NBA Superstar League: Dirk’s back

February 10, 2012

By Jack Maidment

Week 5. Here. We. Go.

1. Dirk Nowitzki: DEN, CLE, IND. It may have taken almost two months, but old Dirk’s back. The Mavericks did lose two of their last three (CLE, IND) but Dirk’s performances are cause for great optimism as he looks to regain the form which granted him the Finals MVP trophy and an NBA championship. He has had at least 24 points in each of the last three, shooting considerably better than 50% from the floor and only missing two at the charity stripe. The Mavs are starting to ramp it up. Plus 10.

2. Kobe Bryant: BOS, PHI, UTA. Going past Shag for 5th all-time in scoring and beating the old enemy this week is enough to vault Kobe from 6th to 2nd. The Lakers lost two of their last three but Bryant was good in all three games. He can only do so much with the current LA squad. They need a trade. Meanwhile Kobe will continue on, just like he’s done for the last 16 years.

3. Dwight Howard: MIA, LAC, IND. Howard was 9th last week, mainly because writing about the poisoned Magic season makes me feel ill. But credit where credit is due, Dwight has been excellent this week. The Magic had two wins (MIA, IND) and a tough loss (85-81 LAC) and Howard had games of 25-24 (MIA) 33-14 with 4 stocks (LAC) and 27-8 with 5 stocks (IND). There is a reason why teams want Howard.

4. Kevin Durant: SAC, GSW, POR. Durant’s Thunder lost to the Kings this week in the type of game they will have to get used to. As the model young franchise you better believe all the other young teams want to upstage Oklahoma on national television. The truth is good teams will lose 3-5 games like this a year – continually having to deal with team’s spiking their effort levels just for you is tiring. Slips one.

5. LeBron James: ORL, CLE, TOR. LeBron was top dog last week, but after two great performances against bad teams (CLE, TOR) he slipped a little against a slightly better Orlando team in a 89-102 loss. He was 5-15 from the floor against the Magic, scoring 17 points. He did everything else he normally does (10 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals) but his points were down in a rivalry game which is hardly superstar behaviour. Just saying. In other LeBron news, this made me laugh.

6. LaMarcus Aldridge: HOU, OKC, DEN. Despite losing their last two and sliding to 9th in the Western Conference, LA makes it to 6th because of his performance against the Thunder. 39-6-3 and 11-11 from the stripe are superstar numbers and the loss was narrow – 107-111. Aldridge has been consistently very good this year with occasional explosions and as soon as the rest of his team put it together again the Blazers will be very good like they were at the start of January. Up one.

7. Chris Paul: CLE, ORL, WAS. Paul had an absolute shocker against the Wizards on February 4, scoring 2 points on 1-8 shooting. Urgh. Luckily Washington’s so bad it didn’t matter as the Clippers rolled to victory. He was infinitely better against the Magic with 29-7-8 and that’s the kind of production the Clips will need in the backcourt now that Chauncey Billups has been lost for the season.

8. Kevin Love: HOU. As a kid I remember a few things my mum used to say whenever I was acting up. One of her favourites was ‘only donkeys kick’. Guess Kevin Love didn’t learn that lesson. He kinda stood/stamped on Luis Scola on February 4 and was subsequently banned two games (one win, one loss). It happens in football. It’s cool in UFC. It shouldn’t happen in basketball. Falls four.

9. Derrick Rose: NOH, NJN, MIL. Rose has struggled this week with back spasms (insert ‘carrying city on his back’ joke here) but the calibre of the Bulls’ opponents has given him a chance for a little rest; he played just 22 minutes against the Hornets and 11 against the Nets. Bulls have won their last four and have the best record in the league. For the fist time in a long while their dominance is not strictly because of Rose. Down four.

10. Carmelo Anthony. Injured. Knicks win three straight. Riddles.

The NBA Superstar League is a weekly statistical snapshot, out every Friday, ranking ten of the best players in the league.

Our 10: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James/Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge.


Building an NBA Frankenstein

February 2, 2012

By Jack Maidment

I am a big comic book fan. Marvel, DC; I don’t care. If there are super powers and freaky scientific experiments a-happening I am there with lycra-clad bells on.

Every night we see unbelievable athletes in the NBA doing things with their bodies which 99.9% of the rest of us can only experience in the third person.

The average NBA player is an otherworldy specimen of humanity, but some of them are positively mutant. Freakish even.

Blake Griffin’s latest dunk got me thinking: If I was an evil genius (think more Dr Doom/Magneto than Kim Kardashian) hell bent on stealing the attributes of others to create my very own Deadpool, who would I want to pickpocket?

