Every so often, the fuzzy old crystal ball offers a brief, clear glimpse into the future. Saturday was one of those nights. My picks won four of five games, and the other result was just as close as predicted.
Just five games were on the schedule on the final Saturday before the All-Star break. Denver extended their winning streak, the Warriors were unable to end their losing streak and the Pistons rallied to win on the road.
The Cars take us to the bump…”Lets go…I LIKE THE NIGHT LIFE, BABY”
If the NBA is a restaurant, the preseason games are its appetizers: often tantalizing, but only occasionally tasty. Chris Bernucca has a look at the yummy aspects of the first few games, namely what can be learned about some of the league’s top teams.
We’re also continuing our series of guest columns on why fans of all 30 NBA teams have reason to feel good about their squads, with the latest installment covering the Grizzlies from Tom Lorenzo of StraightOuttaVancouver. And whether you are a regular NBA fan or a fan-slash-fantasy hoops enthusiast, keep on checking out our daily fantasy columns. Here’s today’s Fantasy Spin from Kent Williams.
He is the only guy in
America Canada breaking down every NBA exhibition game. Follow him on Twitter at @SheridanFantasy.
- Lang Greene of HoopsWorld starts us off with this note regarding Josh Smith, who will be an unrestricted free agent following this season: “Smith will not sign an early extension with the Hawks, not because he doesn’t want to play in Atlanta, but because the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) makes it foolish business to give the franchise an early autograph. If Smith were to sign an extension before June 30, the deal could only be for a maximum of three years. By simply waiting until the start of free agency Smith would be eligible to sign a five year contract with the club. The simple math in this instance shows if Smith signed early he’d be leaving at the very least $25-30 million on the table.”
- Jeremy Lin is citing problems with his knee as the reason for his struggles so far in the preseason, writes Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News. But Lin, who underwent surgery to repair a meniscus he tore in March, might have bigger problems in the future, according to a source Lawrence talked to: ’More than a problem with his knee, what I saw again from Lin is that he is limited as an athlete,’’ was how one person with years of NBA experience put it after seeing Lin’s debut. ‘Offensively, he should be fine. But when he has to guard opposing point guards, especially guys with speed like Russell Westbrook, he is going to really struggle.’ “
- Here’s a Facebook status posted by Kobe Bryant that appears to be a fairly thinly veiled response to former teammate Smush Parker: “Leadership is responsibility. There comes a point when one must make a decision. Are YOU willing to do what it takes to push the right buttons to elevate those around you? If the answer is YES, are you willing to push the right buttons even if it means being perceived as the villain? Here’s where the true responsibility of being a leader lies. Sometimes you must prioritize the success of the team ahead of how your own image is perceived. The ability to elevate those around you is more than simply sharing the ball or making teammates feel a certain level of comfort. It’s pushing them to find their inner beast, even if they end up resenting you for it at the time. I’d rather be perceived as a winner than a good teammate. I wish they both went hand in hand all the time but that’s just not reality. I have nothing in common with lazy people who blame others for their lack of success. Great things come from hard work and perseverance. No excuses. This is my way. It might not be right for YOU but all I can do is share my thoughts. It’s on YOU to figure out which leadership style suits you best. Will check back in with you soon.. Till then Mamba out”
- Joe Freeman of The Oregonian has this awesome look at Adam Morrison’s NBA comeback, which currently has him fighting for a roster spot with the Blazers: “Six years after a Portland radio station orchestrated a “Draft the Stache” campaign to try to help lure Morrison to the Blazers, the one-time college cult hero and former NBA lottery pick finally has donned the Blazers’ trademark pinwheel logo. But the question remains: Will he wear it beyond the exhibition season? … The 6-foot-8 small forward arrived into Portland without a guaranteed roster spot, willing to fight and scrap and do enough in October to earn a second basketball life. By all accounts, Morrison has performed well over the first two weeks of camp. Coach Terry Stotts has praised his work ethic, shooting ability and defensive effort. Teammates have credited him for providing a positive veteran presence to one of the NBA’s youngest locker rooms. Morrison, 28, said he had invitations to attend two other training camps, but settled on Portland because it was close to his home in Spokane, Wash., he was told he would be given a legitimate shot at making the team and the Blazers had an obvious need for a backup small forward. In his first exhibition game, he excelled against the Los Angeles Lakers, scoring nine points in 13 minutes to show he might just be able to provide an offensive spark off the bench.”
