The NBA chat continues with me as Zach Harper from CBS Sports comes back to talk the association. We go through what’s gone down thus far including Portland’s hot start, the Timberwolves good start, and some of the fake Knick trade rumors that have come about thus far. Pay attention to the Knicks stuff, we kill them. We also go around the league and discuss many topics including the Pacers hot start, Miami managing the season, and San Antonio continuing to churn out wins. Check the podcast out here and Itunes! Many thanks to Zach for joining me again.
So the AC’S Spotlight podcast returns with plenty of hoops talk as the NBA season continues. Jonathan Tjarks of RealGM and SB Nation came on to discuss the NBA and particularly the Knicks and Nets and their early season struggles. Will Iman Shumpert finally get traded? Can both the Knicks and Nets rebound from bad starts? Fascinating discussion here as well as the Eastern Conference and more. This podcast is also on Itunes.
The round of NBA podcasts continue with me as I turned over to Boston and talked Celtics w/ their Radio play by play man Sean Grande as the Celtics go into their rebuilding season. Starting off 1-4 how is new head coach Brad Stevens handling the struggles? We talk about the mood in the locker room as far as the comments from Gerald Wallace and Jeff Green were received. We also discussed tanking and why it’s not always guaranteed. To close Sean told some stories about the Red Sox season and their world championship win. You can check this podcast out here, and on Itunes as well. Keep listening!
The Indiana Pacers have gotten off to a 5-0 start for the first time in franchise history. They’re also the 1st team since 1949 to win their first 5 games without scoring 100 points. After last season’s Eastern Conference Finals appearance, the Pacers are trying to take the next step in their quest to a 1st NBA title. To breakdown the Pacers and their title chances I brought in former NBA champion Quinn Buckner to talk about it. Quinn currently does color commentary for the Indiana Pacers on Fox Sports Indiana. Quinn’s 10 year career spanned stops in Boston, Milwaukee, and Indiana. I thank him and the Pacers organization for letting me have an opportunity to pick his brain on the NBA. Take a listen and enjoy this podcast. Here’s the link.
The Knicks were already struggling to start this season before the Tyson Chandler non displaced fracture of the fibula on Tuesday, and now it will get tougher. We’re going to find out about the intestinal fortitude early, as their schedule gets a tad bit tougher than the first 4 games. 7 of their next 11 are on the road with the 4 home games being against the Pacers, Rockets, Spurs, and Hawks who all have superior front courts. There have been plenty debates already on how the Knicks should’ve been playing before Chandler got hurt. I think it’s pretty obvious now that they have to go small.
Now mitigating all of these factors is the fact that the Knicks are averaging 17 turnovers per game in the 1st 4 games. They have to get that aspect of their offense cleaned up. Extra possessions for the other team is a no-no in this league and considering the Knicks transition defense or lack thereof it would behoove them to get that corrected. It also hurts that the Knicks aren’t shooting the 3 ball to this point like they did last year when they led the league. Right now they’re only averaging 7 3′s a game and shooting 29% as opposed to last season when they averaged 11 3′s made and 38% shooting which is a significant difference. Carmelo Anthony hasn’t gotten off to a good start offensively (shooting 37.6 % from the floor) and has played way too many minutes (42 mpg) Their offense isn’t humming the same, and their defensive rating which was middle of the pack last year has struggled in the last 2 games despite a #11 ranking in the league. With all this being said, who do you play? Who can you play to remedy the situation?
