th quarter - but still with a comfortable lead - I was sweating bullets. Time and time again this season, we’ve seen the Nets invent ways to lose contests - whether it be through a lack of focus, a lack of confidence, or a lack of hustle on both ends in crunch-time situations. For me (and Pmac too, I’m guessing), there’s always a degree of nervous energy surrounding the tri-state derby.

Unlike the last two encounters however, the nervous energy surrounding this game was spawned by excitement (from within the Nets’ camp). Yi has looked like a completely different beast since his return from injury. When I say completely different, I mean completely different. He’s no longer the passive, un-sure, un-willing passenger he seemed to be in his first couple of years in the league. He’s now a bonafide starting-calibre power forward in the NBA with a game to cause headaches for any defense. Today’s game showed just how far his game has evolved. He’s now looking to score in the paint first (before even contemplating a perimeter shot), he’s crashing the boards, and he’s blocking shots like a seven-foot player should. In fact, his inside game has come along so well since his return that Kiki and Del have had the dilemma of trying to find shots for both Yi and Brook. Yi’s recent play has demanded it. Because of this, over the last couple of games, Brook has struggled to maintain his consistency. His scoring and rebounding efficiency has dropped away. Why, then, is this not a cause for concern? Because Brook’s confidence in his own ability should just about always see him through any slump… just like it did tonight. Del, Kiki - take note. From now until the end of the season, the offense must be run through Harris (obviously), Lopez, and Yi. Not Harris, Lee, and Douglas-Roberts. That’s not to say the effort from the two sophomore swingmen hasn’t been admirable, but compared to what the tandem of Lopez and Yi bring to the table, it just isn’t as conducive to success. Yi has been labelled a draft bust by many throughout his career to date, and until recently, it was hard to mount an argument to the contrary. He was shown a tremendous amount of faith by the Bucks in being drafted so early in the lottery and he simply hadn’t delivered in his first couple of seasons. Now, he’s showing just what the Bucks hoped he would, albeit for them, 2 years too late.

I’m trying to keep my composure in writing this post. Afterall, I’m writing about a 3-29 outfit that’s still mathematically favoured to snatch the dubious “worst team of all time” title away from that god-awful 9-73 Philadelphia 76ers team. Thing is though, with this win, a new leaf looks to have been turned. The Knicks of season 09/10 - so far - have actually impressed. They’ve overachieved in my mind, certainly. Until tonight’s game, the last time they gave up more than 100 points was on December the 4th. This is the Knicks we’re talking about… thought of, instantly, as a defensive laughing stock. However, their current playoff-contending position in the Eastern Conference standings indicates just how competitive this side has been - despite the questionable decision making of Mike D’Antoni and myriad of issues surrounding arguably the team’s best player, Nate Robinson.

The Knicks were always going to produce offensive bursts tonight (by the likes of David Lee, Al Harrington, and Wilson Chandler) that would be enough to strike fear into the hearts of even the most confident Nets fan (if he still exists), and they did, but through heart, determination, and the arrival on to the NBA scene of Yi Jianlian; Kiki Vandeweghe’s group of rag tag misfits not only weathered the storm, they made it through to the other side to see light on the formerly bleak horizon.

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A Complete Fucking Disgrace

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Disclaimer: The following blog entry was written just after the Nets/Lakers game on Sunday the 29th of November. The thoughts, opinions, and emotions contained within this entry were brought to the fore by the accumulating effect that a 0-17 start to a season can have on one humble basketball fan. You’ve been warned!

Today’s performance was just completely fucking disgusting. I stopped watching at the end of the third, but I should have stopped at the end of the first. For pretty much the entire game, we were down by 20+, 34 at one stage. To have ultimately lost by only 19 points was for us to pull off the greatest of escapes. Steve McQueen would indeed be proud.

Now I know we were playing the Lakers today, but that’s no excuse for a complete lack of effort on both ends of the floor. This was the first game all season that I saw absolutely no effort coming from all-bar-one of our guys (Brook). Everyone else - including CDR, C-Lee, and Devin this time - couldn’t give a flying fuck. And this was the team’s first game after their fucking coach was fired because of a 0-16 start! NEWSFLASH ROCKIN’ ROD AND B-RAT…. LAWRENCE FRANK WASN’T THE REASON WE WERE AND ARE THE WORST TEAM IN THE NBA. CHRIST!!!

In today’s game, not only did those ass-sucking, butt-fucking, cum-guzzling, piece of shit bandwagon Lakers fans mock us from start to finish, but the game’s announcers did too. THAT is the epitome of de-moralization. At one stage, for at least half a quarter, the announcers were seriously discussing the possibility, nay, the PROBABILITY of Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant outscoring our whole team. During that conversation, Kobe drained three wide-open 3-point shots. After the third dropped, he looked sincerely angry. I asked myself why he of all people felt the need to be pissed off… then it clicked. He was pissed off that he - arguably the best player in the best basketball competition on earth - had to play against a defense that couldn’t stop a runaway wheelbarrow with an automated Soviet tank. It was obvious that Kobe felt genuinely insulted by the mere thought of a team leaving him wide open… shot, after shot, after shot.

