The NBA’s Big Three: What’s up with the Lakers, Celtics and Knicks?

January 23, 2012

By Jack Maidment

The NBA’s three biggest teams are in big trouble right now.

New York Knicks. Boston Celtics. Los Angeles Lakers. All united in history by similar levels of success, prestige and expectation, but most recently bound together by a seemingly irrevocable slide into oblivion.

The Knicks, them of the ‘obvious’ championship calibre, are currently mired in a six game losing streak and their saviour Carmelo Anthony is being booed every time he gets the ball.

The Lakers have lost their last three and have a 1-6 record on the road.

The Celtics are at 6-9, a miserable 4-6 in their last 10, with half of their wins coming against the woeful Washington Wizards.

So what the hell is wrong with the NBA’s Big Three?

For the Knicks it’s all about the offense, even if that does fly in the face of every winning mantra ever given air time by a coach.

I have watched the Knicks play more than any other team this season and I can safely say they play terrible basketball. Car crash basketball.

And yet. The pieces look so enticing. It’s Carmelo! And Amare! And Mike D’Antoni’s offense! In the Garden!

But it just doesn’t work. And the idea that Baron Davis will swoop in and fix all of New York’s problems is absurd.

The only way the Knicks get fixed is if Carmelo buys in to a system that involves him passing. That’s it and all about it.

When he is selfish with the ball the Knicks struggle, particularly Amare Stoudemire, who is looking more and more like the forgotten man in fourth quarters.

When they pass the pall they actually look like an okay team: Nothing was more telling last week than when Carmelo left the game against Phoenix in the third and the Knicks moved the ball and played their best basketball of the night. No kidding.

But passing is a rarity in New York this season with the Knicks in the bottom five in the league for assists at a measly 18 a game.

Until that changes, and Baron will help, the boos will continue to rain down in MSG. But the Knicks will be back this year, of that I am sure.

I’m not sure the same can be said of the Celtics or Lakers.

The Celts’ problems lie in rebounding the ball and a severe lack of depth. Boston is the second worst team on the boards in the NBA this season, pulling down a paltry 38 a game, and its bench is absolutely awful. Look.

Combine that with an offense scoring 89 a game (26th overall in the NBA) and an over-reliance on Rajon Rondo and the Celtics are praying for the 8th seed in the East.

Such an aspiration is shared by the Lakers right now as they wallow in 10th place in the West having scored more than 100 points in a game just once this season. After 18 games.

Oh, and their starting point guard is averaging 5-2 a game. And shoots .241 from three. And their bench has exactly zero scorers. And they traded Lamar Odom for a second round pick.

After four years of Celtic Laker dominance it feels strange to think of them as 8th seeds. And despite their refurbishment the Knicks continue to struggle to shake off their immediate past.

But that’s where we are. Tough times are ahead for all three of these teams.


NBA Playoffs 2009 Western Conference Finals: Denver Evens Series While Kobe And Carmelo Share Exhaustion

May 26, 2009

by Jack Maidment

Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony have more in common than successive stellar Westren Conference games (Kobe has set a record for combined points in successive Conference Finals games.)

Chauncey, reliable as ever.

Chauncey, reliable as ever.

The physicality of the series coupled with the extensive minutes which their team’s demand of them has reduced both players to I.V. drips.

Kobe’s came after the LA Lakers victory in Game 3 while Carmelo was hooked up at half time of Game 4, a game that the Nuggets would go on to win.

The fact that both players have been on the floor for more than 40 minutes a night has totally depleted what energy reserves they may have had left after the opening two series.

Their tired bodies tell us two things about this Conference Finals match up. Firstly, the teams are incredibly closely matched, with 3 of the 4 games coming down to the final minute. Secondly, both players can only count on one of their team mates for consistent help.

For Kobe, only Pau Gasol has produced any numbers that take some of the strain from Bryant’s shoulders. The fact is he could do more, and he agrees, ‘asking’ for more touches inside instead of watching his team hoist more than thirty 3 pointers in Game 4 despite his productivity.

The Robin to Carmelo’s Batman has been Chauncey Billups, Mr Big Shot and Mr Dependable. Even when he isn’t scoring he is assisting and providing much needed leadership to the Nuggets who still possess the ability to flip out at any moment.

In Game 4, Melo was 1 for 11 at the half. Fortunately the JR Smith who annoys so many people with his posturing and play turned up and led his team in scoring with 24 powering them to the win and an even series.

The rest of the Lakers went missing, especially Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odum, both of whom are as reliable as an ashtray on a motorbike.

I.V. drips in basketball? Proof of one thing.

It is a team game after all. 


NBA Playoffs 2009 Western Conference Finals: Lakers Win, Taunting Kobe Unwise

May 24, 2009

 

by Jack Maidment

Do not annoy, provoke, taunt or shout at Kobe Bryant when he is playing on the road.

Apparently people do not learn.

Bryant has been in the League long enough for the entire world to know that any sort of abuse away from home only makes him play even better.

Let us ask the Denver Nuggets.

Returning to the Mile High City the Nuggets held the advantage in the Western Conference Finals after stealing home court in LA. 1-1 and the safety of the building in which they have not been beaten all post season.

