Starting Five: The week’s best NBA players

January 18, 2012

By Jack Maidment

The Week’s Best

@Carlos Boozer. The Chicago Bulls power forward with the fat contract scored 31 points, a season high, against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday in a 118-97 win while pulling down six rebounds. He put up 26 of them in the first half as Chicago played another game without All-World point guard Derrick Rose. It’s the kind of game the Bulls were expecting when they snatched Boozer from the Utah Jazz and the kind of game he has seldom played since moving to the Windy City. For the Bulls to keep winning without Rose and to win in June they need more games like this from Boozer.

@Louis Williams. The Philadelphia 76ers are currently in the midst of a three game winning streak and are undefeated at home (6-0) with an overall record of 10-3, good enough for tops in the Atlantic Division and second (!) overall in the Eastern Conference. No one on the Sixers scores more than 16 points a game but they have seven guys averaging double digits. Phila may be winning by committee, but Williams is their spark plug. He hasn’t started any games this year, coming off the bench 13 times, but he leads the team in scoring at 16.2 points a game in just 25 minutes. He’s also throwing in four assists and shooting .417 from three.

@Dwight Howard. The game’s best center has been going berserk in the last week, leading the Orlando Magic on a five game win streak and third place in the Eastern Conference. In his last three games he has scored 78 points as well as grabbing almost 17 rebounds a night.

@Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook. Oklahoma City fans rejoice. The Thunder are on an NBA-best seven game win streak and possess the league’s best record while their two best players are playing so well I couldn’t choose between them for this week’s Starting Five. Westbrook has had games of 26-7-4, 21-8-8 and 22-2-7 in his last three while Durant over the same period has scored 28, 28 and 29. They are the league’s best pairing at present and are starting to distance the Thunder as the best in the West.


Carlos Boozer is a Chicago Bull

July 8, 2010

by Jack Maidment

A long courtship was finally resolved yesterday with the announcement that Carolos Boozer will be wearing the red white and black of the Chicago Bulls for the considerable future.

The 28-year-old power forward agreed to a 5-year, $80 million deal.

The move will give the Bulls the low post threat that they have been lacking for many seasons and the addition of Boozer should make for one of the better front courts in the NBA, teaming with Joakim Noah and Luol Deng.

Boozer moving to a new team was the most predictable of any of the free agent moves this year given the number of times he has said he wanted to leave the Utah Jazz in the past two seasons.

The move will also be seen as a boost for Chicago’s chances of landing LeBron James ahead of his decision live on ESPN tonight, 9 ET.


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.


2009 NBA Free Agents? Tempting and Troublesome for Toronto Raptors and Utah Jazz

May 30, 2009

chris-boshby Jack Maidment

Talent. The single most important commodity in sports.

Hustle can help your cause. Team spirit the same. But without the Big T you likely are not winning much.

The extent to which sports has become dominated by corporate America dictates that without a talented team, and preferably an exceptionally talented individual, your commercial and therefore economic viability are slimmer than slim.

It is with that simple fact in mind that the NBA’s GM’s sit conspiring and salivating over the prospective Free Agent Class of 2010, arguably the most talented selection of individuals to ever become ‘available’ at the same time in the history of sports.

The potential to turn around a long time meandering franchise is shouted from a list of players, anyone of which would immediately impact your team and your market for positive gains.

It is worth remembering that 2010 is not spelt L-E-B-R-O-N as media coverage would have you believe.

The question of Mr James’ residence come 2010 has been hot topic number one for sometime, eclipsing the fact that he is far from alone in terms of his desirability to teams around the league in the 2010 class.

However, that is more than one year away and in all of the excitement it would appear that the merits of this year’s free agents have been forgotten altogether.

Kinda weird when you consider the classes valedictorian is a certain Kobe Bryant.

I know, I know. Unlikely that he will move considering that he plays for the NBA’s most popular team and that the team is built entirely around him. But, until he signs, it remains a possibility.

2009 is not just about Kobe for the LA Lakers but also two key members of his supporting cast, the supporting cast that has helped him to the Finals for the second successive year: Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom.

Both men will be unrestricted free agents this summer and both are highly coveted around the L.

Ariza has used this post season to build himself a reputation as a big time hustle player with springs in his shoes. The type of player that every Championship team needs, a la James Posey.

While Ariza’s loss could be covered, the departure of Lamar Odom would seriously set the Lakeshow back. He brings so many different things to an already immensely talented team that his work often does not receive the plaudits it deserves.

He will likely only be appreciated once he is gone. To some other team willing to pay him second option money.

