The Obvious: Eastern Conference

July 30, 2009

derrick

by Jack Maidment

Rasheed Wallace, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce will be the best front court trio in the East.

Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James will be the best front court tandem in the East.

The Chicago Bulls have the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. Derrick Rose, coming for that #1 spot.

The Orlando Magic are the best team in the East.

Vince Carter will be the biggest difference maker in the East this year.

$22 million is too much for an old point, no matter how good.

Dwayne Wade needs help.

Courtney Lee and Harris will make one of the best back courts on the East Coast.

Jamal Crawford is not the answer.

Talent is spelled T-O-R-O-N-T-O. The dark horses are now just horses.

What’s up West?

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Brandon Jennings: Proving Haters Wrong Since Day One

July 20, 2009

brandon jenningsby Jack Maidment

He is too thin and too short to make it. His shot is broken. He shouldn’t have gone to Italy.

If there is one consistent throughout the whole of humanity, it is hating. No matter what you do, somebody somewhere will find reason to hate: you should have said this, you shouldn’t have done that.

Along with politicians, sportsmen have to deal with more than their fair share of negativity. The reasons for this are many, although jealousy is always a prominent factor, as is annoyance.

Annoyance is normally the cause of haters in high places, especially in sports. Cue Brandon Jennings.

Every other player, post NBA age restrictions, has gone through at least one year of college before entering into the draft or heading elsewhere in search of a career in professional basketball.

That is the road you take to get to the League. Or at least it was until Jennings’ college plans went awry. His choice to head to Europe for a year riled those in authority because not only did he buck (no pun) tradition but he also highlighted the unspoken trade off that occurs when basketball players are effectively forced to go to college.

Is it possible to be a student and a basketball player? Of course, but not everybody is built for education and expecting everybody to hit the same academic targets to play ball results in the cloak and dagger scandals that rise to the media’s attention: suspect test results are to be expected especially when a few points in a test can be the difference between having Derrick Rose on the floor or not.

Brandon Jennings took the path less travelled and in so doing invited criticism to follow his career: for every story about him blazing a trail overseas there were two or three villainising his decision to skip the States.

So when his year playing for Lottomatica Virtus Roma was more mediocre than amazing, the wolves dined out. Statistics of 5.5 points, 1.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists apparently showed how unwise he had been leaving the comfort of America.

Such criticism failed to take into account the person behind the media entity. Regardless of the $1.65 million contract, Jennings was a teenager living in an entirely alien setting playing a type of basketball which he had never experienced before.

It didn’t help that his coach responded to pressure from the front office by cutting his playing time.

Because of all of this Jennings entered his name in the 2009 NBA Draft unsure of when his name would be called, if at all. The fact that he wasn’t in the arena when the Milwaukee Bucks picked him 10th overall speaks volumes.

But picked he was and, regardless of his path to get there, he was a lottery pick for an NBA franchise, a franchise that may hand him the keys to the car given the strength of his performances in Summer League.

14.6 points, 8.2 assists and 3.6 steals through a 4 – 1 record tells us infinitely more than we learnt from an entire year in Italy.

A player whose pass first style and penchant for the flashy will endear him to fans all around the NBA, Jennings has arrived.

Haters will remain constant regardless. Ear plugs have never been a better investment.


The Portland Trailblazers must rescue the Summer from boredom.

July 20, 2009

aldridgeby Jack Maidment

On the day that we are told that the Detroit Pistons have lost Walter Hermann to Tau Ceramica in Spain, and that the Cleveland Cavaliers have signed Jamario Moon to an offer sheet and that Blake Griffin has been ‘unjustly’ named MVP of Summer League, it becomes clear that there is literally nothing of any real interest happening in the NBA today.

Back up bench players departing for Spain can hardly be labelled exciting news, but the nature of 24 hour news and the fact that we are all greedy like fat kids with cake ensures that hoop heads around the world get a fix that might kkep them happy for around 2 minutes.

Until something more nourishing (read: anything at all) makes itself apparent, we will all have to make do with the speculation and overly hyped non events that are currently making up the bulk of our NBA diets.

So what is there to look forward to before the season begins in all those days time?

There are only two concrete definites: Lamar Odom’s contract and the money waiting to be unleashed in Portland.

