Starting To Buy Into The Clippers As A Contender And Other NBA Notes

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In the CP3/Blake era I’ve had a hard time buying into this team as a viable contender for various reasons. I didn’t think they defended enough, we saw way too much of Chris Paul trying to do everything by himself down the stretch of games, and Blake Griffin hadn’t matured on offense or defense. While the other night against the Mavericks was a sample size, we’re starting to see different things from Griffin on the defensive end, as he did a fantastic job guarding Dirk and making it uncomfortable in crunch time as the Clippers got a big road win and are now at 51 wins for the season. The improvement goes deeper than just Blake.

Doc Rivers deserves a lot of credit for not only fine tuning the Clippers offense (1st in scoring 107.4 PPG and 2nd in Off Rtg 109.3 with only Miami ahead of them) but has kept them solid on defense as well (8th in Def Rtg at 101.6). Now Deandre Jordan and Griffin won’t win any defensive player of the year awards, but overall the Clippers have played great (2nd in Point differential +7.0 only behind the world beating Spurs) and have created a new identity for themselves which they hope can carry towards the playoffs.

A lot of people have pointed to it and it has been very true. The Chris Paul injury earlier in the season was a blessing in disguise because it forced Blake Griffin to take more control and ownership of the offense. He’s gotten plenty of criticism the last couple of seasons for just being a dunker but it’s been a little unfair basically because he hasn’t even reached his prime yet. You have to love the improvements in his game as far as passing, moves in the post and his midrange game. While Chris Paul is the key to the Clippers, Blake is the engine that needs to impact the game in more than one way. Will he always be able to stop guys like Dirk? No, not always but you have to love the effort and in a power forward heavy conference (possible 1st round matchups with Lamarcus Aldridge, David Lee, and Zach Randolph) he’s going to need to step it up on the defensive end of the court.

Watching this team in the playoffs will be very intriguing because the playoffs reveal who you are as a team in all facets. While the way they’ve played has been very impressive thus far, they had a great regular season last year and then proceeded to blow a 2-0 lead to the Memphis Grizzlies and basically got pushed around the last 4 games of the series. I think Doc has an effect on this and his leadership will provide stability in tough times for this team. It also would help if they got JJ Redick back who’s an important extra dimension to their offense. It’s been hard for me to come around on the Clippers, but I’m getting there.

Around The League

Heat/Pacers is truly the standard for fun NBA theater. All 3 games this season have been hotly contested, defensive battles as these 2 heavyweights go back to their corners before their last regular season showdown the last Friday of the regular season. From all the Flagrant/non-flagrants to Lance Stephenson/Heat issues in general, nothing other than a 7 game throwdown between these two squads would satisfy me.

The race for the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference has been pretty hilarious as the Hawks continue to try and give the Knicks every opportunity to enter the fray as going into Friday night the Knicks were 1.5 games back, 2 in the loss column. The Hawks have really missed Kyle Korver and it’s been evident in this 4 game losing streak as they’ve missed his 3 point shooting and spacing the floor. As for the Knicks, it’s still hard to believe that they’re this close but their schedule is still a problem come now and April as they’ll be playing virtually nothing but playoff teams from here on out. The 2 losses to Cleveland and the Lakers may do just enough damage that the Hawks will finish 8th, but the Hawks do need to win a game or two.

San Antonio now has won 15 in a row and has looked incredibly impressive doing that. They’re healthy, clicking and speeding toward the end of the season with the best record in the league. Do they face some possible matchup issues in the West playoffs? Yes if you’re talking about Houston or OKC, but with that being said, who else do you trust in the conference? Exactly. San Antonio is the favorite until otherwise.

 

AC’S Spotlight Episode 13-The Disaster That Is The Knicks W/ Chris Herring

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After a historical defeat in Los Angeles as the Lakers hung up a team record 51 points in the third quarter en route to a 31 point victory against the New York Knicks as the Knicks head closer and closer to playoff elimination. What an awful stretch for the Knicks going back to their loss to Cleveland this past Sunday, and as they head to their impending doom, I bring in Chris Herring from the Wall Street Journal to discuss what the hell happened in Los Angeles, Phil Jackson and his thoughts on the Knicks plus them going forward, and a little extra NBA nuggets as well. You can listen to the podcast here or check out AC’S Spotlight on Itunes. Special thanks to Chris for joining me on the program.

AC’S Spotlight Episode 12- Raymond Felton/Knicks, Yankees/Mets w/ Jake Brown

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As the season turns from bad to worse for the New York Knicks as their season continues be a disappointment, things took another turn for the bizarre and terrible as Raymond Felton was arrested Tuesday morning and charged with 2 counts of weapon possession. I’m no lawyer, but the simplest and succinct thing I can say is things aren’t going good for Raymond Felton right now. How does this situation affect the Knicks? Will Carmelo leave, and where will he go? A lot of questions, and to wonder with me on the show is Jake Brown, who is the host of the Weekend with Jake & Drew for ESPN New Hampshire. We debate the Felton situation and try and make sense of what type of season the Knicks have had.

