Archive for May, 2011
Tuesday, May 31st, 2011
Tuesday May 31 2011 – 6:42am Eastern – Toronto, ON
Game 1 of the NBA Finals tips-off tonight — the Mavericks and the Heat — and basketball fans around the world will be wondering if they’re about to witness the start of the next great dynasty in league history.
When LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in Miami last summer they became Public Enemy #1 for most people connected to the Association. Their brash declaration of winning not just 1 or 2 championships together … but 3, 4 or 5 turned a lot of folks off of the New World Order in the NBA.
But whether you like how James or Bosh handled their departures from Cleveland and Toronto doesn’t matter. And the bravado of The Big Three means nothing when you consider they backed their words. They’re in the Finals. Period. And though Wade has stumbled a bit of late, James has been nailing clutch shot after clutch shot and Bosh has been improving (on both ends of the floor) with every round that goes by. They haven’t had to shut up … ’cause they’ve been putting up.
It will all be for naught if they can’t take care of the Mavericks though … and that will be no easy task for Miami.
Dallas, on paper, is the better team. They’re deep at every position, have an offence that is as impressive as their defence (or vice versa), and the veteran leadership on their club is unparalleled by most teams (including the Heat).
With the savvy and experience of Jason Kidd, the defence and energy of Shawn Marion, and the killer-instinct and all-world abilities of Dirk Nowitzki … you’d be a fool to simply dismiss the Mavs’ chances in this series. And I didn’t even mention the scoring prowess of the league’s best 6th man, Jason Terry, or the defensive presence that Tyson Chandler provides in the middle.
Dallas is dangerous.
Kidd vs Mike Bibby
- Bibby is an old 33; a fraction of his former self. Kidd may be the oldest guard to ever start in the Finals, but he’s still one of the greatest minds in the game today. EDGE: Dallas
DeShawn Stevenson vs Wade
- Stevenson can heat up from the perimeter and he’s a gritty defender that can get under an opponent’s skin … but there’s no contest here. EDGE: Miami
Marion vs James
- This will be intriguing to watch. Can Marion make LeBron work hard enough on the defensive end that he’s got a little less in the tank on offence? OR, will he be working so hard on offence – trying to get by Marion – that he has less in the tank on the defensive end (where he’s been superb during this post-season)? Either way you cut it, Dallas has to do everything possible to pester, frustrate, and (try to) slow down James. EDGE: Miami
Nowitzki vs Bosh
- As I wrote above, Bosh has been playing some outstanding ball over the last 4-6 weeks. He shook off the demons from his last post-season experiences – with Toronto – and has appeared to be ready for nearly every challenge his has faced during this playoff run for the Heat. But as well as CB1 may be playing, Nowitzki’s game is at an all-time high. I say this tongue-in-cheek … but if Scottie Pippen wants to put James on a pedestal ahead of Michael Jordan … then he better make room for Disco Dirk as well. Nowitzki looks unstoppable at this point and I can’t imagine that Bosh will see #41 exclusively. Miami will have to throw multiple bodies at him – including James and Udonis Haslem I’m sure – to try and thwart the locked-in ‘zone’ Nowitzki’s been in since mid-April. Edge: Dallas
Tyson Chandler vs Joel Anthony
- Give Mark Cuban credit … he had just throw big money at Brendan Haywood … but when opportunity present itself in the form of Tyson Chandler (after Toronto and Charlotte weren’t able to finalize their proposed deal that would have landed Chandler with the Raptors), the maverick owner pounced. Chandler has been a gift from the Gods for Dallas; solidifying the Mavs front court. And while Anthony has had some impressive defensive games during this 2011 playoff run for Miami, he’s still very green on this stage and his offence need to improve. EDGE: Dallas
Mario Chalmers was out-played by CJ Watson. Mike Miller is streaky (though he looked better late in the Chicago series). Haslem – returning – is a great story but you still have to wonder where his conditioning may be at if nothing else. Eddie House and James Jones can help spread the floor and give Miami the appearance of perimeter threats. Erick Dampier and Zydrunas Ilgauskas have barely been used and they’ll have to suddenly find their games (and legs) if called upon.