The Lakers are not alone in having decisions to make this summer. The Toronto Raptors, Detroit Pistons and Utah Jazz all have a number of contracts coming off their books.

The Raptors must decide whether or not to offer a no doubt huge contract to an unsettled Shawn Marion.

If they decide to abandon Marion to pursue his quest for respect/money/star status elsewhere, they simply must look to sign another superstar. Why? If they don’t Chris Bosh is leaving in 2010.

Another losing season like the one that Toronto has just experienced will all but secure his departure to greener pastures.

In all likelihood the Raptors will need to sign more than one ‘big’ player to help assuage Bosh‘s feelings. Luckily they do have options, if the money is available.

They could make a run at Carlos Boozer whose time as a member of the Utah Jazz could well be over. A Boozer/Bosh front court? Ummm. The Jazz, who also have Mehmet Okur, Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap to re-sign, will struggle to make an offer to Boozer which will satisfy his $100 million contract rumours.

Certainly the Jazz have much to ponder, as do the Detroit Pistons. Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess and Allen Iverson are all unrestricted frees this summer and Iverson is almost certainly looking for a new home.

Wallace’s contract demands could force him away from the franchise, leaving Detroit to wait for the opportunity to offer LeBron or Dwayne Wade a shed load of money in a years time.

The Jazz, Pistons, Raptors and Lakers are just four teams who have to consider their immediate futures, and with players like Hedo Turkoglu, Ron Artest, Jason Kidd as well as Carlos Boozer, Shawn Marion and Kobe Bryant available, there is enough talent out there to tempt teams into making big decisions to try and improve their teams.

2010 may be the main event, but 2009 is certainly a worthy appetiser.


NBA Playoffs: No Time For Fishing

May 2, 2009
$100 Million?
$100 Million?

6 are gone.

 The Utah Jazz, New Orleans Hornets, Portland Trailblazers, Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs have all gone fishing, time on their hands.

 Utah has vowed to improve defensively after falling to the Lakers. Again. The fact that Carlos Boozer is seeking out a $100 million deal probably puts team defense fairly low on team priorities.

 The Jazz need to re-sign Mehmet Okur and Paul Milsap, so the possibility of matching a big time deal for the Booze must be scaring the GM up in Salt Lake something fierce.

 The current economic climate and the allure of the free agent market for the next two years makes it difficult to justify such a blockbuster contract for a player who is unlikely to put you over the hump to the Finals.

 Utah are not the only team with decisions to make. If much of the media is to be believed then San Antonio are either officially at the end of their title contender status or very, very close.

 You can’t beat age. You can deceive it for a while, but it will catch you eventually. Charles Barkley rubbished the idea that an early rest will give Tim Duncan the time he needs to repair, and rightly so.

 If their big three can get (relatively) healthy then they have a shot next year. As long as they bring in some, whisper it, youth.

 The Hornets, despite their destruction by a VERY good Denver Nuggets team, cannot be too worried about their immediate future as long as they have Chris Paul and the rest of their guys get healthy.

 The only team with little to worry about are the Portland Trailblazers. Brandon Roy being hailed as the best player that Ron Artest has played against must fill Oregon with confidence that their team has a player who can lead their team to the Promised Land.

 They are pretty much the antithesis of the Spurs. Old versus young. The likes of Rudy Fernandez, Nicolas Batum and Greg Oden (!) are all going to get A LOT better really fast. The Blazers’ future looks pretty enviable.

 Philadelphia are in much the same position as the Jazz with one of their main guys looking around for a new, and big, contract. The loss of Andre Miller to the Sixers would be a huge loss for a team who are light on leadership.

 However, no team that has just exited the Playoffs has more to think about than the once great Detroit Pistons.

 Allen Iverson’s contract is off the books leaving the Pistons with some maneuvering room. The question is when does Joe Dumars decide to pull the trigger: he could go after Boozer or whoever else this summer or he could tread water for a year and wait to make an assault on the fabled free agent class of 2010.

 The one major plus for the Pistons is that players do want to play in Detroit. It’s not like the Memphis Grizzlies who could offer LeBron and co all the money in the world yet would still receive a big fat no in reply.

 Detroit must also decide whether or not to re-sign Mr Technical Rasheed Wallace. As brilliant as he is combustible, and expensive to boot.

 Wholesale changes could be the order of the day in Mo-Town as the team is broken down and rebuilt: will Tayshaun or Rip still be there next year? Or will they be traded for the All Star that the Pistons crave?

 The exit from the Playoffs means that these teams have lots of time on their hands to think.

 The four teams that have game 7s to look forward to will be praying that they are able to put off the inevitable change process by proceeding to the Conference Semi Finals.