Will Mike Woodson go back to the 2 point guard system of Felton and Prigioni that was so effective last season? A lineup of Felton-Shumpert-MWP-Anthony-Bargnani is what I suspect will get the 1st look on Friday night against Charlotte. Bargs minutes will go up and we’ll find out how much of an adverse effect that will have offensively and defensively. I hope they play a Felton-Prigs-Shumpert-Anthony-Bargnani lineup just to see if that will make the offense more efficient. For the time being, they’ll have to win games that way. The idea that they’ll stop teams or out-rebound teams on a consistent basis is laughable. They’ll need to be more concise offensively and be able to shoot the ball considerably better than they have already. I’ve been pretty critical of Mike Woodson so far, but I think the issues on this team spreads farther than the coach. You have two forwards in Amare Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin who are on minutes restrictions and playing restrictions. It’s impossible to gain a rhythm as a team when you’re constantly shuffling guys in game to game. It also begs the question; why sign Kenyon Martin when you can only play him for a certain period of time every other game? It’s decisions and philosophies like this that make me wonder about the Knicks going forward.
As far as rotations, this is all subject to change starting Sunday when JR Smith comes back from his 5 game suspension. Whether he starts or not is a question to get into when he does return, but at the very least it’ll provide more scoring, unpredictable scoring, but scoring. The Knicks will have to find a way to be faster and play with a higher energy offensively. To be honest they can’t afford isolation basketball in this situation because defensively they’re just not equipped to stop teams. We can say it’s early, but say if the Knicks are 5-10 after this 11 game stretch it’ll put them behind the 8-ball in the conference as far as trying to get homecourt advantage in the 1st round. We’ll find plenty out about Carmelo Anthony and his ability to carry the team, and Mike Woodson in not letting the early season negativity torpedo the ship. Can they hold the fort down? We’ll find out starting in Charlotte.
From Charles Barkley to any NBA expert, a lot of the Los Angeles Clippers NBA title hopes rest on the shoulders of Blake Griffin. The Clippers after hiring Doc Rivers, adding JJ Redick, Darren Collison, and Jared Dudley to a Blake, CP3, and Deandre core are expecting great things. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t think Blake is THAT guy. We always overreact to one game, but there’s a difference between a guy like Blake Griffin and a guy like LeBron James or Kevin Durant. Let me take it a step further.
Before everyone who reads this raises their eyebrows at me attempting to compare Blake to these guys, I just am looking at the improvements from year to year. For whatever reason in last night’s game, Blake couldn’t post up Wes Johnson last night, and that’s a huge issue. With his athletic ability, he should be a lot more refined in the post. Now it’s only 1 game, but at least from the outside looking in it didn’t seem as if he learned any new moves this summer. In addition to that it would be nice if he could make some free throws (3-10). He’s got to be better at the foul line if it’s going to warrant him getting the ball down the stretch of games. He also will remain a liability defensively until hopefully Doc Rivers helps him and Deandre Jordan on that side of the ball if possible.
Blake’s only 24 years old. He probably hasn’t reached his apex as a player, but it’s worth asking; can you rely on him to be the main guy on your squad to win a title? It remains to be seen.
As the NBA season gets underway, it’s time to talk some New York Knicks basketball. Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal joined me to discuss the upcoming season for the Knickerbockers. Can this team contend for a championship? Is it realistic to think that way? How about the new faces on the team like Metta World Peace? Getting into that with Chris was interesting. How does coach Mike Woodson juggle new lineups and deal with the pressures of winning this year? Carmelo Anthony is in a contract season, how will he play and what’s in store for him? Chris and I discuss all that and more. Special thanks to Chris who does a tremendous job on the Knicks beat. You can listen to the podcast here, stay tuned for more NBA Previews!
After the way last season ended with those epic NBA Finals Game 6 and 7, the NBA couldn’t be in a better place headed into the 2013-2014 season. Ratings are high, and we’re having it all led by a transcendent player on the verge of leading a potential dynasty. This season will ultimately start and end with how the Miami Heat’s season goes. The Heat are going for their 4th straight Finals appearance and 3rd straight title. All that and the potential of LeBron, Wade, and Bosh becoming free agents? A fascinating season is ahead.