I don’t think I’ve ever been as angry at a sports team as I am right now. The Nets were a complete shambles and an embarrassment before tonight’s game (due to no fault of their own in some ways), but none of that mattered today and none of that is going to be reflected in the history books when we wind up with what will probably be a 0-30 start to an NBA season. Yes, we’re a frighteningly young team. Yes, we’ve had more injury hassles this season already than some teams have had in the last 3-4 seasons. Yes, we traded our three best players over the last five years (four if you go back another year to the K-Mart trade) to free up future cap space. But you know fucking what… right now, that’s all irrelevant. Right now, we’re un-watchable - and thanks to today’s insipid performance by a team that has only had its pride and hard working attitude to hang its hat on throughout the season to date - we’re bordering on un-supportable.

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Nets v. Knicks - Beyond the W/L Column

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

Even the true-bluest of Knicks fans on our forums have commented on the lack of passion shown by just about everyone on the team’s roster. John Schuhmann of NBA.com notes that:

For the 0-8 Nets, their offense is even worse [than the Knicks'], ranking 29th in efficiency and having failed to score 20 points in nine different quarters this season. New Jersey is the only team in the league without a win, and was just 1-6 in the preseason. They even lost all five of their summer league games in July. Dating back to the final game of last season, the Nets’ organization has lost 20 of their last 21 games.

Yet somehow, the Nets don’t seem nearly as dispirited as their counterparts across the Hudson River. They’ve got seven guys on the shelf, including four starters, and All-Star point guard Devin Harris has been out since Game 2. But in each of their last three games, the Nets have shown energy and fight, losing tight games to Philadelphia (twice) and Boston.

See, as bad as the Nets are - W/L obviously the worst in the league - the Knicks are worse in many ways. They might have the most injury-depleted roster in the league, but the Nets (the players that can actually take to the court) are obviously giving their all; Rafer Alston’s unfathomable triple-double against former team Orlando, battle-scarred Trenton Hassell’s career offensive game the other night, Josh Boone’s rebounding from a position completely foreign to him (PF), Eduardo Najera’s un-willingness to back down from one-on-one contests in the post, Terrence Williams’s rebounding from the off and point guard spots and his willingness to get to the hoop at all costs… ALL of these are signs that the Nets are fighting on pure spirit. They have nothing else.

The Knicks on the other hand (one win better off than the Nets, not ten wins better off as some Knicks fans make them seem)… Well Chris Duhon (the team’s so called leader) is shooting at something like 24% from the field and he seems un-willing to acknowledge that. The team as a whole has been outscored by 50 points IN FIRST QUARTERS! To me, that’s absolutely the most damning team statistic in NBA basketball. It should be plastered all around the Knicks’ MSG locker room. It should be the first thing mentioned in practice each time. IT SHOULD spur the team on - to at least start games off on the right foot, to provide them with enough motivation to play hard enough to avoid complete embarrassment (both individual and collective)…. But it doesn’t. Unbelievably, the Knicks are the best finishing team in basketball - scoring more points in the 4th than any other side - but it amounts to absolutely nothing. They’ve all taken semi-automatics and shot themselves in the feet long before the 36th minute of games. How does a side ever recover from that? How can it foster the growth of team chemistry or morale? How can the Knicks realistically muster any kind of optimism? All of these questions relate to what are seemingly deep-seeded cultural issues that may prove impossible to eradicate for quite some time.

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The Russian Invasion!

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Run!!! The Russians are coming!

Wait… hold up… stop running. Nets fans - we’re about to enter one hell of an entertaining (and most likely, successful) era under the leadership of our new 6′9″ Supreme Commander, Mikhail Prokhorov. “Who?” you ask? Well, a few episodes back, I spoke about the rumblings of an imminent ownership change - the chances of Brucey Ratner disappearing into the sunset. I spoke about the various parties interested in taking control of our beloved team. One of these parties - Mr. Prokhorov (”the bored Russian with six billion dollars to spend”) - I saw as a dream owner, one who could elevate the Nets into the financial stratosphere occupied only by teams like the Knicks, Lakers, and Blazers (they may not have as big a name as the other two, but they’re owned by this guy).

For those of you unaware of exactly who Mikhail Prokhorov is, prepare to be wowed. As you’ve presumably just seen by clicking the link, Paul Allen was ranked in 2008 by Forbes as the 41st richest man in the world. In that same year, Prokhorov was ranked at #24 - with a net worth more than twice that of Allen (Microsoft’s co-founder). Twelve months on, and Prokhorov’s standing has “slipped”. Due to cashing out his stakes in two of Russia’s biggest mining companies and divvying up the prophets with his main business partner, Prokhorov (or the ‘Prokmaster General’ as he’ll henceforth by known around these parts) saw his net worth slip from around $19.5 billion (USD) to $9.5 billion. Of course it goes without saying that a fair chunk of that money could be recouped by more investments, but it seems the Prokmaster General is happy with where he’s at. The avid orgy-loving kickboxer - with a reputation as Russia’s most sought-after bachelor (…lord knows why?) has an equally sizeable reputation for recreational spending, on sports teams specifically. In a couple of short years, he turned CSKA Moscow into the richest non-NBA team in world basketball. He did this by spending as much money as he had to, to secure some of Europe’s biggest stars. Let’s compare this situation to the Ratman’s with the Nets. It’s obvious that Brucey isn’t short of a dollar, but it’s also painfully obvious that he’s not a sports fan. He’s a property developer, and that’s where his financial priorities lie. Always have, always will. He’s on the verge of achieving the main goal he set for himself when buying the Nets in the early part of the naughties - moving the team to Brooklyn as part of a mammoth land development. In his whole tenure with the Nets, Ratner has only committed to a couple of large player contracts (the most notable being VC’s extension).