We are basically walking the Space Jam path. Come with me, position by position.

PG.

Fast don’t lie and my mutant has got to be fast. This was a tough decision, but I’m taking Derrick Rose’s Power Speed over Ty Lawson’s Jet Speed (Russell Westbrook was also in the mix too). I want a guy who has gears and nobody can change up and down like Rose.

SG.

Call it quickness or elusiveness, whatever, I want my guy to be slippery, and for that I am abducting Dwyane Wade. Nobody does Now-You-See-Me-Now-You-Don’t like Wade. If he was unavailable I would have no qualms about picking up Steve Nash or Manu Ginobli here.

SF.

Like there was any doubt which small forward I would be stealing from. Whatever LeBron James has I want for my player, but since I’m taking one thing per player, I’m taking LeBron’s mental toughness…. Just checking you were paying attention. I want no part of LeBron’s mental faculties, but I will gladly take his juggernaut-ness. It’s a word. And it roughly translates as wanting people to get the hell out of the way of my evil-genius player because they are scared he will trample them to death. Like this guy.

PF.

I want Blake’s legs and his elevation. As seen here. Here. And here. Best leaper in the game, and I am only stealing from the best.

C.

If this was the 1960s I am calling Wilt, inviting him to a Hollywood starlet’s party, then chloroforming him and stealing his physique but since Chamberlain is off the table, I’m taking Dwight Howard and his strength.

My mutant’s name? LeLake Wightrose

Got better?


NBA Keys: Chicago Bulls visit the Miami Heat

January 29, 2012

By Jack Maidment

The Chicago Bulls will take to the floor against the Miami Heat in little over an hour. They are the two best teams in the East with Chicago atop the conference at 17-4 and Miami trailing at 14-5.

Between them they have three of the best four players in basketball and they are both struggling with injuries.

Here are some things to think about:

@Who will guard Derrick Rose? In the playoffs last year it was LeBron when it mattered and Rose had an extremely tough time of it. LeBron’s length caused all sorts of problems. For Chicago to win they need Rose to be at his MVP best, the question will be if he has figured out how to do his thing while staring at someone half a foot taller, stronger and almost as quick.

@How will Chicago make up for the loss of Luol Deng? Deng is the player that makes the Bulls tick on offense and defense. If there is a job needs doing the man from Sudan is usually the guy to do it. His wrist injury presents the Bulls with a number of problems. Firstly, who will guard LeBron? Secondly, who will provide the scoring punch off the bench if Kyle Korver starts? And thirdly, who will pick up Deng’s 16 points a game? The answer should be Boozer and the bench. The reality may be something different.

@How will LeBron James assert himself down the stretch now that Dwyane Wade has returned? It is a tired discussion but a discussion nonetheless. I see Wade closing with LeBron facilitating.

@Who will win the duel at power forward, Boozer or Bosh? Last season it was no contest as Boozer struggled and played with a lack of explosiveness while Bosh took advantage (most of the time) of the open looks thrown his way courtesy of James and Wade. The wings may belong to the Heat, but the paint is usually Bulls territory. It’s up to Boozer to make sure that’s the case against the Heat.

Check back tomorrow for a post-game breakdown.

Enjoy the game.


NBA Superstar League: The reign of Kobe

January 13, 2012

Kobe starts off #1

By Jack Maidment

NBA Superstar League: A weekly statistical snapshot, out every Friday, ranking ten of the best players in the league.

Play well and your team wins, you move up the table. If you suck, lose or moan about team mates, you move down. Simple.

The ten are in place for this season with LeBron/Wade counting as one person.

Our 10: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James/Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge.

Let’s get to it.

Week 1.

1. Kobe Bryant: UTA, PHX, MEM. Three wins. More than 100 points scored. Nine total turnovers. At least 38 minutes played each game. Kobe is the superstar playing the best right now. It’s not even close. He is on a tear. Number one.

2. Kevin Durant: NOH, MEM, SAS. Three wins against two and a half good teams and lots of work from Durant. He has done a lot of everything this week, 29-3-10 with 4 blocks against New Orleans, 22-5-11 going 8-8 from the line against the Grizzlies and 21-7-10, 10-10 from the line against the Spurs. He has been doing what superstars do. Just win.

3. Dwight Howard: GSW, POR, SAC. Three good wins for a bad Magic team and Dwight did what he had to do to grab the Ws. He put up 45 and 23(!) against the Warriors who made him shoot 39(!) free throws to earn them, the most in NBA history.