Meanwhile the Mavericks boast, arguably, the best bench in basketball … lead by Mr. 6th man, Jason Terry. Throw JJ Barea into the mix … along with the size and strength of Haywood, the long-distance accuracy of Peja Stojakovic, and the versatility of Corey Brewer (ya, New York, you could have had him) and you’ve got a starting five that would give a lot of NBA teams headaches … let alone a 2nd unit. And oh, by the way, there are rumblings that Caron Butler MIGHT make a long-awaited comeback during the Finals (could be a ‘made-for-TV’ story though … we’ll see). EDGE: Dallas
Rick Carlisle vs Erik Spoelstra
- Those calling for Spoelstra’s head at the beginning of the year were out of their minds. That was hype. He’s a good young coach who has the respect and attention from his team – including his superstar trio. He also has his boss, Pat Riley, to lean on for guidance and advice … whether he wants it or not. Spoelstra has the Heat playing a menacing defence and, so ‘they’ say, defence wins championships.
But Carlisle’s defence is as impressive — especially considering the fact that it’s coming from a team that’s been known for its offence for so many years. Plus, he’s been there … done that. Though this is his first trip to the Finals as a head coach, he has been to the Conference Finals 3 times (including this year) and has won a Coach of the Year award. He knows what it takes to succeed on a big stage. He won’t be intimidated by the bright lights of the Championship series.
EDGE: Even (though I really want to say Dallas — the Riley factor forces me to call it a ‘wash’).
My Prediction: Call me a fool for betting against the force that is the Heat … but I’m going with Dallas in 6. That said, if this series does get to 6 games and the Mavericks don’t pull it out … they won’t win the series. There’s no way that the Mavs will win a Game 7 in Miami. No way. It has to end in 6 or less or Dallas is toast.
What do YOU think?
Sunday, May 29th, 2011
Sunday May 29 2011 – 1:25pm Eastern – Toronto, ON
I’ve been absent for a couple of days … getting primed and ready for the NBA Finals on Tuesday night.
But aside from the Mavericks and Heat, there has been other ‘news’ around the Association.
Most notably … this:
“Michael Jordan is probably the greatest scorer to ever play in the game, but I may go as far to say Lebron James is probably the greatest player to ever play the game.”
That quote came from Scottie Pippen following the Heat’s Game 5 comeback win over the Chicago Bulls.
Listen, James had an incredible series against Chicago and he’s been fabulous in the post-season overall. He’s been delivering daggers – consistently – throughout the playoffs. But he is NOT the greatest player to ever play the game.
Bill Russell might have something to say about that.
Jordan would certainly want to chime-in as well.
And Wilt Chamberlain would consider pushing his way into that conversation too.
Heck, Kobe Bryant’s rings – let alone the numbers (scoring) he’s put up over his career – force him into the ‘Greatest of All-Time’ discussion as well … and you can’t ignore another Laker (and Buck) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (the NBA’s all-time leading scorer).
It’s impossible to know, yet, where James ranks. He has had an incredible run so far. He’s a dynamic player and his MVP awards speak for themselves. He’s been to the Finals once with Cleveland … and now for a 2nd time with Miami. He may be the first player since Magic Johnson (who could be in that ‘Greatest’ conversation too) that can play multiple positions and still dominate wherever his is on the floor. James has the ball-handling of a point guard, the scoring touch and driving ability of a shooting guard or small forward, and the sheer size and strength of a power forward. However, he hasn’t won a ring yet. And that matters. You can’t be the best of all time if you don’t have a single championship (yet).
Plus, though his dominance in these 2010-11 Playoffs is quieting these rumblings more and more, there are still some folks that question LBJ’s ‘disappearing act’ in last year’s post-season (when he was with the Cavaliers) against Boston. Nobody other than James can say with absolute certainty that he “quit” on the Cavs, but his body language was terrible and his impact on the floor was all-but absent. Stuff like that doesn’t happen if you’re the “Greatest”.
To his credit, James told reporters in Miami that comparisons like Pippen’s are appreciated but premature.
“I’m gracious, humbled by Scottie’s comments … Mike’s an unbelievable player. I got a long way, long way to be mentioned as one of the all-time greats. Not even just Jordan – there are a lot of great players who have played in this league: Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and all these guys that are floating around with multiple rings. Bill Russell. All of these guys who have pioneered the game …”
James deserves to be IN the discussion. Throw whatever arbitrary number on it you want — Top 10, Top 5 … Top 3 even. But James cannot and should not be declared or judged until his career comes to an end.
Thursday, May 26th, 2011
Thursday May 26 2011 – 11:58pm Eastern – Toronto, ON
Following an epic collapse by the Chicago Bulls, the Miami Heat have advance to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2006.
And their opponent that year? The Dallas Mavericks.