Reports doing the rounds in NBA media circles right now revolve around the escalated level of the Prokmaster General’s interest in buying into the soon-to-be Brooklyn franchise. It’s not the fleeting interest it was when Pmac and I discussed it a few weeks ago on the show. It’s now genuine interest (as shown in Mikhail’s latest blog entry - hilariously translated into English by the Google translator). Reports are stating that the Prokmaster General has already submitted a $750m (USD) offer to Forest City Ratner (Brucey and his cronies) to buy their 30% controlling stake in the Nets and fund the building of the Barclays Center (note the new design). FCR would still ultimately control the arena as part of their Atlantic Yards development, but it’d have no further involvement with the Nets. In order for any change in ownership to be approved by the NBA, 23 of the 29 other opposition team owners would have to give their approval. At this point, no objections seem to be forthcoming. The NBA front-office (Stern and Jackson) would presumably look past the Prokmaster General’s hooker fetish in light of his bank balance. The bottom line is that more money would be coming into the NBA, and in today’s economic shit-storm, isn’t that all that really counts?

In terms of Prokhorov’s vision for the Nets… read his blog. It’s a hilarious read for us non-Americans, but for those of you living stateside, I sense an impending INVASION! Essentially, the Prokmaster General has given me the impression that he wants a Barclays Center-based chapter of the Russian Imperial Forces but considering the direction in which the Nets have been taken by Brucey Ratner over the last few years, I have no problem with it whatsoever.

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The Season Ahead… for the East

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Should I re-introduce myself? Yes, it has been THAT LONG since my last entry and for that I certainly apologise. I suppose I don’t really have a plausible excuse, other than a lack of time on my schedule. Writing blog entries and articles - something I’ve always loved and something that I hope one day earns me a crust - has sadly given way to writing reports and essays. Ah… the life of a University student. No, don’t get me wrong. That definitely isn’t a complaint. I love Uni for so many reasons, but it is a tad all-consuming.

Anywho, enough about me. Most of you will know that Pmac and I have been releasing new episodes of the show fortnightly over the last little while, and that’s for two reasons. The first, again, is a scheduling issue - between Pmac’s work and Uni timetable. The second reason is because of the down-time the NBA off-season is currently in. I’m not entirely sure if you guys have noticed, but there’s not much breaking news happening right now (which explains why the Rockets’ signing of Pops Mensah-Bonsu has somehow made it to Yahoo! NBA’s homepage). Once the season draws nearer, as P and I have said, episodes will be released more frequently.

I guess you guys are wondering, “why post another blog entry now of all-times since the draft, R-Diddy?” Well, I’ll thank you not to think of me as R-Diddy, but the answer is because of a few not-so-subtle (yet much needed!) nudges by our good buddies Tarek and NY_buddah. They asked… and they received. Now, that’s not to say I’m going to post a new entry every time one is asked for, because that could well lead to 5-6 entries per day and that ain’t happening. One thing is for certain though, you’ll be seeing semi-regular updates from here on out. Until the season tips off, check back here once every 2-3 weeks.

So after three paragraphs and 320 words worth of pre-amble, I’d better get this shit off the ground. This week’s entry is all about which Eastern Conference teams I’m predicting to finish where (regular-season wise) in the ‘09/’10 season.

Note: It ain’t pretty for us Nets fans, and Knicks fans, it isn’t all beer and skittles for you either!

1. Boston Celtics

One can only assume that Kevin Garnett will play the majority of this coming season, unlike his injury-interrupted ‘08/’09. That alone is just about enough to ensure the Celtics finish on top, but the addition of Rasheed Wallace, the return of Glen Davis, and the continued development of Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins cement the team from Bean-town at the top of the East’s standings.

2. Orlando Magic

Last season’s runner up has made more roster-improving changes than any other team in this off-season, and barring any last-minute blockbuster deals, the Magic seem destined for another deep playoffs run. Putting the world’s largest man-crush to one side for a second and looking objectively at this roster, I still think it’s probably the most stacked roster in the NBA (yes, maybe even more stacked than the Lakers’). As the ‘07/’08 Celtics proved though, depth-less rosters can win Championships as long as they have star power in key positions… hmmm… Dwight Howard at C, Vince at SG, Rashard Lewis at SF, and Jameer Nelson at PG…. check.

The only thing stopping the Magic from finishing with the East’s best regular season record is Rashard Lewis’s 10-game suspension.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers

From now until next off-season, Cavs fans will be asking themselves one question: “Have we done enough to the roster to make LeBron want to stay?”. At this stage, if roster quality was the deciding factor, LeBron would be headed to one of the two teams in the tri-state area. By trading for Shaquille O’Neal, it seems the Cavs have made somewhat of a last-ditch bit to win that elusive Championship. Instead of trying to upgrade their power forward and two-guard spots, the Cavs made a move for a pure center - who is still one of the best in the league, admittedly - when they already had a very good, established player at that position. This tells me that panic mode may have already set in, with Danny Ferry realizing that the Magic will be even better than they were last year when they knocked his team out of the playoffs, and that the Celtics - again with Kevin Garnett - may well be back to their best.

4. Atlanta Hawks

This season will show that, just like last time around, the East has a big-three at the top of its standings, followed by “the rest”. “The rest” will once again be headed by the Hawks.

Atlanta goes in to ‘09/’10 effectively with the same rotation of players from last season, with the additions of Jamal Crawford and Joe Smith. This will mean that Atlanta will have some of the league’s best depth, but it’ll also mean that Mike Woodson will have a job on his hands managing a rotation with Mike Bibby AND Joe Johnson AND Jamal Crawford.