On a brighter note, the baseball season is almost upon us. Both New York teams are in Florida training for the marathon 162, and we’ll handicap both franchises as they prepare for the season. Are the Yankees on a championship level? Should the Mets have done more to improve their franchise? Listen here to Jake and myself talk these subjects. Special thanks to Jake for joining me on the program.

AC’S Spotlight Episode 10-Knicks and The Trade Deadline With Chris Herring

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As the trade deadline has come and gone how come the Knicks didn’t make any moves? I talked with Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal about this and more about the current state of the franchise and also analyze how the new CBA has changed the way teams make trades. We also get into the Danny Granger trade to the Sixers and how Evan Turner could help or hurt the Pacers going forward. You can take a listen here.

 

AC’S Spotlight Episode 9-The NBA Scene With Rafael Canton

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As the NBA gets ready to head to the all star break in New Orleans, I felt it was only appropriate to go around the league and who better to go around the league with Rafael Canton. In an hour of topics, we discussed everything from Indiana’s great season to the all star break, the Western Conference contenders and the disasters in Cleveland, Detroit, and the Knicks. Rafael always does a tremendous job, and we continue the fun NBA discussion we usually enjoy. Check it out here.

5 Things To Watch For In The Super Bowl

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We have arrived at the big game day. Broncos vs. Seahawks at MetLife Stadium. Between the commercials and the hoopla and everything surrounding the game, it’ll be nice when the game actually gets started. Here’s 5 things to look at coming into the game.

1. What’s going on at the line of scrimmage?

Obviously when Peyton Manning is at the line there will be nothing but machinations, action, audibles and confusion. This either will be a big key to the game, or just fun to watch how Seattle responds. The Seahawks are the #1 ranked defense and will be challenged in ways they haven’t been challenged before.

2. Seattle’s DBs vs. Denver’s Pass catchers.

Denver in the Thomas boys, Wes Welker and Eric Decker have the most explosive WR core in the NFL. They’ve all caught over 10 TDs and with Peyton at QB have had such an incredible 2 seasons offensively. Seattle with the LOB sport the best secondary in the game and are legitimate ball hawks. Turnovers are their specialty and ball security will be key. In addition we have to see how the officials will call the game. If it’s called tight, that favors Denver. If they’re allowed to play, advantage goes to Seattle.

3. Russell Wilson will need to play well in this game.

I’m not going to count on Marshawn Lynch to run for the same amount of yards and with the ferocity he’s run with in previous games in the Super Bowl. I believe Denver will continue to be stout against the run as they were against New England and San Diego, and that will put the game into the hands of Russell Wilson. We know he can make plays with his legs and his arm if given the time, and I believe that he’ll have to play well in this game to win. No Turnovers!

4. Anybody For Special Teams?

Everyone is talking about offense vs. defense in this game, but one would have to wonder if there will be any impact on either end of the field. What’s interesting is that the weather for this game will be good, and a decent track could make for some interesting returns on either end.

5. The Prediction.

I’m admittedly rooting for Peyton Manning and the Broncos in this game. He has so much at stake in this game. Despite winning a championship already there’s plenty of pressure on him to deliver in this game. He’s a transcendent player, one of the greatest football players ever, and could cement his legacy with a 2nd title. Denver has had a great year but to me Seattle has been the best team all year. They’ve been consistent throughout, and have a complete football team. This game will be incredibly close, and while I’m rooting for Denver, I think Seattle will win 23-20.

KD Doing KD Things, And Other NBA Notes

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So after Kevin Durant put up another 40+ point game in scoring 46 against the Blazers Tuesday night, Durant had scored 46 or more in 4 of the last 10 games, only done by Kobe Bryant since the 1976-1977 season. Oh yes, the Thunder also won the game, defeating the Portland TrailBlazers in a very important game 105-97. The Blazers had won the 1st two meetings and were looking for the tiebreaker, but Durant in the 4th quarter made sure that wasn’t going to happen.

Since Kobe Bryant’s binges in 03, 06, and 07 I haven’t seen something this impressive, and more importantly more efficient. Kobe had a lot of those 40+ games but needed a lot of shots to do so. I point specifically to a 12 game stretch that Kobe scored at least 35 points but included 19-41,14-31,13-34 shooting performances. To put that in perspective with Kevin Durant as of late, 4 out of the last 5 Durant games have produced 19-28,15-28,10-15, and 17-25 from last night. The only “off” Durant game was an 8-21 against Houston, in which he still scored 36 points and went to the free throw line 20 times and made 18. When you add the fact that Durant has a 30.94 PER level which is LeBron James MVP level, all you can say is wow.

In this stretch without Russell Westbrook Durant has found a way to up his scoring but also up his playmaking. Overall he’s averaging above 5 assists for the season and continues to find a way to be efficient with out ball dominating. To say the least, he’s been the MVP thus far this season. At 32-10 and right in the thick of things for the #1 seed in the Western Conference, KD has been scorching.

How many games can the Pacers Win?