Miami won that series, 4-2 but that was in the Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade era. This, of course, is the New Generation — the Big Three and their band of merry men.
Wade and Udonis Haslem are the only holdovers from the ’06 Heat … while Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry represent the only members of the Mavs from that season as well.
The ‘fun’ starts on Tuesday night.
Game 1 – Tue May 31 Dallas at Miami 9:00PM
Game 2 – Thu June 2 Dallas at Miami 9:00PM
Game 3 – Sun June 5 Miami at Dallas 8:00PM
Game 4 – Tue June 7 Miami at Dallas 9:00PM
Game 5 * Thu June 9 Miami at Dallas 9:00PM
Game 6 * Sun June 12 Dallas at Miami 8:00PM
Game 7 * Tue June 14 Dallas at Miami 9:00PM
I’ll have more on this series in the coming days.
Thursday, May 26th, 2011
Thursday May 26 2011 – 4:19pm Eastern – Toronto, ON
History is NOT on the side of the Chicago Bulls tonight.
The boys from the Windy City are down 3-1 to the Miami Heat. It’s the 202nd time ever in the NBA that a club has been down 3-1. And only EIGHT times has that trailing team managed to come back and win the series.
The last time it happened in the Conference Finals was 1981, when the Boston Celtics came back to beat the Philadelphia 76ers … eventually winning their 14th NBA championship as well.
But, again, that 193-8 record doesn’t bode will for the Bulls … especially when you factor-in how incredible LeBron James has been (especially in the 4th quarters) in this series.
ALL-TIME COMEBACKS IN NBA BEST-OF-SEVEN SERIES, DOWN 3-1
|Boston (vs. Philadelphia)||
|Eastern Division Finals|
|Los Angeles (vs. Phoenix)||
|Western Division Semifinals|
|Washington (vs. San Antonio)||
|Eastern Conference Finals|
|Boston (vs. Philadelphia)||
|Eastern Conference Finals|
|Houston (vs. Phoenix)||
|Western Conference Finals|
|Miami (vs. New York)||
|Eastern Conference Semifinals|
|Detroit (vs. Orlando)||
|Eastern Conference First Round|
|Phoenix (vs. L.A. Lakers)||
|Western Conference First Round|
Thursday, May 26th, 2011
Thursday May 26 2011 – 2:58pm Eastern – Toronto, ON
We’re a couple of days removed from Andrea Bargnani’s comments about playing in Toronto, hypothetically (allegedly) discussing the idea of playing in a warmer climate, and his desire to have a role better-suited for him wherever he’s playing ………. And we’re about 24 hours removed from the statement/apology that was issued by the 7-footer through his agent.
The biggest issue for the Raptors right now is whether Bargnani truly wants out of T.O. or not.
Were his comments to an Italian TV station (during a live broadcast of an NBA playoff game) simply taken out of context? Were they ill-advised but not intended as a criticism of Bryan Colangelo or the city of Toronto? Or was there a ton of truth – veiled or not – in what was said?
If he does want to leave … then that’s that. I can’t imagine that Colangelo wouldn’t act swiftly.
The Raptors have been more than fair with Bargnani and his talk of a role that serves him better seems like a stretch as well. He was given ample opportunity to be ‘the man’ in Toronto last year and had every opportunity to be a solid #2 to Bosh the previous couple of seasons too.
If the comments were truly misunderstood or misrepresented, then fine. But issuing a statement, through his agent, does smell a bit fishy indeed. And even if the comments were from the heart, the damage may already be done for a lot of fans (and some in management?) that question if he’s being truthful now, in his apology.
The seed of doubt has been planted at the very least.
Further to that, Colangelo, at his season-ending press conference (when his comments about Bargnani’s defence and rebounding were first made) stressed that he believes it’s just as important for the Raptors to have young, hungry players that want to be in Toronto as it is to have young, hungry players that are skilled and talented.
Thus, IF someone doesn’t want to be here … their time north of the border won’t be long. And if management does attempt to move the former #1 overall pick, there will be plenty of suitors (contrary to what some fans may think).
We’ll see how it all unfolds and if the apology from Bargnani is accepted by the majority or not.
Colangelo did address the whole situation, yesterday, on The Score:
“What Dave (Feschuk) wrote was not totally off-base, but it’s just a little bit inaccurate and I think by Andrea making a statement and coming out and saying, ‘Look, none of what I said came across that way.’ What (Bargnani) said was not meant to be harmful to the city of Toronto, to the organization, to me. It was just, ‘Hey, I understand that I gotta get better and I’m gonna do that. And by the way, if they’re gonna trade me, I hope it’s to a warm-weather city.’