5. Washington Wizards

Last season, one of the East’s best teams (health permitting) was again cursed by injury. It seems to be said about the Wizards season after season after season, but IF Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, and Gilbert Arenas play 65+ games together, then they make up the nucleus of a very good playoff team. Again this season, it’ll only take an injury to one of the “big three” to plummet the team back down to mediocrity, but at least this time around, they won’t fall any further than that. With Mike Miller, Fabricio Oberto, and Randy Foye now on board, this team will still have enough depth to possibly even contend for an 8th seed without one of their three stars.

6. Miami Heat

It seems our boy Q-Rich has finally found somewhere to unpack his suitcase. Miami, sans Dwyane Wade, is just about the worst team in the NBA. With him though, they’re highly competitive against just about anyone. That’s the thing about D-Wade, like water to two-minute noodles, just add him to any team, stir, wait for two minutes, and you’re in for one tasty treat! This is precisely what has the Nets and Knicks salivating over next off-season.

7. Chicago Bulls

Not only did the Bulls not re-sign Ben Gordon, they let their best scorer sign with a division rival. Nope… not their brightest move. Because of their failure to replace BG with anyone capable of producing even half his scoring output, well, because of their failure to replace him at all, the Bulls are officially treading water. They’ve taken a step back, and the only reason I still have them finishing with the East’s 7th best record is the continued development of Derrick Rose. I truly believe he’s already so good that he can take a terribly mediocre team and make it look ‘ok’.

8. Philadelphia 76′ers

Last season’s Sixers took an eternity to get their season off and running, and that was with a veteran PG with great leadership qualities at the helm. Heading into this season, they don’t have any starting quality point guard of any description. Yes, they have some nice young pieces in their backcourt - Holiday and Williams - but neither should be expected to lead a team yet. One of them will be vaulted into the main role, but neither is ready. Why, then, do I think the Sixers can still sneak into the playoffs? Because I’m assuming Elton Brand will actually know his role in a re-structured system better suited to his game and that he’ll stay healthy for the majority of the season.

9. Charlotte Bobcats

The Bobcats curiously traded themselves out of what I thought was a playoff position with the Emeka Okafor/Tyson Chandler swap. No, Emeka wasn’t the true center the Bobcats needed, but they shouldn’t have felt the need to trade him to get it. Tyson Chandler is a nice defensive player and a very good rebounder, but he provides nothing on offense when he’s not on the receiving end of alley-oop passes.

What the ‘Cats have done though, with the Okafor trade, is set themselves up for a season with a roster full of Larry Brown-type players - guys who love nothing more than being part of (or building) a successful team. You won’t find any prima-donnas in this roster… unless they bring in Allen Iverson. Even then though, he and Brown have worked together before (who remembers their Finals run with the Sixers are few years back?). If anyone can manage A.I’s ego and get through to him, it’s Larry.

10. Detroit Pistons

The Pistons have completely re-invented themselves… or at least tried to. You won’t find any hard-nosed, backs to the wall defense from Detroit this season. What you will find is a team that’s more suited to an up-tempo scoring focus. Problem is though, they’re not good enough to play that style and succeed. I have a lot of respect for Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince (and yes, even Ben Wallace) but when you combine Rip and Tay with Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva you have three scorers and one defender. When you combine those four with Kwame Brown, you have three scorers, one defender… and Kwame Brown. See my point? The main upside for Detroit fans this season will be the elevation of Rodney Stuckey’s game. That kid is a budding superstar.

11. Toronto Raptors

Toronto is just about the hardest team in the entire league to predict the ‘09/’10 fortunes of. Why? Because there’s so many, ifs, ands, buts, and maybes about them. If Hedo Turkoglu’s play with the Magic directly translates to the Raptors and Andrea Bargnani continues his development at the same rate as the latter stages of last season, then those maple-syrup guzzling bacon-munchers are in for a sweet ride. But, over the off-season this team still hasn’t managed to bring a starting-calibre two-guard to fill their biggest void. There’s something not quite right about a free-flowing, volume shooting offense without a shooting guard. Maybe Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon, and Hedo Turkoglu can lift the Raps out of the mire, but I just can’t see it.

12. Indiana Pacers

If it wasn’t for Mike Dunleavy Jnr’s injury, last season’s Pacers could have surprised a bunch of people (myself included) and made a serious playoff push… but this isn’t last season’s Pacers. Over the off-season, they let Marquis Daniels and Jarrett Jack go, and while they aren’t the most noted names around the league, they’re still very productive. The Pacers effectively replaced them with a bunch of nobodies plus Tyler Hansbrough. How, then, are we expected to believe that Danny Granger’s superb all-star calibre efforts over the space of 82 games won’t once again be in vein? Sooner rather than later, the Pacers need to be looking into trading both Troy Murphy and Dunleavy Jr. to get some legit young talent in to support Granger. If Larry Bird leaves it too late… well let’s just say as they get another year older, I can’t see these two increasing their trade value.

13. New Jersey Nets

Here we go… the business end of this post (for those who haven’t already skipped ahead). I’d like to be able to say that the Nets young, exciting, talented core is going to surprise everyone this season and make the playoffs… but they won’t. The Nets did the right thing when they traded VC. Even though they’d traded J-Kidd and RJ previously, it was only with the VC trade that they truly decided to start from scratch. To re-build. Now, with Devin Harris, Brook Lopez, Courtney Lee, Terrence Williams, and (hopefully) Yi… the Nets have a team for the future with enough money left over for TWO big-name, franchise player-types. You guys will have heard this all before, but it’s not about ‘09/’10 for the Nets. It’s all about ‘10/’11 and beyond.

