time to panic?

19 03 2009

Well it looks like the Boston Celtics are stumbling their way to the end of the season. They’re still going to end up with one of the best records in the NBA, they currently have a 50 – 18 record and they can probably manage 60 wins and the 2nd or 3rd seed in the East but not too long ago this team looked like they were going to easily win 65+ games. The reason is pretty obvious for the slump: injuries. They’ve got way too many injuries to key players.

The most notable of course is Kevin Garnett. I remember a few weeks back when he first got injured and the team won a few games the PTI crew posed the question that the Celtics were better without him. Uh, I guess you can see the answer now. Without KG the Celtics are not the same – his stats might be down but he is the emotional centre and lynchpin of the defence. Also he gets you about 18 ppg. Without KG too much pressure falls on Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to score.

For today’s game against the Miami Heat, Celtics Blog listed the Celtics injuries as:

Tony Allen (thumb) out
Kevin Garnett (knee) out
Brian Scalabrine (head) out
Glen Davis (ankle) day to day
Eddie House (ankle/heel) probable
Ray Allen (elbow) questionable
Rajon Rondo (ankle) questionable
Leon Powe (knee) questionable
Paul Pierce (flu-like symptoms)  probable

That’s pretty much your defending champions right there. Ouch. The only starter not on that list is Kendrick Perkins.

I’ve been reading stuff about how they wouldn’t mind losing a few games now if everyone is fit for the playoffs. It kinda suggests that Celtics fans shouldn’t panic. That’s all well and good but other than KG, which of the players is being kept out to rest up? Rajan Rondo is playing with a sprained ankle, Scalabrine is possibly out for the season and worse, Paul Pierce is having to play extended minutes. My point is, there is no guarantee any of those guys are going to be 100% fit for the playoffs and with the way the season is going they’re more than likely going to suffer more injuries.

Maybe it is a time to get worried. I know the Celtics are good enough but are they healthy enough?

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starbury=iago

6 03 2009

This post on the Onion is hilarious – Stephon Marbury as a Shakespearian villain. As long as it’s not like a prophecy or anything. Because that would be bad, very bad.





saying “yes” to Starbury

4 03 2009

Way back at the beginning of the season I wrote a post titled: Just say “No!” to Starbury. I argued that Stephon Marbury has a caustic personality and that I hoped my teams wouldn’t sign him. And of course last week the Celtics finally signed him. My feelings are ambivalent on this one. I still believe he will be a problematic personality and ultimately will harm this team in some way but I have a sneaking suspicion that it won’t be this year. Next year he’ll be a problem, without a doubt but this year he’ll be looking to redeem himself somewhat.

Besides, the Celtics really need him. Mikki Moore, who they also signed, isn’t the answer – he’s a garbage time player, too erratic to really help. Starbury though, he can be a game changer. He can score, distribute, hit the big shot and play defence when necessary. We don’t need him to score 20 a game, we need him to score 8 or 9 at a clutch moment. We can’t always expect Allen and Pierce to do it all. I also think he can play with Rondo and take the pressure off him as a playmaker. Look at the way Maurice Williams and Delonte West play together for the Cavs – both can be playmakers and scorers and they take the pressure off LeBron to do everything.

But all this is based on potential. Stephon Marbury has the potential to redeem himself and be known as the guy who helped the Celtics win back-to-back championships. But he needs to want it. He needs to be the perfect citizen. I’m hoping he does.





Fave vs Fave – the Trail Blazers vs Celtics

6 12 2008

Well that was brutal. I’d circled today’s NBA game on ESPN as one of the few must see games. It featured my beloved Celtics up against the Trail Blazers, the team which is swiftly becoming my favourite out west (if only because the Timberwolves are so awful and we never get to see their games anymore). It shaped as a good-un, the Celtics were riding a 10 game win streak, the Blazers a 6 game streak.

In the end it was no contest, the Celtics handed out a beat down, and even a late game rally by the Blazers couldn’t disguise the gulf between the two teams. The Celtics displayed the swagger and intimidation they’ve earned as NBA champs while the Blazers showed just how far they have to go to be considered one of the truly elite teams.