I did not hear the interview, but I was told that (Bargnani) was pretty upset about what was translated or communicated. … The kid loves playing in Toronto, he thinks the organization has treated him well, he actually appreciated the comments I said this post-season, which was very matter of fact: ‘Hey, if he wants to hit the elite level, he needs to work on these certain and specific things because right now he’s not an elite player but he’s a very good player.’ And when asked (by the press) if I would consider trading him, I said, ‘Nobody on the team is untradeable.’”
Wednesday, May 25th, 2011
Wednesday May 25 2011 – 3:38pm Eastern – Toronto, ON
In recent days there has been some confusion over some comments that were made by Andrea Bargnani during an Italian broadcast of the NBA playoffs.
Bargnani was serving as a TV colour analyst and he was asked a hypothetical question about where he’d want to play if he wasn’t in Toronto. The Raptors big man said he would love to stay in T.O. but if he wasn’t in the Big Smoke he would want to go to a city with a warmer climate and to a team where he might be able to flourish more in a better role.
The 25-year-old also expressed some disappointment in statements that were made by Bryan Colangelo – about Bargnani – at his season-ending press conference. Colangelo said the former #1 overall pick may never be a great defensive player and admitted that he may have been miscast as a centre.
The Toronto Star’s Dave Feschuk first documented it all here: http://tinyurl.com/42mhryd
Following the coverage in the Toronto and Italian media and fan-base, there has been a lot of talk about Bargnani’s future in Toronto and innuendo about whether or not Colangelo may be looking to trade the big Italian or if there’s a rift between the forward and his President/GM.
In an effort to maybe calm the waters and smooth things over … Bargnani issued the following statement on Wednesday afternoon:
“I wish to personally clarify and correct an inaccurate portrayal of my words that recently appeared in the media. Much of what I said was taken out of context with respect to an entire conversation.
“I want to make clear my love for Toronto and that I consider the city a second home. I never said that I want to leave Toronto and I’m sorry if fans interpreted the inaccuracy that way.
“I am proud to represent Toronto and the Raptors organization. I appreciate what Bryan Colangelo and the organization has done for me during the past five years of my career. I will always continue to work to improve myself as a player in an effort to reward the organization and our fans with the best team possible.”
Bargnani issued the statement through his press office … not through the Raptors media relations department.
Monday, May 23rd, 2011
Monday May 23 2011 – 11:21pm Eastern – Toronto, ON
Does buying a ticket to a sporting event give you carte blanche to say or do whatever you what inside the arena?
Can you curse at athletes and coaches or utter slurs at them?
Should you be allowed to talk about their mothers … their families … or their manhood?
Or is everything not related to the GAME off-limits? For instance, criticizing a player’s defensive skills or a coach’s substitution pattern is fine but making fun of a guy’s appearance or commenting on how attractive his wife is or isn’t is considered going too far?
I ask these questions to those that heckle and to those that have found themselves surrounded by or seated next to hecklers over the years.
Personally, I find heckling annoying and many (most) times, immature. More often than not the cat-calls seem to be coming from folks that are either intoxicated or looking to be the centre of attention.
I hear a ton down at the ACC (especially in a 22 and 60 season) … given that Jonesy and I broadcast the games from the 2nd row of “Press Row” (situated about 2 feet in front of the first row of the Platinum section). Vulgarity, racial slurs, homophobic remarks and derogatory terms have not been uncommon.
But at what point is it “okay” for the athlete (or coach) to finally say ‘enough is enough’ and start to fight back? Or should they always turn the other cheek?
Athletes and coaches are public figures, but those that are doing the chirping generally are not; the camera isn’t rolling on every word and every move of Joe Fan!
Kobe Bryant and Joakim Noah (two recent examples), rightfully, had $50,000 fines slapped down on them following in-game anti-guy slurs (Bryant’s directed at an NBA official, but Noah’s aimed at a belligerent fan).
While few would condone Noah’s words, if he had been pushed and prodded all night, I’m sure many could at least understand why he came to his breaking point.
Should security step in with unruly fans?
Is a warning enough or should a spectator be ejected automatically?
And who makes that ‘call’ … in regards to whether or not a fan stays or goes? Can an usher truly decide or determine when someone has gone ‘too far’ and recommend ejecting the ‘guilty’ party … forcing that person to eat the cost of a $50, $100, or $150+ ticket?