In terms of things to look out for this season Nets fans - watch Brook like a hawk and see for yourselves just how great the kid will be. In three years from now, the only Center in the NBA better than him will be Dwight Howard. Also watch Devin Harris evolve as a leader when he’s given the team’s captaincy. At times last season, he did seem a little self-centered but VC had that reputation as well at stages throughout his career. The point here is that people can do remarkable things when given the responsibility to take control; to lead. Devin will know that he’s the guy to take this team and move it forward, and I think it’ll be great for him and his (still developing) game. Courtney Lee and Terrence Williams will show us just enough flashes of brilliance throughout the season to wet our appetites for the not-too-distant future.

14. New York Knicks

Before I get delve into the Knicks, I will admit that the only reason I’m putting them at #14 and not #13 is my sheer hatred for them. There’s almost a probability, not just a possibility, that they’ll finish above the Nets in the standings but when we’re talking about two cellar-dwelling teams, who gives a flying Milicic? …segue… the Knicks had a chance to improve their roster significantly this off-season (as they will every off-season with Money Bags Dolan running the show), or at least stabilize it, but they did neither. Their biggest addition was Darko fucking Milicic! Has the world gone bananas? Why are teams actually looking to trade FOR this guy? Granted, Darko isn’t the raging disappointment he looked certain of being a few years ago, but come on… he’s still Darko. The Knicks enter this coming season with him and a slimline 320 pound Right Hon. Goodyear Blimp anchoring the front court and that, amongst a multitude of other reasons, is why they’re again destined for nonthingness.

Nets fans - be scared for the 2010 off-season with these guys around. REALLY scared. The Knicks have shown time and time again that anything is possible when it comes to player movement and with their two best players (Lee and Robinson) not locked in to contracts beyond this season, they could have even more “cap” space than we thought they would.

15. Milwaukee Bucks

I’d like to be able to say that Andrew Bogut will finally be playing for a competitive Bucks team, but again, he won’t be. The Bucks lost Richard Jefferson to a title contender and practically paid for Charlie Villanueva’s plane ticket to Detroit, and replaced them with Hakim Warrick and Carlos Delfino. Serviceable players, sure, but clear and serious downgrades in both counts. I’m not sure even a healthy combination of Bogut and Michael Redd will be enough to lift the Bucks from the bottom of the East, but they’ll have at least two Western Conference teams beyond them propping up the league ladder. The losses of RJ and Charlie-V and the inevitable departure of The Crossover’s own Ramon Sessions will see the Bucks lose at least ten more games than last season.

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Rusty’s Mock Draft

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

Unfortunately, with this blog will come the realisation for most of you that there will be no show this week. As Pmac and I spoke about on the last episode, a general rule from here on out is that if there is a show in a particular week, chances are there won’t be a blog… and vice-versa. So, apologies for the lack of a new episode this week. Pmac has recently started a new job, and it’s crunch time right now in the University semester for me. Rest assured though, as soon as we can work out a day and time that suits both of us, Pmac and I will record a new episode.

Ok, all of that out of the way, on to this week’s blog - my mock draft. It is based on team needs (position wise) and the quality of players that will most likely be still left on the board at the time of a particular team’s pick. In other words, there won’t be any mention of the Nets snaring one of the guys that consensus view has going in the top three or four picks. After the those first few selections though, everything is up in the air. This draft seems like it’ll be full of “Brook Lopez” picks - players that everybody thinks will go in the top few, but might slip down quite a bit.

So, on to my mock draft (which was previewed earlier in the week on the message boards). It’ll just be looking at the lottery picks…
…Oh, and in case you’ve had your heads in the sand over the last fortnight or so, the Nets will be picking at #11 (assuming they don’t trade up or down in the order, or out of the draft altogether).

#1 - Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers)

This is a pick even the Clippers can’t screw up. Yes, they already have somewhat of a front court logjam, but this selection is so much of a no-brainer that the logjam doesn’t matter. Dunleavy, Sterling and co. will somehow figure out a way of clearing the logjam - all that remains is who will remain, of the current crop of bigs, when next season begins. If the Clippers don’t keep this pick (and there’s a chance they won’t, even though no team has ever traded a #1 overall), expect them to look for a legit backup point guard, and one or two guys who can at least spell defense.

#2 - Ricky Rubio (Memphis Grizzlies)

The Grizzlies would have dearly loved to snare the #1 pick so they could take Griffin and place him next to Marc Gasol in the front court. Since that won’t be happening, they’ll take Ricky Rubio with the second pick. This will effectively end Mike Conley’s run as the team’s starting point guard, but it may not happen immediately. Rubio is only 18, so Chris Wallace and Lionell Hollins can certainly afford to be patient with integrating him into the rotation.

#3 - Hasheem Thabeet (Oklahoma City Thunder)

As all Nets fans can attest, as “nice” a player as Nenad Krstic is, he’s not a starting-quality center in the NBA. Sure, he plays a role but nothing he does is spectacular. Effectively, he’s a stop-gap; somebody who will step into the starting lineup if there is no better alternative. Apply everything I just said to Nick Collison. By selecting Thabeet, the Thunder will have that “better alternative”. Thabeet is a defensive minded big man who would compliment the attacking styles of Durant, Green, and Westbrook superbly. Wow… what a young nucleus those four would make up.