- LaMarcus Aldridge says he’s a “number 1″ guy to Chris Haynes of CSNNW in this piece: “Depending on who you talk to, there’s only a select few of players in the National Basketball Association who are capable of being “the guy” on a championship caliber team.Right now, the Portland Trail Blazers aren’t one of those teams and many have said that in order for them to be one, they need to acquire a superstar via free agency or trade to be that number one guy. All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge disagrees with that line of thinking and says there’s no need to bring in a number one guy, he’s already in Portland. ‘I think every team in this league feels that I’m a number one and that’s why they double-team me and they scheme me the way they do it,’ Aldridge told CSNNW.com. ‘If I wasn’t a number one, teams wouldn’t double-team me and teams wouldn’t try to take me out.’ “
- John N. Mitchell of the Philadelphia Inquirer has this worrying note about some of the Sixers’ big men: “It’s time for certain members of the 76ers to get their conditioning up. This was the message Sixers coach Doug Collins issued outside the team’s locker room after the Sixers dropped a 108-105 overtime decision to the Brooklyn Nets at Boardwalk Hall on Saturday. The Sixers are 1-1 in the preseason. ‘Our team, we’ve got to be in a little bit better condition,’ Collins said. ‘I’ve been worried about pushing the guys in camp. We’ve got some older guys in camp that you worry about getting injuries. But I told our guys we’re not in the shape we need to be in to play.’ Collins didn’t mention any names after the Sixers rallied behind the strong play of Nick Young (team-high 21 points) and Maalik Wayns (18 points), but it was clear that he is talking about big men such as Kwame Brown, who looks to be north of 280 pounds, and second-year forward Lavoy Allen. Allen’s conditioning is not where the Sixers want it to be, and missing three days of training camp last week while awaiting the birth of his child didn’t help matters.”
- And finally, here’s Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe with a look at the potential European expansion of the NBA that has quieted down in the last few years: “There was a time when Stern had dreams of a team or even a division in Europe, a first in American sports. He was determined to devise a way for a group of teams in London, Rome, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, and Berlin to compete with the 30 stateside NBA teams and even have a real world championship series. Regardless of how uncomfortable the idea made fans who believe 30 teams was enough — and regardless of how inconceivable it might be to have a team in a time zone six hours ahead of the Eastern US — Stern was going to add the London Abbeys to the NBA. But that idea seems to have fizzled along with the international economy and the lack of NBA-worthy venues overseas. What Stern realized is that many of the arenas that house Euroleague teams are not up to NBA standards. For example, the Ulker Sports Arena in Istanbul, a sparkling new venue that houses Fenerbahce Ulker and features an adjacent practice facility, fits only 13,000, which would make it the smallest arena in the NBA.”
Dan Malone is a third-year journalism student at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He blogs on weekends for Sheridan Hoops.
For previous blog entries, click here.
All-Star Andrew Bynum, the centerpiece in the Philadelphia 76ers’ end of the Dwight Howard trade, will not take the court for three weeks as a precaution for his surgically repaired right knee.
Last month, Bynum went to Germany to undergo a non-invasive strengthening procedure on his right knee known as Orthokine/Regenokine. The procedure – not performed in the United States – takes a person’s blood and spins it until it is rich in healing platelets. The blood is then re-injected into the troublesome area.
Bynum is the latest athlete to undergo the procedure. Others include former Los Angeles Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant, fellow NBA star Grant Hill and baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez.