I like to think that common sense should overrule the rules, but too many times we’ve seen that many fans (especially when booze is involved) don’t know the rules or they’re simply ignorant to what should or shouldn’t be considered ‘acceptable’ … so I would fully endorse a zero-tolerance policy.
And don’t forget, I’m a fan too. I regularly attend NFL, NHL, and MLB games. Though I’d be lying if I told you that “You suck” hasn’t ever come out of my mouth … I certainly haven’t insinuated anything about a guy’s sexual preferences or unleashed an Andrew-Dice-Clay-like tirade on anyone.
It’s a fine line. But for some fans the sense of entitlement and lack of respect for authority – let alone your ‘neighbour’ and fellow man – has got to be curtailed somehow.
Saturday, May 21st, 2011
Saturday May 21 2011 – 7:00pm Eastern – Collingwood, ON
I spent most of Friday driving up to cottage country for the long weekend so I didn’t have a chance to check in. However, I had a free moment here – on the balcony – so I thought I’d weigh in on some of the stories around the NBA. Holiday bloggin’ at its finest!
A Quick 4 for the May 2-4 …..
1. Kareem Abdul Jabbar wants a statue of himself erected outside the Staples Center. And while he has every right to want that honour (he is the league’s all-time leading scorer after all), voicing his displeasure and frustration publicly seems very ill-advised. It sounds like sour grapes. And are you really going to want one now, if you had to “ask” for it? Doesn’t that cheapen the process? There are certainly two sides to every story — why did Jerry West and Magic Johnson get statues BEFORE Kareem? — but against to be honoured and recognized for your “greatness” seems a little lame to me.
FYI – the statues already outside Staples include Johnson and West (as mentioned above) along with Wayne Gretzky, Oscar De La Hoya and Chick Hearn.
2. Speaking of West … he has been hired by Golden State as a front office advisor. And former NBA’er (and one-time Laker) / current Lakers assistant coach, Brian Shaw, could be following West as well. He has interviewed for the Warriors vacant head coaching position … in search of his first head coaching gig in the NBA. Shaw’s name has been linked to LA as well – with many, including Kobe Bryant, endorsing him as the successor to Phil Jackson. However, the Lakers have reportedly reached out to other candidates as well … including Rick Adelman and Mike Brown.
3. If Kevin McHale is hired as the next head coach of the Houston Rockets, I wonder if he’ll hire Matt Devlin – his TNT broadcast partner – as an assistant coach? Joking aside … Devlin does have two NCAA coaches in his extended family. And if McHale does head-up the Rockets, Yao Ming is hoping to still be around as well. Though he is recovering from left ankle surgery (in January) and played in only 5 games last season, the big man from China is saying that Houston is still is home and he wants to give back to the fans and organization that have supported him through all of his health (knee/foot) issues in recent years. Ming becomes a restricted free agent as of July 1.
4. Nobody in Dallas should be freaking out by any means — it’s 1-1 in the series; not like the Mavs are facing an 0-2 deficit. But in spite of Dirk Nowitzki’s all-world scoring abilities and Jason Terry’s offensive punch of the bench, if Big D doesn’t play some solid “D” in Game 3 and beyond, they will lose this series to the Thunder. The Mavericks cannot get into a scoring battle with OKC.
Enjoy the long weekend folks! I’ll try to come back tomorrow or Monday.
All the best
Wednesday, May 18th, 2011
Wednesday May 18 2011 – 7:52pm Eastern – Toronto, ON
Yesterday I said there was little sense in doing a “Mock Draft” before the Draft Lottery took place. But now that we know which slot teams will be selecting in on June 23 in New Jersey, it’s easier to guess what might go down.
Remember, these are projections or prognostications. They’re not set in stone. Heck, it’s only May 18 and we haven’t even seen any real pre-draft workouts (individual, or otherwise) yet. So a lot can change in the next 4-5 weeks.
But assuming no trades go down – that may affect what a certain team may or may not be looking for at the Draft – and assuming no deals take place (involving picks) on Draft Night, here is my first take on how the Top 5 could unfold:
The Cavs won the lottery – literally and figuratively – snagging 2 of the top 4 picks. And there’s little doubt in my mind that they’ll use the top spot to draft Kyrie Irving. Cleveland acquired Baron Davis last season and this pick (which was previously owned by the LA Clippers) but B-Diddy is not the long-term answer. And with JJ Hickson up front and carrying a lot of expectations for the future, grooming a young PG would be perfect for the Cavaliers.