#4 - Brandon Jennings (Sacramento Kings)

Yet again, the team with the highest mathematical chance of securing the top overall pick in the lottery, doesn’t. The Kings are no doubt gutted that they missed out in the Blake Griffin sweepstakes. But, even though they slipped as far as they possibly could in the order - to fourth - not all is doom and gloom. They’ll be getting a prospect at #4 that would arguably be worthy of a #2 or #3 pick. The Kings will take Brandon Jennings because they’ll know how poor Beno Udrih was last season, and that he’s not the guy they want leading their charge in the seasons to come. Jennings might be small in stature, but he’s massive in potential.

*Look for the Kings to move heaven and earth to try to get Blake Griffin in a trade… but any attempt they make will be to no avail.

#5 - James Harden (Washington Wizards)

Ideally, the Wizards would love to be in the position to take Rubio or Jennings (so they could play Gilbert Arenas at his natural two-guard spot) but they won’t be. So, look for the lads from Washington to do the next best thing and select the best two-guard prospect in the draft - Arizona State’s James Harden. While Gilly is obviously not the type of point guard the Wizards need, he’s still their best option at the position and their best overall player. A starting lineup of Arenas, Harden, Butler, Jamison, and Haywood is playoff quality in the East with Flip Saunders leading it… provided each of the five guys plays the majority of an 82 game season.

#6 - DeMar DeRozan (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Assuming James Harden is off the board, in my mind, the choice to select DeMar DeRozan (from Timberwolves point of view) is just about a DeNo DeBrainer. I’m sure just about every T-Wolves fan is disgusted by the prospect of another season with Sebastian Telfair and Kevin Ollie running the show from the point guard spot, and I think the T-Wolves brass is too. Therefore, I think season ‘09/’10 will see Randy Foye given every chance to make the starting PG spot his own with DeMar DeRozan paired with him in the back court. This would give the team the somewhat pleasant dilemma of choosing who they want to start at the three, and who they want to come off the bench in a sixth man role - Mike Miller or the returning Corey Brewer.

#7 - Jrue Holiday (Golden State Warriors)

I know what you’re thinking… “What do the Warriors want with another combo-guard?”. The answer, is defense. On paper, the Warriors seem set at the guard spots with Ellis and Crawford but both are disturbingly bad defenders and for that reason, both will be floated as trade bait over the off-season. Assuming one of them is moved, the Warriors will be able to start the other alongside Corey Maggette in the backcourt with Cap’n Jack up front alongside Drago Biedrins and young Randolph or the one-man block party - Ronny Turiaf. Holiday - one of, if not the best defensive point guard in his draft class - will be able to come off the bench while he becomes acclimatised to the NBA game, but will eventually find his place in the starting five. This Warriors team has a bright future if it continues its rebuild and moves some of its talented, yet superfluous offensively gifted veterans.

*If they decide not to go the guard route, look for the Warriors to select Jordan Hill - a 6′10″ forward out of Arizona.

#8 - Stephen Curry (New York Knicks)

He shoots. He scores. He’s perfect for a Coach Pringles team. Son of Dell is about as close you can get to the ideal player for the Knicks, and you can bet they’ve known it and been licking their lips about it since he became draft-eligible. Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni have a dilemma - how to keep both Nate Robinson and David Lee. Unfortunately for them, they can’t. Lee is just about the most under-paid player in the NBA (if there can be such a thing in such a ridiculously money driven league) with Robinson not far behind. Both those guys, and the Knicks, know that. The fact is, D-Lee is simply more important to the team than Nate-Rob and again, both they and the Knicks know it. So, expect Dwight’s kryptonite to be wearing another team’s green jerseys in future dunk comps, as Stephen Curry continues D’Antoni’s run-n-gun era.

#9 - Tyreke Evans (Toronto Raptors)

If there’s a problem Toronto doesn’t have, it’s scoring. Jay Triano seems certain to push forward with a D’Antoni-esque offense this coming season but for the hideously under-achieving ‘08/’09 Raptors to contend for a playoffs berth in ‘09/’10, they’ll need a defensive boost - one coming in combo-guard form. Tyreke Evans is that player. At 6′5″, he can play alongside Jose Calderon in the back court and more than fulfill the role of a shooting guard in the run-n-gun offense thanks to his go-to scoring mentality. But more crucially, he can defend both guard spots - a skill these maple syrup-guzzling Bubl√©-lovers sorely need on their side.

#10 - Ty Lawson (Milwaukee Bucks)

Pmac and I have crowned him as “The Crossover’s own” - as most of you would know - but Ramon Sessions isn’t any team’s first option at starting point guard. It’s a sad realisation, but it’s true. In another, not so sad realisation, Luke Ridnour isn’t either. The Bucks are set at all of their key starting positions, except the one that arguably matters most. Bogut, Redd, Jefferson, and Villanueva could form a playoff nucleus if provided with a top-shelf PG and Ty Lawson is a chance of becoming that, sooner than some think. If the boy from UNC is still on the board when it’s the Bucks’ turn to pick, expect them to snap up the proven leader, and proven winner (something the Bucks are a little short of).

#11 - EARL CLARK (NEW JERSEY NETS)

(I do hope you’ll appreciate the use of caps lock to highlight the significance of a Nets pick in the mock draft of a Nets fan…)

So, assuming that isn’t lost on you dear reader, let’s get down to business. We can’t hope to replicate our efforts of last year’s draft, this time around. We’ll have a similar pick - #11, as opposed to last year’s #10 - but there will be no Brook Lopez for us to snaffle. Yes, a few players will be un-expectedly available when it’s our turn to choose, but none will be of Brook’s calibre. This draft class simply isn’t that strong. Having said that, we’ll still be able to draft a player that can step right in and contribute from the opening game of the season.