So unleashed may be a bit strong, but there is certainly money to be had playing for the Trailblazers. The problem is that there really aren’t too many players left, if any, capable of justifying the almost $8 million in Kevin Pritchard’s pocket.

Turkoglu committed then bolted for Toronto and the ‘toxic’ offer they submitted for Paul Millsap just wasn’t enough to scare the cost effective folks in Utah. Which realistically only leaves David Lee as a target for the Blazer’s, though there is a very strong possibility that the Knicks will re-sign him anyway: by waiting for other teams to show their hands, New York stays in a strong position for when they negotiate Lee’s deal.

As for Lamar Odom, there seems to be a simple two horse race: the Lakers and the Miami Heat. The smart money would be on L O to remain in LA. Why would you leave? Quarrelling over one year and a few million seems ridiculous for a multimillionaire with a realistic chance at 2,3,4 more NBA Championships.

Neither storylines are exactly dynamite, but a combination of the two would certainly spice up the summer.

Portland are just about the only team with the cash Odom wants, but do the Blazers want Lamar?

Let us hope that the answer is yes, or we may be relegated to a summer of truly mind numbing proportions.


Miami Heat seek Lamar Odom and Carlos Boozer to appease Wade’s concerns

July 16, 2009

wade

by Jack Maidment

The wheel that squeaks gets the grease.

True. Just ask Dwayne Wade. While nothing is concrete until the papers are signed, the noises emanating from Miami surely have to go some way to appeasing their franchise player’s fears over his supporting cast.

Everyone in the League knew the situation: Wade was never going to commit to the Heat’s extension offer unless Pat Riley made moves to suggest that Wade would be leading a contender, sooner rather than later, instead of carrying the entire hopes of Miami on his shoulders.

Riley seemed to be reading from the contrary script: without a commitment from Wade, no changes would be made.

However, it would seem that Riley has come to appreciate the sheer value of his franchise player with news of not one, but two, major trades involving the Heat both with the aim of helping Wade back to Championship challenging status.

Lamar Odom. Calos Boozer.

Boozer, who is being shopped to anyone and everyone, is apparently edging nearer to Miami as part of a trade that would send Udonis Haslem and Dorell Wright to Utah. To balance salary and enable the Jazz to re-sign Paul Millsap, the Memphis Grizzlies will take on Wright’s salary, around $2.8 million, with cash and picks in return.

Odom, whose new contract offer from the Laker’s has been taken off the table, is allegedly being offered a five year $34 million deal at the mid level exception from Miami.

The Laker’s offered the forward four years at $36 million with his agent looking for five years and $45 million.

With money around the League all but dried up after the signing of Villanueva, Marion, Turkoglu etc Odom may well be forced to accept a move to Miami if the Laker’s remain staunch in their decision to withdraw their offer.

If both moves are successful, the Heat will boast one of the best starting front courts in the Eastern Conference with Boozer and Odom joining Jermaine O’Neal. 3 big men who can all score the ball will undoubtedly take the strain off of Wade, allowing him to shed some of the weight from his back.

It would also give the Heat scoring from the bench with Michael Beasley likely to lead the attack for the second unit.

The only question that remains will hang over the head of their point guard, second year Mario Chalmers, who did an impressive job in his rookie year: will he be able to keep Wade, Odom, Boozer, O’Neal and Beasley happy?


NBA Summer League 2009: Blake Griffin, Nick Young and Anthony Randolph all impressive. Carlos Boozer on the move.

July 15, 2009

randolphby Jack Maidment

Aside from a D-League call up, the NBA’s Summer League represents the only real opportunity for players to make a statement of intent and show team’s around the League what they can bring to the table. 

The chance is universal: anyone who plays has the opportunity to build upon their reputation. True for sure, but at the same time the stakes are not the same for everyone. 

For the lottery picks and second year guys, Summer League is the chance to get to know team mates, learn their teams most basic offense and defense as well as show their watching coach and fans a little of what they will take into training camp and the opening night of the upcoming season.

For those picked lower down the draft and into the second round, performances at Summer League will either assure a team that they do want to commit to their salary or perhaps push them the other way: thanks, but no thanks.

The third and final group are a heterogeneous motley crew of players from the past, maybe from overseas and players unheralded coming out of college. Big performances here can lead to that dream contract: a spot on an NBA roster.