The only way I see this changing is if the Cavs are prepared to have Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker run the show. If that’s the case, they’d be all-but assured of getting 1 of those 2 guards at the #4 slot and, thus, they could instead take Derrick Williams 1st overall.
The Timberwolves and every team that follows will be influenced by the trickle-down effect of where Cleveland goes with that number one pick. If Irving is on the board, I think Minny will gobble him up … in spite of the fact that they already have Jonny Flynn, Luke Ridnour, and (eventually) Ricky Rubio. However, if I’m right in assuming that Irving goes to the Cavs, Minnesota can’t pass up Williams. Though the Wolves have Michael Beasley and Kevin Love (and Darko Milicic) on their front line, Williams’ versatility on both ends should be too attractive to pass up. So … acquire assets!
ESPN’s Chad Ford has already said that he believes Enes Kanter could go 2nd overall but I just don’t buy that – yet.
Again, things get interesting. Do the Jazz take Kanter to go along with Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors and Paul Millsap (and don’t forget about Mehmet Okur – injured most of last year) in the front court or Jonas Valanciunas – who some are already saying is the better of the two “bigs” that are available?
The Jazz could use some scoring at the wing as well, and one has to wonder if it makes sense to bring in a young PG to play behind Devin Harris. Those two scenarios could see Utah eying Jan Vesely, Knight, and Walker.
My thought is they go with a PG to back up Harris. Earl Watson’s contract is up so the options are limited at the point for Utah. Walker or Knight would fill that back-up role perfectly and either could be ready to take on the full-time job following the 2012/13 season (when Harris’ deal expires).
Many folks believe that the difference between Knight and Walker is minimal; they’re almost a ‘wash’. Walker may be a more dynamic scorer but his size may hurt him at the next level (guys like JJ Barea are sure proving that theory wrong though) … and Knight is, arguabley a better playmaker and defender but doesn’t (yet?) have the scoring ability and experience of Walker. As of today … I’m saying the Jazz go with Walker, fresh off his NCAA championship with UCONN. Plus, he adds the scoring punch that is missing in the inconsistency of CJ Miles and the age (35) of Raja Bell at the two-guard.
What did the Cavs do with that top pick? Did they take Irving or go with Williams and hope that Walker and/or Knight were still on the board?
If they went with Williams … they’d have a great option still available in Knight. But as I said, I think they’ll go with Irving #1 … thus … they won’t be taking another guard. THIS is where either Kanter or Valanciunas will land. Draft Express (www.draftexpress.com) – one of the best sites out there for NCAA & Draft coverage – has Kanter falling and Valanciunas rising right now … so I’ll trust their gut(s) on this one and admit that I’ve seen little of either player, other than some game tape and highlights on the internet.
That would be a great draft for the Cavaliers … walking away with the top PG available and, in theory, the top big man as well (counting D. Williams as a ‘forward’).
Based on how I see things unfolding, Knight should still be on the board. And if that’s the case, I’d imagine the Raptors will gobble him up.
Bryan Colangelo already attempted to move Jose Calderon at least once in the last 12 months. He was ‘that close’ to going to Charlotte (along with Reggie Evans) last summer … with Tyson Chandler and Boris Diaw heading to T.O.
Calderon is a solid guard and a nice veteran for this young Raptor team. However, I believe BC looks at Calderon’s age and price tag and doesn’t see the best ‘fit’ for the rebuild the Raps are trying to undertake. Thus, as much as I hate to speculate and feed the rumour mill, I do think that the Spanish PG could be moved during this off-season. If that’s the case, Jerryd Bayless becomes the primary point man and a guy like Knight would slide-in nicely alongside J.B.
If Knight isn’t available, my guess is that Walker will be. I don’t see BOTH of those guards going in the Top 4.
Colangelo, during this off-season, has admitted that Andrea Bargnani may have been mis-cast as a center. He has also, many times, talked about the need for a bruising big man who will play defence, block shots, rebound the ball and play with some grit/attitude. Those traits won’t be found in an 18 or 19 year old Kanter or Valanciunas. Not yet at least. And Toronto already has a fairly young front court with Ed Davis, Amir Johnson (who just turned 24 on May 1 – in spite of his 5 years in the league), and Bargnani (25).
The Raptors would be better-served taking their considerable cap space / free agent cash … and making pitches to guys like Marc Gasol and Tyson Chandler. A veteran big man would certainly fill those gaps in defence, shot-blocking, rebounding, and attitude — much more than any youngster. Hence the reason I think Colangelo will look for a guard and not a center on June 23.