Can anyone unseat Miami on the throne? The Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers, and Chicago Bulls all have made moves and are ready to take on the Heat. Can someone get it done? In the Western Conference it’ll be a war as the San Antonio Spurs will attempt to atone for what happened in the Finals last year. Coming off of that tough loss can the Spurs get back with their aging core one more time? The Thunder, Clippers, and Rockets will have something to say about that. Here are my playoff teams in the East.
1. Indiana Pacers (58-24)- After last year’s Eastern Conference Finals appearance I feel like the Pacers are ready to take a jump to the next level. Part of that jump is regular season success. They already bring back the tremendous starting 5 from last year. I’m expecting both Paul George and Roy Hibbert to catapult themselves off of great playoff runs to improve much more this season. The Pacers also fortified their bench, adding Luis Scola, CJ Watson, and Chris Copeland to the mix. If Danny Granger can stay healthy this team is as deep as anyone in basketball. I expect them to have a great season.
2. Chicago Bulls (56-26)- Derrick Rose is finally back off of the ACL tear in 2012, and the Bulls are looking to cash in on those expectations this season. While there is some wondering how he’ll respond to finally being back, at least in the preseason Derrick Rose has looked like his old self and as explosive as ever. Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler will be a hell of a defensive tandem on the wings. Noah and Boozer remain the frontline and with this starting 5 they’re as good as anyone in the NBA. The questions are health, and when they’re in a big spot in the playoffs against an Indiana or Miami type, can they score enough? They’re a contender for the title as well.
3. Miami Heat (55-27)- The two time defending champs are going for a 3 peat and that’s a storyline in itself. One of the more fascinating subplots of the season is how the Heat handle it. They’ve logged so many minutes and have been through so many big time battles over the last 3 seasons. Does Erik Spoelstra lighten up on the team and do they push as hard? Going to 4 straight Finals is nearly impossible to do and the Heat’s 2nd best player Dwyane Wade needs to be healthy for the postseason. LeBron as indestructible as he’s been has logged a heavy load of minutes the last 3 seasons. At some point you have to monitor them in season be prepared for the stretch run. The 26 game winning streak had a lot to do with the big push they had last year, but I don’t see the same thing. I feel like they’re going to be similar to the 93 Bulls and not go all out for homecourt advantage. LeBron will have another virtuoso season and we’ll find out if the Heat will have enough gas in the tank in the playoffs.
4. Brooklyn Nets (52-30)- Brooklyn felt like they needed to make move to put them in the conversation of championship contenders. They hired Jason Kidd to coach them, and traded for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce and signed Andrei Kirilenko. They’ve surely improved their team and a starting 5 of Pierce, KG, D-Will, Brook Lopez, and Joe Johnson. I believe they’ll win the Atlantic and make some noise in the postseason, my questions with them is can they defend well enough consistently? How about Jason Kidd as a coach? This is a win now team, and Kidd gets thrown into the fire right away. Also, who leads this team? KG, Pierce, Williams? Interesting questions.
5. New York Knicks (49-33)- The Knicks are coming off of a pretty damn good season. They won 54 games last year good for 2nd in the conference but this year will be facing much more stiffer competition. They’ve added some pieces in Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace, Tim Hardaway Jr, and are bringing back most of the core of last year sans Jason Kidd. A big key here besides the play of Carmelo Anthony is the development of Iman Shumpert as he continues to improve. Will he be able to provide consistent scoring punch along with his defense? Will JR Smith mature any more and have a good season? How will Woodson deal with the new influx of players and rotations? There’s a lot of stuff going on with this squad, and I’m not sure it’s conducive to success. They have a lot of talent but not sure if this is a great mix of players. They’ll have a good regular season but when they go up against a big time playoff team (i.e. Pacers, Bulls, Heat) can they score/defend enough?