Despite the beat down I still really enjoyed the game – it’s one thing to follow a team through boxscores and recaps, and quite another to watch them play. It showed me a few things:

  • KG is still the man though he seems to be settling for too many jumpshots, get on the block man!
  • The Celtics really love to trash talk and it was almost embarrassing watching the Trail Blazers try to answer back. Ultimately that seemed to take the Blazers out of their game.
  • Rajan Rondo is really really good this year, not quite in Tony Parker’s class offensively, but a superb defender and rebounder nonetheless.
  • I’ve realised that I have a man crush on Leon Powe. I just love watching him play.  
  • Despite the way the Lakers and Cavaliers are playing I’d still favour the Celtics in a series against them. The Lakers are too soft, the Celtics will just bully them like they do all finesse teams. The Cavaliers will have to play at the peak of their powers to match the Celtics and I don’t know if they could do that for seven games.
  • The Celtics are playing brilliant team basketball and that’s what’s beating teams at the moment. They really make the extra pass and rarely are they outhustled.
  • The Blazers are still really young. They need to acquire a hard nosed veteran to play alongside Oden and Aldridge. Can you imagine how much better they’d be with Garnett or Duncan in their ears?
  • The Blazers have the potential to be really really exciting. Against lesser teams they’ll rack up the points, especially with Rudy Fernandez and Travis Outlaw off the bench.  
  • Greg Oden is still figuring out how to play the game at the pro level though I firmly believe he’ll be fine by the end of the season (assuming he stays healthy)
  • The Trail Blazers need a point guard. How good would they be with someone like Calderon or Nash? The starter, Steve Blake, is a solid back up but they need more of a floor general out there. I know the excellent Brandon Roy does a lot of the ball handling for them but it would probably be a good idea to investigate the options out there.




serious NBA lackage

6 11 2008

Man, it’s just over a week into the season and I’ve remembered why I hate the coverage of the NBA down here in NZ. I have seen one game, yep, one. The Boston Celtics versus the Chicago Bulls. It was a no contest, the Celtics were too intense, too focussed and way too skilled for the Bulls. At least I got to see Derrick Rose. The kid is going to be gooooood.  

I was supposed to watch the Spurs versus Suns but it got bumped for the World Series. What do I care about the World Series? Bah. This afternoon it’s the Cavs versus the Bulls. I’ll watch it when I get home from work. I’m feeling a bit meh about the contest (why oh why couldn’t they have shown us the Rockets versus Celtics earlier this week?) but at least it’s a game 🙂

I’ve been watching highlights on NBA.com but its not the same – hell, highlights make Vince Carter look like an MVP!

Some thoughts on the NBA season: 

  • Greg Oden’s injury is depressing – I still think the Trail Blazers have enough to make the playoffs but will Oden be there? He hasn’t even made it through one game so far!
  • I think Denver definitely “won” the trade with Detroit. Chauncey Billups gives them a legitimate point guard who can distribute and take over a game when necessary. If they had kept Marcus Camby then they would be a dark horse favourite out west. Detroit on the other hand acquired Allen Iverson who is still an amazing athlete and scorer as well as possessing a juicy expiring contract. Yet I don’t feel this trade. Does AI’s game fit with the Pistons? He’s a ball hog and when he achieved his success in Philadelphia that was their gameplan. Detroit play a more structured team game and I’m just not convinced that AI is a good fit. Where does he play? At the point? In place of Richard Hamilton? Off the bench? It’ll be interesting to see.
  • The Celtics will lose a few games through the regular season that they shouldn’t (like the Indiana loss) but they’ll be dominant by the playoffs.
  • I don’t think the San Antonio Spurs are done, despite starting 0 – 3, but I think there are worrying signs. They’ll make the playoffs but we’ll have to wait and see how Ginobili comes back from his layoff.

Anyway, there’s my thoughts so far. You guys in the states don’t know how lucky you are!





LA Lakers Season Preview

13 10 2008

My NBA Pacific Division preview begins with the LA Lakers:

LA Lakers

2007-08 Standings 57 – 25, 1st Western Conference

2008-09 Predicted Record 65 – 17, 1st Pacific Division, 1st  Western Conference

Projected Starting Five:  Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, Trevor Ariza, Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher

Sixth Man:  Lamar Odom

The midseason addition of Pau Gasol catapaulted the Lakers to the top of the Western Conference. With a full season with the Lakers they should be primed to return to the Finals.

The midseason addition of Pau Gasol catapaulted the Lakers to the top of the Western Conference. With a full season with the Lakers they should be primed to return to the Finals.

Despite starting the season in a fugue of discontent with Kobe Bryant openly musing about going elsewhere, last season the Lakers came within two wins of the NBA title. The Lakers were better than anyone expected, Kobe won the MVP trophy for the first time, the Lakers finished top in the West then in the playoffs they rolled through the West until the Finals. Where they hit the Boston Celtics and were summarily hammered. Sure they won two games but there is a reason people talk about it as a “six game sweep”. The Celtics never felt threatened and the fairytale ended.  Kobe and Phil Jackson have to wait to claim their first post Shaq titles.