So Indiana is 33-7 right now and currently on a 5 game west coast swing. They’re 21-1 at home and with an exception of a 2 game losing streak have been dominant all season. From Frank Vogel to the players they’ve been focused on getting the best record and homecourt advantage throughout especially over the Miami Heat. They’re at an above 60 win pace and while we never know how injuries/schedule will play out, can they win 65 +? It intrigues me because the more games they win this regular season, the more pressure there is to win the title come playoff time. Great expectations aren’t always the easiest thing to deal with. This Pacers team has proven up to the task thus far.

The Nets Are Already Right Back In the Picture.

Amazing what an 8 out of 9 stretch of winning basketball will do for you. Give the Nets credit, they’ve defended and rebounded the basketball a lot better, are getting very good play from Joe Johnson (18 PPG in last 10 and clutch play lately), and really have found something shifting KG and Pierce to Center and Power Forward respectively has done a world of good. Shaun Livingston has been really versatile defensively which helps with the Nets older perimeter defenders. Now if they can get Deron Williams to stay on the court and produce, the Nets will be in the mix for the 3 seed, which considering the 9-21 start has been impressive to see. (Even in the East, it’s impressive).

The Clippers Have Quietly Played Very Well.

Even with Chris Paul out, the Clippers have won 8 of the last 10 and are playing very well. Blake Griffin (25.2 PPG in the last 10) has improved leaps and bounds, and especially with Paul out has been very aggressive not only scoring but really improving his passing. They allow over 100 points per game but have shown stretches of improved defense. The fact that they’re 29-14 and right there for homecourt in the 1st round and 4 games back of the top spot in a very difficult conference. Note that they’ll have played 26 road games by the end of their road trip, so home cooking could be very generous going forward.

Memphis Has Marc Back, Could Be Dangerous.

The Grizzlies are 7-3 in the last 10 and with Marc Gasol back, could be a sleeper as far as not only making the playoffs but being a dangerous 1st round underdog. With Gasol and Zach Randolph, the Grizz have one of the best front court combos in the game, and with Conley having a career year who knows, maybe the Grizzlies will get right back into the playoff picture, only 3 games out of the 8th spot at 20-20.

The Season is going fast and furious, and not far from the all-star-break.

 

AC’S Spotlight Episode 8-Talking Knicks & NBA W/ Chris Herring

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As the New York Knicks hit the halfway point of their season on Monday against the Nets as they continue to struggle, I decided to warm up the vocal cords again and do a podcast with Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal who does such a tremendous job covering the team. We had to hit everything on the team, including why Mike Woodson stays with the big lineups and why he’s so stubborn. In addition we discussed Iman Shumpert’s struggles and why they’ve been so frequent. A lot of great talk continues with the Knicks point guard play or lack thereof, Melo, the chemistry of the team and where they might end up.

We conclude the chat with more on the NBA season and some of the better storylines, including thoughts on the collision course Indiana and Miami are on. You can listen to the chat here. Stay tuned for more podcasts/posts from yours truly. Special thanks to Chris Herring for a great Knicks chat.

What Is The Celtics Endgame? Plus Thoughts On The Trade

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Yesterday the Celtics continued their rebuild/tank/retooling whatever adjective you’d like to use by trading Jordan Crawford and Marshon Brooks to the Warriors in a 3 team trade with the Heat as the Celtics received Joel Anthony and the Heat got Toney Douglas. Full story of the trade here via ESPN. Nonetheless Danny Ainge has been setting this rebuild plan in notion which really got a head full of steam with the KG-Pierce to the Nets trade. Ainge then last week traded Courtney Lee for Jerryd Bayless for more flexibility. They have a ton of 1st Round picks, they’re getting their cap number down, and they’re about to get their best player back from an ACL injury. Where will this lead?

I’m curious to see whether Rondo is able to come back and play at a high level and if the Celtics go ahead and dangle him and shop him around. With the dearth of picks and flexibility that Boston has attained relatively quickly,  it’s going to be fascinating to see how it all ends. Obviously it starts with Rondo and whether they trade him, and then we get to this year’s draft which I don’t need to get into because it’s been hyped to the moon already. Is trading Rondo the right move? It’s definitely not an easy decision to make. Taking everything into account I feel as if a healthy Rondo at a manageable contract with the potential picks/players the Celtics could get in free agency down the road would be interesting. I see the other side of this though, if you want to really rebuild then you scrap everything and get every single possible asset that you can get. I’m a little on the fence though.

Ainge deserves a lot of credit, if you want to rebuild your roster you find a way to get bad quickly and at the same time get draft picks which could either be used for players or in trades down the road. This obviously doesn’t always work, but it’s food for thought. This trade leads the Celtics down the road where their plan will continue, but what will the endgame be? Stay tuned.

Thoughts On The Three Team Deal

The 1st thing that jumps out to me is that the Warriors get more guard depth and someone in Jordan Crawford that can not only spell Steph Curry but bolster their bench which has struggled in spots this year. They needed flexibility in that spot which is important for them as they find themselves in the thick of the Western Conference Playoff race with a shot at homecourt in the 1st round. Zach Lowe as usual did a great job breaking this down here.

As far as Miami goes this was more of a financial move than anything else. As we all expect they want to keep LeBron, Wade, and Bosh and this move makes it slightly easier to absorb tax wise. We’ve seen a couple of trades, wonder if there is a big one on the horizon in the NBA?