From what is being reported by ESPN columnists and Nets beat-writers, Thorndeweghe (the Rod Thorn/Kiki Vandeweghe two-headed beast) has its eyes open to all possibilities - as far as the new rookie’s position is concerned. Point guards such as Ty Lawson and Jonny Flynn, combo-guards such as Jrue Holiday and Stephen Curry, and forwards such as DeJuan Blair¬† and Jordan Hill are all being considered. Hell, even B.J. Mullens (a Center) is in the mix. Why we’d go after him with Brook Lopez already a cornerstone of our team, I have no idea. Point is, nothing and no one will be ruled out and that’s just the way I like it.

All of the aforementioned players (aside from Brook, because it would be rather needless) have been or will be brought in for individual workouts and interviews with Thorndeweghe before the draft. Thing is, I don’t think any of them will have their names called by the Nets on draft night. That honour will be bestowed upon Earl Clark - a 6′9″ combo-forward out of Louisville.

Why Clark? Because our front court needs some adjusting. Brook is the only big man on our roster I wouldn’t consider trading, and that troubles me somewhat. Josh Boone and Sean Williams haven’t contributed at all to the levels expected of them, Yi Jianlian could yet be anything (but is looking more like a nothing with each passing day), Ryan Anderson - while handy - is a project player, and Eduardo Najera is only still a part of the roster because of his great locker room presence and leadership. We need a guy that can slot straight into the starting lineup, contribute in his first year, and show that he can be Brook’s front-court buddy for years to come. Because, as of right now, Lopez is our only starting-quality big. Clark looks like he could be the exact sort of player we’re looking for. He scores, rebounds, defends, blocks shots, passes and has still has a great upside ahead of him.

#12 - James Johnson (Charlotte Bobcats)

Charlotte has half of a very good starting front court. Problem is, they’ve been trying to fill the other half for years now. Boris Diaw, Vladimir Radmanovic, Juwan Howard, Sean May, DeSagana Diop, Nazr Mohammed and of course Emeka Okafor all see minutes in the rotation. That’s um… an issue, to say the least. Some of these guys need to be traded to teams that can make better use of their skillsets so that the ‘Cats can get some veteran backcourt help in return. Knowing that to be the case, Rod Higgins and Fred Whitfield need to look towards drafting a young forward - with skills on both ends of the floor and with great potential - to pair with Okafor to bring some stability and direction to the team’s front line. James Johnson fits that description perfectly.

#13 - Gerald Henderson (Indiana Pacers)

Consider, if you will, the Pacers as an over-achieving version of the Raptors. Gerald Henderson and Tyreke Evans would fill the exact same void for the Pacers and Raptors respectively. Yes, Henderson is more of a pure two-guard and is - in many ways - a better scorer than Evans, but his presence for the Pacers will definitely be felt on the defensive end. Last season, the Pacers were one guard with defensive skill away from making the playoffs. Next season, with the likes of Henderson on board, the already overachieving Pacers should take that next step and make them.

#14 - Jonny Flynn (Phoenix Suns)

The Suns are still a very good team, make no mistake about it. With a healthy Amare Stoudemire, they would probably have returned to the playoffs this season, but his injury isn’t the only reason the Suns failed to advance. STAT’s injury aside, one of the main reasons they failed to make it is the minutes played without Steve Nash on the court. The Goran Dragic experiment didn’t work - which was plain for all to see - and the Suns were really hurting in the minutes when Nash was taking a breather. So, as I see it, Steve Kerr’s biggest priority with this draft should be to snare the best available backup for the fearless leader. That player (by process of elimination according to my mock draft) should be Jonny Flynn. The 20-year-old pocket rocket isn’t the shooter or ball handler that Nash is, but he has a great ability to get to the free throw line like Nash and is highly confident with a winning mentality and passing game like him as well.

*If the Nets decided against drafting a forward to pair with Lopez, I’d hope they’d seriously consider Flynn as a legitimate backup point-guard to Devin instead.

So, there ends my mock draft. I’ve shown you mine… now you show me yours! (at The Sports Stuff’s message boards)

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Wagers and playoffs and mock drafts… OH MY!

Monday, May 11th, 2009

Apologies for those of you who were expecting blog #2 to follow a week after blog #1. If you’re a regular listener of the show, you’ll realise that’s just not how Pmac and I operate. We work on our on schedule in our own time zone. I can’t speak for Pmac, but my middle name (legally) is ‘Sporadic’.

So, to apologise, I thought I’d supply some light-entertainment in the form of the long-awaited “Rusty in a soon-to-be-vomited-on Knicks hoodie” pictures. Now, before I present to you the pictures (don’t scroll down, you’ll spoil the fun), I feel it important to explain five things. The first - THE ONLY REASON I’m wearing a Knicks hoodie, is because I lost a bet to Pmac and NYB. The second - the hoodie is Pmac’s. He sent it to me via the ever-reliable ‘Australia Post’. The third - I very nearly vomited on it, thanks to the three-day bachelor party I had attended in the three days prior to the photos being taken. The fourth - I was so ashamed that I was actually being forced to wear a Knicks hoodie, I found it physically difficult to face the camera (hence the first photo). And, the fifth thing I feel needs explaining - the bird being flipped in photo #2. It isn’t aimed at you dear readers, but at Pmac and NYB.