One of the main reasons the Lakers were so good was the inspired play of their centres. Until he got injured Andrew Bynum showed his almost unlimited potential, then once he went down the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol from the hapless Memphis Grizzlies and he put the Lakers over the top. This year both players should be fit and Gasol will slip across to the power forward position. This will force Lamar Odom to the small forward slot creating the most intimidating front line in the league, or more likely, Odom to the bench with Trevor Ariza or Vladimir Radmanovic to start.

The other key reason why the Lakers were, and project once again, to be so good was in their bench. The Lakers are scary deep. Probably only the Portland Trail Blazers can rival them for depth and depth in youth. When you can bring Sasha Vujacic, Luke Walton and Jordan Farmar off the bench you’re blessed, when you add Odom as the potential leader of the second unit you’re scary.  

To my mind there is a big worry hanging over the Lakers and that is Kobe. While LeBron James has overtaken him as the game’s best player, Kobe is the MVP and there is no one else you would rather have taking the final shot in a game. However Kobe played for much of last season with a damaged pinky finger. He then played right through the playoffs before winning a gold medal in the Olympics. That he played at such a high level is a testament to his skill, passion and ability but will that take a toll this season? Sooner or later the injuries and wear on his legs will catch up to him.

Despite this the Lakers begin the season as one of the big favourites to win it all. They have a blend of experience and youth with assets that they can trade if needed. They also have the deadliest endgame assassin in the league. Expect them to roll deep into the playoffs.

Coach:

Phil Jackson is arguably the greatest coach in NBA history, equal first with Red Auerbach in NBA titles as coach with 9. Which made last season’s NBA Finals so puzzling. Jackson was comprehensively outcoached by Doc Rivers, a man who until the Finals were over, was regarded in some quarters with derision. He’ll be out to prove that last year was a fluke and claim title number 10.

Bench:

The Lakers are blessed with a deep and dazzling bench. If, as expected, Lamar Odom slots into the bench crew the Lakers will be able to field one of the scariest second units in the game. They can score points aplenty though the one criticism that perhaps can be levelled at them is that if Trevor Ariza starts the game there is no defensive game changer amongst them.

Star Player:

Kobe Bryant is arguably the premier player in the NBA. Just as well that he plays in LA, the city of the stars. On any other team Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom would be the featured players but LA is all about Kobe, Kobe, Kobe.

Team MVP:

How Andrew Bynum comes back from his knee surgery will dictate how far the LA Lakers will go. Bynum gives them a physical menace in the paint, teams have to respect both his offence and defence and this frees up time and space for the remainder of the Lakers. The Boston Celtics showed that without Bynum the Lakers have a soft centre. Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett bullied them at will in the Finals and Bynum is needed to counter the more physical teams.

Final Prognosis:

Along with the Celtics the LA Lakers are favourites to return to the NBA Finals. A lot depends on the health of Kobe, if he can have another season of sustained excellence then the Lakers could well be the last team standing. 

 

You can find an index of past Previews here.





NBA Season Preview Index

3 10 2008

Atlantic Division Previews:

Boston Celtics Season Preview

Philadelphia 76ers Season Preview

Toronto Raptors Season Preview

New York Knicks Season Preview

New Jersey Nets Season Preview

Northwest Division Previews:

Utah Jazz Season Preview

Portland Trail Blazers Season Preview

Denver Nuggets Season Preview

Minnesota Timberwolves Season Preview

Oklahoma City Thunder Season Preview

Central Division Previews:

Cleveland Cavaliers Season Preview

Detroit Pistons Season Preview

Chicago Bulls Season Preview

Milwaukee Bucks Season Preview

Indiana Pacers Season Preview

Pacific Division Previews:

LA Lakers Season Preview

Phoenix Suns Season Preview

Golden State Warriors Season Preview

LA Clippers Season Preview

Sacramento Kings Season Preview

South East Division Previews:

Orlando Magic Season Preview

Miami Heat Season Preview

Atlanta Hawks Season Preview

Washington Wizards Season Preview

Charlotte Bobcats Season Preview

South West Division Previews:

New Orleans Hornets Season Preview

San Antonio Spurs Season Preview

Houston Rockets Season Preview

Dallas Mavericks Season Preview

Memphis Grizzlies Season Preview