Unfortunately, the number of prospects dictates that not everybody can shine. There are only a certain number of squad openings. But hope is eternal and everybody has a shot. Play well and you may be rewarded. Play exceptionally and you almost certainly will be.

It is hardly surprising that the players who have drawn attention to themselves thus far are either from the upper reaches of the lottery or second year players with improvement in mind.

Golden State Warrior Anthony Randolph dropped 42 points on the Chicago Bulls, tying a Summer League record. Pretty impressive no doubt. Yet a pinch of salt may be needed when you learn who also holds the record: Marcus Banks and Von Wafer.

Both good players, but indicative of one thing: success in Summer league is definitely not directly transferable to the NBA where the best players on the planet come out to play.

Even so, Randolph grabbed his opportunity with both hands showing what he has learnt, how he has developed and what he is packing come tip off next time.

The Washington Wizards’ Nick Young is another second year guy who has returned to Summer League and torched his opponents. His 36 point outburst against the Cavaliers goes some way to illustrating why Caron Butler believes his team mate will be a 20 plus point a night scorer in the L.

Elsewhere Blake Griffin did everything possible to justify his #1 selection with an opening night haul of 27 and 12 helping a loaded Clippers squad (Eric Gordon, Mike Taylor) take down the Lakers whose Adam Morrison is doing a good job of reminding people why he was rated so highly just a few years ago.

Free agency may be winding down with most of the big names having chosen their detinations for next year, but trades are looming large. The largest of them all will involve Carlos Boozer who is leaving Utah for certain.

In a recent interview he confirmed that the Jazz are shopping him as part of their desire to ‘go in another direction’. Boozer is more than happy though given their agreement to work on a mutually acceptable destination and the fact that he has apparently wanted out of Salt Lake for some time now.


Portland Trailblazers sign Paul Millsap to offer sheet: Utah Jazz 7 days to match.

July 13, 2009

milby Jack Maidment

The Portland Trailblazers may have just witnessed their number one free agent target choose the international city of Toronto over their fair state, but Hedo Turkoglu’s face has quickly faded from Kevin Pritchard’s memory.

The Blazer’s General Manager whose tenure has been characterised by aggressive recruitment has switched his affections to the pursuit of the Utah Jazz power forward Paul Millsap who experienced a break out year, largely as a result of Carlos Boozer’s lingering injuries.

An average of 13.5 points and a streak of 19 straight double doubles last year has elevated Millsap from low second round draft pick to important NBA contributor.

Portland have allegedly signed Millsap to an offer sheet although details of the deal are not forthcoming. The Utah Jazz have 7 days to match the offer.

Given the fact that the Jazz have already committed just about all of their money for next year, mostly on Mehmet Okur and Carlos Boozer’s decision to return to Salt Lake City, the chances of Millsap playing for the Jazz next season seem slim.

For the Blazer’s, Millsap will provide excellent cover off the bench for LaMarcus Aldridge: a player who can score, rebound and play defense.


Cleveland Cavaliers re-sign Anderson Varejao. For $50 Million.

July 9, 2009
"I know! I can't believe it either."

"I know! I can't believe it either."

by Jack Maidment

8.6 points per game coupled with 7.2 rebounds. Not exactly stellar numbers you will say. Not enough to warrant any major amount of noise. Steady numbers surely deserving of steady money.

I’m not sure if I just transferred from a parallel universe where the world is indeed in the midst of economic turmoil to one where the cash fairy has visited a large number of NBA teams, but Anderson Varejao, the owner of those middle of the road numbers, has just agreed to a 6 year, $50 million contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

People may say that players like Varejao bring more to the table than points and rebounds, but all the little things he may do on the court, all the hustle and floppy hair surely do not combine to warrant $50 million?

$50 million. I’m pretty sure that right now Danny Ferry is taking a polygraph test downtown.

“Are you Steve Kerr in disguise?” asks the cop. Ferry looks nervous.

The laws that once governed the distribution of green in the NBA appear to have been broken.

Varejao will be rubbing his hands with glee as he anticipates his $8 million a year pay packet while Allen Iverson, a modern great who still has gas in the tank, mulls over a $5 million deal to play off the bench in a Grizzlie uniform.

Aint that some ish.