Keep an eye on Kawhi Leonard as things unfold as well, but with James Johnson coming to T.O. in 2010/11 (for a late 1st round pick (Miami’s pick)), you know that JJ is still very-much in the mix and could easily be penciled-in as the team’s starting SF. Plus, he’ll only be entering year 3 as a pro. He’s very young himself and still raw enough to be taught and groomed. Do you want two of those players (Leonard, for example) at the same spot?
To recap, I’m going with:
1. Cleveland – Kyrie Irving (PG – Duke – 6’2 – 185lbs)
2. Minnesota – Derrick Williams (PF – Arizona – 6’8 – 235lbs)
3. Utah – Kemba Walker (PG – UCONN – 6’0 – 180lbs)
4. Cleveland – Jonas Valanciunas (C – Lithuania – 6’11 – 240lbs)
5. Toronto – Brandon Knight (PG – Kentucky – 6’3 – 170lbs)
Wednesday, May 18th, 2011
by Zack Cooper
Out of fear that they may be watching (or listening), I will say that I don’t believe in conspiracy theories.
…but with the possibility that you do, allow me to entertain you for the next few minutes.
For as long as the NBA started conducting a lottery to determine draft positioning, fans have been crying foul.
Let’s go back to 1985. The year after Jordan. I was four years old, so I remember it clearly. Patrick Ewing had recently won Olympic Gold (’84) and just missed out on a second straight NCAA title with the Georgetown Hoyas. The Knicks were struggling (see the often used phrase: “in a dire situation”). They were losing games, recently re-designing uniforms, and facing the possibility of being without Bernard King (who was the NBA’s leading scorer before going down with what, at the time, appeared to be a career-ending knee injury).
How could the NBA possibly resurrect a sense of optimism for
one of the most rabid fan-base?
Those who believe in conspiracy theories would tell you: Fix the lottery!
Those people point to video evidence that shows NBA commissioner David Stern holding an envelope, with a bent-corner (it’s marked!) emblazoned with a Knicks logo, which may or may not have been frozen to the touch.
To play devil’s advocate, New York had the 3rd worst record in the league. 7 non-playoff teams – all with equal odds – were up for the top pick. The Knicks got it… and then got their big man.
The NBA then tweaked the lottery system in 1990; creating a weighted system that gave the worst teams the best odds of claiming the top prize. See: The Birth of the Ping-Pong Ball (as far as the NBA is concerned).
Conspiracy theorists were given some time off. At least until they all became witnesses. See where I’m going with this?
In 2003, the Cleveland Cavaliers were struggling (see: “in a dire situation”). They had Ricky Davis.
I’m not done.
Alright, well, basically I am. But remember when Ricky Davis intentionally missed a lay-up on his own basket to get a triple-double? I just wanted to put that back in your brain. Either way. The Cavs sucked… and no one was watching.
…but there was this guy who just happened to hail from nearby Akron, Ohio. You might have read about the kid in about 3,984 issues of SLAM magazine starting from when this LeBron James was like 3 years old. Or 11. Well, actually, I’m led to believe it was in his Junior year of high school when he made his SLAM debut, but still. Everyone had known about LeBron for years. He could be the guy who’d save the Cavaliers.
The Cavs ended the 02-03 season with a win over the Raptors, and finished up tied with the Nuggets for the worst record in the league.
Is it that much of a long-shot for Cleveland to actually get the #1 pick when they shared the best odds with Denver? Yeah, exactly.
Orlando had won the lottery TWO YEARS IN A ROW. Now THAT’S crazy! But they play in Disney World… and that’s where Magic happens (no pun intended).
…so yeah. LeBron was basically
Superman the cat’s meow in the state of Ohio. Until he left them for dead, feeling no remorse, before finally apologizing for “the decision” about a week ago. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
After 2004, when Orlando won the lottery for a 3rd time, conspiracy theorists would tell you that the NBA allowed the Bucks and Raptors to win the next two lotteries because those years were deemed to have weak draft classes.
The following year, in 2007, the Blazers overcame 5% odds and landed the top pick – selecting Greg Oden (complete with bad knees and a desire to snap self-nudes and post them on the internet). Kevin Durant went #2 to then-Seattle. Both teams/markets were struggling (see: “dire situations”). The Sonics, as you know, moved to Oklahoma City after KD’s rookie season (and look at them now!).
Needless to say, neither market was “saved,” but both teams are now in great shape.