Unfortunately for Denver, the Lakers All-Star, future Hall of Famer, kinda likes ruining parties and he marked game 3 with his 3rd plus 40 point outburst of this post season and with it brought tears to a Denver team who were firmly on the charge to the Big Dance.

No Encouragement Needed

No Encouragement Needed

Bryant said after the game that he had nothing in his legs in the 4th when he stepped to the line for free throws, but that the booing and taunts from the Denver faithful reminded him of what was at stake. Re-focusing a tired mind if you will.

So, here is an idea.

Just shut up.

Why antagonise the closer in The Game when you already know that he will play to a higher level just to spite you.

Shhhhhhh. No, really. Put down the foam fingers and the little bat ball things and just let silence reign. Take away some of his ammunition.

It’s like you are Jack and you just climbed the Beanstalk only to find the Giant asleep.

“Hey! Wake up! You’re supposed to be eating me right now. Come on!”

Just. Be. Quiet.

Regardless of the fact that Kobe came up big, he must have been mighty grateful that some of his team mates turned up last night, unlike the Cleveland Cavaliers the other night who left their Star stranded and alone. 1 V 5? Only LeBron.

Just a quick aside. Conference Finals. How about teams learn to run an inbounds play? Especially in the last minute of the game.

Admittedly LeBron’s rainbow miracle is a little hard to criticise defensively because it was simply an amazing shot from an amazing player. But, you think that the Magic will leave a guy close to the inbounder if their happens to be a second on the clock again?

Unlikely. Two men, both on LeBron.

In the same vein, the Nuggets need to realise that there is this guy who plays for the LA Lakers called Trevor Ariza whose middle name happens to be ‘hustle’.

Twice in 3 games he has stole the ball on an inbounds play in the 4th effectively ending Denver’s hopes.

Read the scouting reporting and quit being lazy when the game is on the line.

Or just do what Chauncey Billups does. Inbound the ball of off Kobe’s back and lay it in yourself. Cheeky.

Perhaps that is the real reason that Kobe went big in Game 3. Either way, just don’t annoy the man.

He is a Giant.


NBA Conference Finals: Call It. I Dare You.

May 19, 2009

Nuggets

by Jack Maidment

16 have become 4 and the NBA Finals are in sight for the few that are still standing.

LA will face Denver for the Western Conference Championship and the chance to face either Cleveland or Orlando who are poised to commence battle to decide who the East’s finest is over 7 games.

Half of the draw has merely fulfilled the prophecy set out by most people at the start of this NBA season. The Cleveland Cavaliers and the LA Lakers were both lock picks to be still playing this late in May.

On the flip side of the coin the Orlando Magic and the Denver Nuggets were very, very few people’s choice to make it this far. Yet, here they are, with all of the marbles on the line for the team that can perform and take care of business.

Before the rise of Denver, the Lakers were supposed to glide straight back to the Finals, uncontested. Yet rise Denver has to the point where many are calling the series Denver’s way. Anyone who says they called that in October is a liar.

Similarly, the Cavaliers have marched to the East’s big game, simply destroying all comers. Despite this, people are still tipping the Magic to take the series, most notably Charles Barkley.

The way in which Orlando dispatched the defending champion Celtics was a little unerring. It was the sort of performance that Champions put in. Game 7 on the road. They stepped up and grabbed the opportunity to try and contain LeBron for a shot at the Big Dance.

The Playoffs dictate that teams that make it this far are ‘real’. You cannot luck out consecutively. Nope. All 4 teams are here to play, and play they undoubtedly will.

In the first round, the chance at the trophy seems a far off possibility but if you make the Conference Finals the smell of Finals success grows more pungent, more alluring.

Before a game is played, the Cavaliers should be favourites to advance. Orlando presents them with huge match up problems especially in the front court which Ohio’s finest will have to try and counter.

Rashard Lewis, as Boston found to their cost, is damn tough to handle. At 6-10 he has the length to cause problems in the post, but the fact that he is more comfortable creating off the dribble causes havoc for less mobile bigs, like Zydraunas Ilgauskas.

You would assume that LeBron would pick up Hedo Turkoglu leaving Anderson Varejao with the unenviable task of keeping Dwight Howard in check. Not happening.

The Magic, however are well equipped to cover the Cavs with a roster of good athletes and able defenders. The likes of Mickael Pietrus and Rafer Alston should lock down the perimeter leaving their Defensive Player of the Year to roam the inside causing havoc.

The key to the series? LBJ. LeBron has ate up better defenders than Hedo and if it comes to it, The King is more than capable of carrying his team to the finish line. How the Magic try and contain LeBron James could decide who advances.

Meanwhile the West is very much a battle of length versus aggressive athleticism. Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odum are as long a front 3 as the NBA has to offer. All skilled, but bangers? Nope.

Nene, Chris Anderson, Kenyon Martin? All are undersized but counter what they lack vertically with energy and hustle. Oh, and bruising. How LA reacts to the challenge in the paint will go a long way to deciding who proceeds.

The Lakers are overpowered at the point with Chauncey Billups doing his thing and in JR Smith and Carmelo Anthony they have an offensive punch to counter Kobe Bryant.

The prospect of Kobe and Carmelo, arguably the two best flat out scorers in the L, going at it to take their team to the Finals is mouth watering indeed.

Both series are close. Too close.

Lakers/Cavs Finals? Don’t count on it yet.