Ok, so without further adieu…

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Ok, so with that out of the way, on to more important matters…

The Nets have assured Lawrence Frank that he’ll be back with the team next season. Like I said in my previous blog entry, I didn’t see the point in buying him out, just for the sake of doing so. I basically didn’t see any real pressing need to replace Coach Frank and neither did Rod Thorn. So, season 2009/10 will be the last in the current contract of not only Coach Frank, but also Rocket Rod himself. At this stage, from what Rod, Kiki, and Lawrence have said; the only players who are almost certainties of coming to training camp are Devin, Brook, and Vince. The rest should have at least one bag packed just in case, over the course of the off-season.

There hasn’t been any word yet on the naming of the NBA’s Most Improved Player award - which is strange because every other individual award winner has been named and last season’s MIP winner was named in late April. All of this is telling me that the voters for the award this time around are having a hell of a time separating Devin and Danny Granger (the two most obvious candidates).

Draft time (the favorite time of the NBA year for any fan of a non-playoff team) is rapidly approaching. The Nets - who may only have a one in 25 chance of landing a top three pick - still remain optimistic. They landed a top three player with the #10 selection last season, and are obviously hoping history repeats itself this time around. Mike DeStefano of NBADraft.net tried his hand at a re-draft of last year’s crop of rookies, and not surprisingly to us, Brook’s name came up at #3 - seven spots higher than his actual selection. From what I’ve been reading and hearing so far, the Nets seem to be very high on the prospects of Earl Clark, Ty Lawson, James Johnson and Stephen Curry.

Just before I wrap this up, just a few quick thoughts on the current playoff picture: The Cavs don’t look like losing a game until the Conference Finals at the very earliest; the Rockets are giving the Lakers some serious headaches (though I wonder how long that’ll last with Yao going down with YET ANOTHER serious leg injury); Big Baby Davis could be the fattest player to ever sink a playoff game winning shot; and the Nuggets look like they actually belong on the big stage.

Ok, so that just about brings an end to TCO’s sophomore blog. Be sure to check back here often, just in case blog #3 has made an early appearance. You just never know when Pmac or I will get an attack of the blogs! (I actually had an attack of the blogs the other day after consuming the worst Souvlaki ever concocted following countless liters of alcomahol, but that’s a story for another day).

Peace!

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Popping that blog cherry!

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

I feel so violated…

Ladies, gentlemen, Knicks fans… here it is. The very first TCO blog.

Even though this is primarily Pmac’s department, I feel that it’s more than appropriate to update you all on the fortunes of our favorite characters: The Right Hon. Goodyear Blimp, Starbury, and Isiah Thomas.


Goodyear Blimp - last sighting: Wendy’s on 43rd street.

Starbury, to his credit, has actually performed a role for the Celtics in the playoffs. As much as he’s probably my favorite target and the man is comedy gold personified, he’s still a tremendously gifted player and I had a feeling that put in the right situation with enough high-character players around him, he’d be a great help to an already great team. Even though Derrick Rose single handedly stole a game from the C’s early on in the series, the Garnett-less Celtics look to be doing enough to get the job done. May god have mercy on their souls though when they face LeBron and his Cavs…

Isiah Thomas has been hired as the new head coach of Florida International University (now referred to by many as Fire Isiah University). I see Zeke’s tenure with FIU as a win/win for the school and its basketball program. So what if Isiah crashes and burns and destroys everything in his wake?… It’d be one hell of a publicised demise and as the saying goes, any publicity is good publicity. As for Isiah though, well he has signed a five-year deal and many (including PTI’s Kornheiser and Ryan) are predicting him to win somewhere around 50 games…. over that five-year period…. if he lasts that long. I guess the jury is still out as far as that’s concerned, but my main interest will no doubt be Zeke’s recruiting powers. How exactly does he plan to entice players to FIU? I’m sure the answer to that is most certainly disturbing.

Now for the important stuff… our Nets.


Word has it that Rod Thorn and Principal owner Bruce Ratner are at odds over the future of Lawrence Frank as the head coach of the team. Bruce is a long time Frank supporter (whereas Eddy Curry is a long time frank eater… get it?) and doesn’t seem convinced that he needs replacing. The Nets did, of course, win 12-15 more games than many were expecting. Normally, the coach of a team that over-achieves that much is assured of his job within the organisation. Maybe not. When Ratner hired Thorn, he gave him free-reign to run the team and everything about it - including hirings and firings, whoever they may be. Thorn fired Byron Scott after two trips to the NBA Finals because Jason Kidd presented the Prez with an ultimatum (that’s our J-Kidd! classy to the end!). Now, Rod is facing a choice of whether or not to replace another head coach. I’ve said on the show countless times that I’m not exactly Lawrence’s biggest fan, but at this stage of the roster’s development, would another coach be doing a better job with this team than him? I’m not convinced. The players seem to want him to stick around, and that’s just about good enough for me. I’m not the greatest believer in change for the sake of changing (see the Phoenix Suns of the ‘08/’09 season). Anyway, Dave D’Alessandro has an interesting take on the whole coaching issue.

Well, that’s about it for now (Knicks and Nets wise). Stay tuned for a TCO double-episode coming up in the next few days - covering the miserable ends to the season of the two teams, and the playoff picture to date.

I’ll leave you - on this ANZAC day (on the anniversary of the first landing at Gallipoli, celebrating Australia’s and New Zealand’s armed servicemen in past conflicts) - with Binyon’s Ode…

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Lest we forget.

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