6. Cleveland Cavaliers (45-37)- This pick is interesting for me because a lot of it hinges on some maybes. The maybes start with the health of Andrew Bynum and Kyrie Irving. If both of these players can maintain a semblance of health throughout the season this team has potential to be exciting and a playoff team. You add names like Tristan Thompson, 1st pick Anthony Bennett, Varejao, and Dion Waiters you have a fascinating team. Mike Brown coaching again is another storyline to watch. Can he get the Cavs to consistently defend? If they can defend regularly this may be a surprise team in the East.
7. Atlanta Hawks (44-38)- The Hawks lost Josh Smith, but gained Paul Milsap. Lou Williams is coming back off of a torn ACL, they still have Al Horford which makes this team solid in the Eastern Conference. They’ll be competitive, but this is all subject to whether Danny Ferry decides to make some trades because this is a roster made for a couple of moves. I like their team though as a “spunky as hell” team.
8. Washington Wizards (42-40)- Is John Wall fresh off a contract extension ready to lead the Wiz to the playoffs? I think so, when you have Bradley Beal in his 2nd year, trading for Marcin Gortat (solid move) and have a decent squad around them this year. They were competitive in the 2nd half of last season and now the question is can Wall stay healthy and lead this team? I think they’ll be good enough to make the top 8 this season.
The West is next.
Welcome to Part II of my NBA Preview as I predict the records of the playoff teams in each conference. What’s going on with the wild wild west? Let’s take a look.
1. San Antonio Spurs (57-25)- The Spurs are coming off of one of the more difficult losses in NBA Finals history. They were up 5 with 28 seconds left against the Heat in Game 6 only to see that lead dissipate on the heartbreaking Ray Allen 3 with 5 seconds left. The rest was history as the Heat won a very tough Game 7 and it left the Spurs wondering what if all summer. They come in this season with almost the same crew back, losing Gary Neal and adding Marco Bellinelli. Duncan, Manu, and Parker only have so much more left in the tank, but I think they’ll get a big lift from emerging soon to be star Kawhi Leonard after his tremendous NBA Finals performance. I see the Spurs having another great year, and we’ll find out if this core has one more big playoff run in them.
2. LA Clippers (55-27)- The Clippers now have big time expectations. They add Doc Rivers, JJ Redick, and Jared Dudley to the Chris Paul and Blake Griffin tandem. This will be a fascinating team to watch on both sides of the ball as they struggled in the playoffs and throughout the season on both of those fronts. Will Doc Rivers be able to transform the identity of this team to being more consistent on the defensive end? Will they be a more unpredictable and well rounded offensive team? At least in the regular season, I say yes. They’re going to win a lot of games this season. The playoffs will be their test.
3. Houston Rockets (53-29)- Dwight Howard finally is loved, and is finally in a place where he wants to be, right? Hopefully so, because all the pressure is on Dwight to perform and prove that he can win. After a couple of seasons of petulance, he joins the Rockets and James Harden who continues to make OKC look questionable with that trade last season. I’m fascinated to see how Kevin Mchale transitions his fast pace Houston team into a mix of pick and roll and post-up with Dwight in the fold. I’m looking forward to see how Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin continue to develop because they’re very underrated parts of this team. Can they be good defensively? It remains to be seen but if Dwight is healthy and motivated as we all expect they’ll be dangerous as hell in the conference.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (51-31)- At least initially with the loss of Russell Westbrook for most likely the first 6 weeks of the season I don’t anticipate OKC having the same record they had last year. This roster is top heavy, relying so heavily on the greatness of Durant and Westbrook. Now without a reliable 3rd scorer, Thunder games are going to take on more of a struggle. Until Scott Brooks figures out a way to diversify the offense they’ll have a good season, but not a great one. If Westbrook is healthy their ceiling raises a bunch, but their hold on the West is so tenuous I can’t go otherwise.