The 7-foot Bynum – considered the second-best center in the NBA behind Howard – had surgery on his right knee after the Lakers won the 2010 championship. He also dislocated his left kneecap in the 2007-08 campaign.
According to a release from the 76ers, the three weeks of rest are to maximize effects of the procedure. Bynum will still participate in low-impact conditioning.
Bynum is at the Sixers’ media day and will speak to the media this afternoon. Sheridan Hoops is staffing the media day.
Philadelphia’s final preseason game is Oct. 22, exactly three weeks away. The Sixers play their regular-season opener Oct. 31 vs. Denver.
Bynum, 24, averaged career highs of 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds for the Lakers last season, his seventh in the NBA and first as an All-Star. He has missed at least 17 games in each season except the 2006-07 campaign, when he appeared in all 82 games, and last season, when he missed just two games due to injury.
In the four-team deal this summer that sent Howard from the Orlando Magic to the Lakers, the Sixers dealt All-Star swingman Andre Iguodala to the Denver Nuggets and youngsters Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless and a future first-round pick to the Magic, landing Bynum from the Lakers and Jason Richardson from the Magic.
Bynum is entering the final year of his contract and can become a free agent this summer. His agent, David Lee, has indicated that his client will not sign a three-year, $60 million contract extension, preferring to wait for free agency, where he could command a five-year, $100 million deal.
However, Bynum’s introductory news conference in Philadelphia was open to the public, and he was greeted with raucous ovations. He has said that he likes what he has seen of the city, which is close to his childhood home in New Jersey.
The acquisition of Bynum totally changed the look of the Sixers, who reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals last season with a smallish, athletic club missing a dominant low-post player.
Coach Doug Collins plans to play Bynum alongside 7-footer Spencer Hawes, who will slide to power forward. Philadelphia also drafted power forward Arnett Moultrie, re-signed center Lavoy Allen and signed forward-center Kwame Brown as a free agent.
The Sixers also added Richardson and fellow wing players Nick Young and Dorell Wright in hope that the presence of Bynum in the post would create open shots on the perimeter.
One night after the Clippers were swept out of the second round by the San Antonio Spurs, the Lakers are one game away from losing their series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Lakers will look to extend their season in Game 5 while the Boston Celtics hope to regain control against the Philadelphia 76ers in the two games slated for Monday night on TNT.
The 76ers have made life tougher than expected for the Celtics in the second round. It was especially true in Game 5, when Boston went up big once again and led by as many as 18 points before squandering the lead and losing the game 92-83.
Paul Pierce scored 24 points and Rajon Rondo once again had a double-double with 15 points and 15 assists, but it would prove to be insufficient.
Now, instead of having a comfortable 3-1 series lead, the Celtics face a must-win situation.
From Steve Bulpett of Boston Herald: “They’re still calling what’s going to happen tonight at the Garden “Game 5.” But it’s fair to say the nature of what will take place has changed dramatically for the Celtics. It has gone from coronation to critical, from fun to fitful, from tranquil to tense. With a little more than 10 minutes left in the third quarter on Friday in Philadelphia, the Celts had an 18-point lead against a team that had shot 23.1 percent in the first half and then proceeded to miss its first four attempts in the new period (dropping the batting average to .209 — yikes). At that moment, Game 5 was all set to be a closeout sale. The Celtics would be taking a 3-1 lead into a game on their home floor, and surely they would draw upon the home energy to get this conference semifinal series into the history file. They would then be able to sit back, heal their wounds and watch at least one more game of the Miami-Indiana series the next night. The setup was so perfect for the Celtics that they couldn’t possibly squander that which they had worked so hard that evening to build. But they did. Everything can change in an NBA minute. When the clock had drained completely, Game 5 had been transformed into a must-have item for the Celtics.”
When the team needed someone to step up to play the role of a closer, it was Andre Iguodala who suddenly embraced the role.
For now, it has been hard to make sense of what has transpired in this series.
