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!





Portland Trail Blazers Season Preview

4 10 2008

My NBA Northwest Division preview continues with the Portland Trail Blazers:

Portland TrailBlazers

2007-08 Standings 41 – 41, 10th Western Conference 

2008-09 Predicted Record 50 – 32, 2nd Northwest Division, 6th Western Conference 

Projected Starting Five:  Greg Oden, LaMarcus Aldridge, Martell Webster, Brandon Roy, Steve Blake

Sixth Man: Travis Outlaw

If Greg Oden can start healthy this year, the Blazers have a chance to be scary good, scary quick.

If Greg Oden can stay healthy this year, the Blazers have a chance to be scary good, scary quick.

For a brief while last season the Portland Trail Blazers led the Western Conference then injuries, inexperience and the schedule caught up with them and they ended up in 10th position, outside of the playoffs but with a 41 – 41 record. In the Eastern Conference that would have been good enough for 6th place. 

They overachieved last year. They were led by classy first year All Star Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge yet they were never meant to be this good this soon, especially after they lost the overall #1 pick in the draft Greg Oden before the season began. Oden is better now and he will have an opportunity to prove that he was worthy of his lofty billing. Even if he comes on slow the Trail Blazers have the other players around to cover while he grows accustomed to the speed and physicality of the NBA.

This year also marks the arrival of Rudy Fernandez, the classy Spaniard who has All Star level talent. During the Olympics he showed his class, refusing to back down from the Americans during the Gold Medal match. While it is too soon to tell how he will adjust to the NBA, I’m picking he could develop into the next Manu Ginobli. 

Banished are the days of the Jailblazers, instead this is a team of classy individuals and a whole batch of talented youngsters. So stacked are the Trail Blazers with young talent that it wouldn’t surprise to see a trade or two, especially to acquire a veteran point guard. They are also aided here with the soon to expire contract of Raef LaFrentz, packaged with one or two of the youngsters and they could get an All Star quality player (Devin Harris anyone?). They are led at the point by Steve Blake with the young Jerryd Bayless scheduled to eventually take on this role.

The Trail Blazers are a team on the rise and the powers of the Western Conference should be looking over their shoulders. If they continue to develop the Trail Blazers have the potential to win a title sooner rather than later. 

Coach:

Nate MacMillan is one of the top coaches in the NBA. He is a classy individual (the whole organisation is classy these days) and is a perfect fit for his young charges. If he can continue his stellar development job he should get his first title within a few seasons.

Bench:

The Trail Blazer bench is deep and talented. Most other teams in the NBA would be glad to have Travis Outlaw, Channing Frye and Rudy Fernandez coming off the pine. Eventually some of these players will start. Martell Webster is probably on limited time as a starter with Travis Outlaw ready to step up, or possibly Fernandez with Roy sliding over to the small forward slot.

Star Player:

This is Brandon Roy’s team though within a few years we’ll most probably know it as Greg Odens. For now though Roy is the leader and the star. He reminds me a touch of Penny Hardaway and Grant Hill with those same silky smooth skills that those two had. Let’s hope he avoids the injury fate of those two players.

Team MVP:

Brandon Roy is the do anything man for this team. He is capable of playing the point, shooting guard and small forward. However the true MVP of this team will be Greg Oden. If he develops into even half of what his potential indicates then the Trail Blazers will be scary good.

Final Prognosis:

I have no doubt that the Trail Blazers will win a title within the next 5 years. This year they will make the playoffs and it will aide in their development. I don’t expect them to advance past the first round but the other teams better win some titles now because the Trail Blazers are coming.

 

You can find an index of past Previews here.