In 2008, the Chicago Bulls were your basic run-of-the-mill group. Not good enough to return to the playoffs. Not bad enough to land the top pick in the draft. Unless the lottery was fixed!
Chicago’s been one of the best markets in the NBA. My generation has visions of Michael Jordan fist-pumps and tongue-wags permanently etched in our brains. But the Bulls of these times had been struggling. One year after advancing to the 2nd round of the playoffs for the first time since Jordan left them in ’98, Chicago had started to unravel. A horrible start to ’07 eventually led to the mid-season firing of Scott Skiles, and some drastic personnel changes. The Bulls finished 33-49. Good enough (bad enough?) for the 9th worst record in the league.
However… with a lofty 1.7% chance of landing the top pick… the ping-pong balls bounced in the Bulls’ favour (behind closed doors by some accountant dude).
Enter Chicago-native Derrick Rose, who had just led the University of Memphis to the NCAA title game.
You know what happens in that story.
In 2009, the NBA proved that the lottery is not rigged. The Clippers won it. They never won anything (except the lottery 11 years prior – which they subsequently screwed up by taking Michael Olowokandi). The Clips would get the sure-fire Blake Griffin.
The beast from Ohio State University would break a kneecap and miss his entire
rookie first season.
Hey, remember last year? The Washington Wizards were recovering from a PR nightmare, in which Gilbert Arenas was playing bang-bang in the locker room. They had been struggling (I’m re-using that word on purpose, I promise) and in the midst of an ownership change. Abe Pollin had recently passed away. His late wife, Irene, was representing the Wizards at the lottery and came away golden.
Washington had 10% odds of landing the top pick, and got just that.
Now, before you say that the NBA gave the pick to incoming owner, Ted Leonsis… think about the fact that the Nets were atrocious. Horrendously, and on the verge of historically, bad. They also had a new owner coming in. One whom could be seen in front of every camera, or written about in every article… even appearing on “60 Minutes” to bring people in on his “playboy lifestyle.”
Russian Billionaire, Mikhail Prokhorov, was the sexy story. Let alone the fact that he’d teamed up with Beyonce’s husband.
Yet somehow the Nets dropped down to #3.
The NBA draft lottery is NOT fixed.
…or is it?
This past season the league and it’s fans had a love affair with a hate-fest surrounding the Miami Heat. We don’t need to rehash the events that led to the “big three” converging in South Beach… but we do know about the dirt stains that were left here in Toronto, and over in Cleveland.
The Raptors were simply the forgotten franchise up in Canada. The Cavaliers, on the other hand, were the laughing stock of the league.
Off to a decent start, Cleveland appeared to be recovering better than anyone expected. Until LeBron James played his first game at the Q in enemy colours. Amid the riled up emotions (no pun intended, again), jerseys sporting the number 23 were burned and one team was left in a pile of ashes. That cold December night, the Cavs lost to Miami by 38 points, effectively sending both teams in opposite directions (or perhaps on their appropriate paths). Cleveland lost 34 of the next 35 games (including an NBA record 26 straight). The Heat rolled off 19 wins in the next 20 games.
We know where they are now.
Last night, the Cavaliers had a 19.9% shot at landing the first selection with their own pick… but slipped to #4.
Tough times, right? Well, not when you hold the Clippers’ pick that went Cleveland’s way in the late-season trade for Baron Davis. Instead, that unprotected pick from LA jumped from a 2.8% chance, all the way up to #1… allowing the Cavs to select Kyrie Irving and rebuild from there.
Good for them. Good for the city. Good for the NBA.
…But how about the teams that have struggled forever and get nothing? How about the Timberwolves, who plummeted into the lottery for the 14th time, and struck out for the 14th time!
How about the Raptors, who could have won the lottery in their 2nd season – only to get relegated to #2 because of a clause in their expansion agreement (the Vancouver Grizzlies had the best odds, but got bumped to #3)? The Raptors won the lottery in 2006, allowing freshly-minted President and GM Bryan Colangelo to select his highly-coveted Italian, Andrea Bargnani.
Last night, Toronto had the 3rd best shot at landing the #1 pick. Instead, the Raptors slipped to 5th.
These things happen.
The NBA isn’t dictating that the Raptors get stuck in mediocrity (or worse). The league isn’t pulling strings to make sure Cleveland recovers from being dumped in the trash.
Sure, the lottery has a history of casting light upon markets which are fleeting. But sometimes teams just get lucky in the lottery.
…unless the fix is in.