From Bob Cooney of The Philadelphia Inquirer: “Why things are happening the way they are can be attributed to so many variables. When the Celtics get the ball inside to Garnett and he’s able to get shots, they are a much better team. But sometimes they get away from that and it allows the Sixers’ defense to become that much more effective. How, with the Sixers waging a huge comeback on Friday, was it that Garnett shot the ball just two times while playing virtually the whole fourth quarter? Yes, rookie Lavoy Allen is doing a fine job of covering him, but he certainly hasn’t all of a sudden turned into the next coming of Bill Russell. Not even Celtics coach Doc Rivers could figure out Garnett’s disappearance late Friday. How is it that Andre Iguodala, not very successful during his career when given a chance to be a game-changer at the end of contests, is now the go-to guy for the Sixers? He scored five straight points down the stretch on Friday, giving the Sixers a lead they never relinquished. And who would have thought that the player seemingly making the most difference in this series would be the 50th overall pick in the 2011 draft out of Temple? But Allen is certainly playing the role. It’s all just so strange and fun to watch, especially for Sixers coach Doug Collins, who is thrilled that his team is taking on his never-stop mentality.
The Lakers have shown that they can compete against one of the most explosive young offensive teams in the league in Thunder, but it may not be enough to keep them in the postseason as they face elimination after just four games.
They had chances to be up 3-1 in the series, but blew Games 2 and 4 by squandering sizable leads.
After their latest fourth quarter meltdown, many played the blame game, particularly pointing fingers at Pau Gasol, who wasn’t a factor offensively, and turned the ball over at a critical juncture of the game which led to a decisive 3-pointer by Kevin Durant.
Still, they have no choice but to move forward, one game at a time.
From Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles: “The Los Angeles Lakers are facing elimination and after their most recent loss Saturday, Kobe Bryant pegged the Lakers’ late-game problems on Pau Gasol, but coach Mike Brown insists the team isn’t coming apart. ”They’ve played together too long,” said Brown. “Pau knows how Kobe is. Kobe knows how Pau is and they’ll do a good job of figuring each other out.” The Lakers head into Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Oklahoma City Thunder trailing 3-1, but could just as easy be up 3-1 had it not been for poor execution down the stretch in Games 2 and 4. Bryant did not speak to reporters after shootaround. Gasol did and focused on the team’s predicament rather than any interpersonal relationships that may be fraying. ”We’re thinking about winning this one and going from there,” Gasol said. “Every game is obviously a different story, as we experienced throughout the playoffs. So, we’re tuning in to this one and understanding that our life is on the line and to be able to stretch this out and give us an opportunity, we have to be able to win (Game 5) here in Oklahoma with all the momentum that they have right now.”
Quickly growing into a clutch group is Oklahoma City, led by the trio of James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Durant. Their ability to close out tough games thus far in the playoffs has been the primary reason for their 7-1 overall record.
From Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: “In his on-court interview with TNT immediately after the Thunder’s thrilling three-point win over the Lakers on Saturday night, Russell Westbrook declared that he always knew his team would come back and win. And why shouldn’t he have been confident? All postseason, Oklahoma City has closed out games in grand fashion. The Lakers, in Game 4, simply became the latest victim of the Thunder and its ability to storm back from a fourth-quarter deficit and secure a win. That trait, not Westbrook’s explosiveness or Kevin Durant’s daggers or James Harden’s surgeon-like precision in the pick-and-roll, has been the most impressive thing about the Thunder’s playoff run thus far. Oklahoma City is now all grown up. The final five minutes of nearly every Thunder game this postseason has proved as much. Gone are the days when the Thunder would wind up on the wrong end of a blown lead. Now, it’s the Thunder that is snatching victories from the jaws of defeat. Four of the Thunder’s seven playoff wins have come by three points or less. Another victory was decided by just six points. Of those five wins, the Thunder trailed by 13 points in the fourth quarter of two games, by seven in the fourth period of two others and by one with a minute remaining in the other.”
James Park is a regular contributor to Sheridanhoops.com. You can find him on twitter @nbatupark.