5. Memphis Grizzlies (49-33)- After making their first ever Western Conference Final the Grizzlies changed head coaches. Yeah, in place of Lionel Hollins is Dave Joerger and one has to wonder how this 1st time coach will deal with this group. The Grizzlies starting 5 is very good defensively and their meat and potatoes is Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in the post, but I feel like Mike Conley will have to take a bigger role for this team. As usual they’ll give the rest of the league problems with their defense and physicality, but can they score enough? That’s their issue.
6. Golden State Warriors (48-34)- After playing very well last season and taking the Spurs to 6 games in the Western semis, the Warriors try and build off of that. There was so much growth from Steph Curry and Klay Thompson last season, and you look at this team and the addition of Andre Iguodala they could be a sleeper in the west. Adding the development of Harrison Barnes and this team will be very good, they’re just in a loaded Western Conference. The health of Andrew Bogut is key to how they’ll fare overall this season.
7. Dallas Mavericks (43-39)- Initially making this pick I was a little eh, but I’m buying into the idea that Dirk Nowitzki is healthy this year and primed to have a big time season. This Maverick team isn’t great obviously, but in adding Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon they could really score the basketball. They obviously won’t be a great defensive team, but I think they’ll win their fair share of games and make the postseason.
8. Portland TrailBlazers (42-40)- The Blazers are bringing the Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard back along with LaMarcus Aldridge, Nic Batum, and Wes Matthews. That’s a good core four. Their problem last year was their bench as it just wasn’t good at all. Hopefully when rookie CJ Mccollum comes back things’ll be slightly better. I was waffling back and forth between the Blazers and Wolves, and thought that Lillard would lead this team to the postseason. He has the it factor.
The theme on the New York Jets this season has been Win,Loss,Win,Loss,Win,Loss. Another win went up on the board today as the Jets pulled to within one game of the NFC East leading Patriots after a thrilling 30-27 overtime win at MetLife stadium. They had some help, but the Jets (4-3) despite not having the greatest talent in the world continue to find a way to stay afloat in the playoff race as we almost hit the halfway point in the NFL season. They were aided by a huge penalty in overtime when an illegal push by one Patriots player to another on a field goal attempt was called and kept the Jets alive. That rule was ironically installed this year, but to be fair the NFL is getting ridiculous with some of these wacky rules. This one is just crazy. If you’re a Jet fan you’ll take the win and be happy, but if you’re a Patriot fan you have a confused look on your face saying, “What the hell just happened?” There was more to this football game than that play though.
Tom Brady (22-46 228 yards INT) had a very good first half in getting the Patriots ahead 21-10. The Jets got no pressure on Brady, and on top of that Geno Smith (17-33 233 yards 2 TDs INT) threw a pick 6 which changed the momentum in the game so early to the Patriots side. A unsung stand by the Jets defense before the half really catapulted them to what was a rousing 3rd quarter display.
The Jets outscored the Patriots 17-0 in the third sacking Brady 4 times, Antonio Allen (9 Tackles INT for TD) returning a pick for a touch down and forcing 4 3 and out possessions. It changed the tempo and the momentum of the game clearly for the Jets. Geno Smith was able to scramble for a Touchdown late in the 3rd giving the Jets a 24-21 lead. They would extend it to 27-21 going into the 4th.
Geno besides the interception showed a lot of good things in this game. The ability to be able to throw the ball down the field, and especially for Geno to have the ability to make plays with his legs was important in this game. He’s going to need to be more cognizant in the pocket of pressure, as he doesn’t have a great feel for that yet. He continues to improve and show signs which is important in his development as well as the Jets as a team.
To be fair, Rex Ryan’s play calling down the stretch in the 4th quarter and OT weren’t great on both sides of the ball. They were too safe on defense in allowing Tom Brady to tie the game, and they were too safe on offense before the penalty running very vanilla plays and not trying to get more yardage for an easier Nick Folk FG attempt. With all that being said, this was a huge win for the Jets going into the next two games as they have difficult games before the bye in the Bengals and Saints. Rex’s crew keeps playing hard, and that’s all Jet fans can ask for.