4. Chris Paul: MIA, POR, MIL. Two wins and a loss to Portland. Huge win against the Heat in which he had 26-11-6 and three steals. Forgettable games against the Blazers and Bucks, but on the strength of his performance against Miami, Paul deserves his fourth place spot.

5. Derrick Rose: MIN, DET, ATL. Two wins and a loss. He put up 31 and 11 on Minnesota and 22 and 8 on the Pistons, both wins. He struggled against the Hawks, scoring just 8 with 6 assists in a tough loss. He outdueled Ricky Rubio, did what he had to do against Detroit and went 3-10 against the Hawks. A mediocre week by the MVP’s standard. But the Bulls are 10-2. He’ll move up next week.

6. Dirk Nowitzki: BOS, DET, NOH. A shadow of who he was last season but three wins nonetheless. He scored just 10 on 2-11 shooting against New Orleans before picking it up against hapless Detroit. He’s not Dirk right now, but he is getting there, and wins are wins.

7. LaMarcus Aldridge: ORL, LAC, CLE. A loss against a reasonably good Magic team and two wins against the Clippers and Cavaliers. He has been solid, if not stellar, and averaged about 22 and 8 in the last three. All he needs to move up further are a few big nights with marquee wins.

8. Carmelo Anthony: MEM, PHI, CHA. He put up 14 before spraining his ankle against Memphis and 27 and 22 the two games before. The Knicks had won four in a row before losing to the Grizzlies, but are 5-5 in their last 10, so hopefully his Knicks are starting to figure it out.

9. Kevin Love: CHI, TOR, WAS. Two losses and a win. Minnesota’s PF has struggled mightily this week. He went 5-18 from the field against the Bulls, 3-16 against the Raptors (both losses) and 7-16 in a win over the Wizards. He has less talent to work with than most of the other guys on this list, but still, he hasn’t played well the last three.

10. LeBron James: LAC, GSW, NJN. Two losses and a win. He was 9-17 from the stripe in a loss to the Clippers. His line was 23-7-13 but the free throws in the fourth quarter killed his team. In a loss to the Warriors he had 26-7-11. His best performance was reserved for a win against the horrible Nets who he torched for 32-9-7. Superstars win games when it matters. This week he didn’t.


The Sophomore Six: NBA’s Best Second Years

January 6, 2010

by Jack Maidment

Every year a whole host of new players enter the NBA as rookies. They are drafted and immediately thrown in at the deep end of pro basketball.

For one year they are under the spotlight.

But come the season’s end, the promise of the next NBA Draft guarantees a shift in the limelight to the next batch of freshman hoping to make an impression.

The annual process of the Draft, all hype included, effectively relegates second year players to the media wilderness.

With that in mind it is worth checking in with the NBA’s sophomore talents who are still trying to establish themselves in a League with a relatively short memory.

What up second years?

Derrick Rose

Chicago’s future has been hampered by the frankly awful play of his team. Yet, despite the Bull’s inability to anticipate the offensive hole left by Ben Gordon’s defection to the Pistons, Rose has done everything he can to help his struggling team. His assists (5.8) and rebounds (3.6) are both slightly down on last year but these drops have been supplemented by an increase in scoring, up 2 points on last year’s average.

Along with the play of Joakim Noah, Rose’s development is about the only bright spot so far for Chicago who need to get the young man some help.

Michael Beasley

Scoring, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals. All are up on last year and “Be Easy” is showing the kind of improvement that you would expect from a #2 pick.

Pat Riley said that Beasley could become the greatest offensive player in the NBA and in occasional flashes we gain a glimpse into that possible future. Occasionally he is as unstoppable as his GM wants him to be, providing Wade with an extremely capable sidekick.

It is to be great consistently that Wade’s second fiddle needs and his improvements this year, despite an ‘interesting’ pre-season, have shown that he is and will be worth the trouble.

Eric Gordon

All his stats are up this year which would suggest that Charles Barkley’s assertion that Mr Gordon is a stud is only looking stronger. He averages 17.3 a game this year, playing against shooting guards who are invariably taller than him but rarely stronger or quicker.

Every four or five games he will score 25+ giving Clippers’ fans hope that the tandem of Gordon and Blake Griffin (should he play some when) could do damage in the realtively near future.

As long as they get a new coach. And The Curse stays away.

Brook Lopez

His team stinks so bad that the Timberwolves and Bucks now look like basketball behemoths on the same court, but there is a reason why New Jersey Nets should put down that shotgun: Brook Lopez.

His averages this year, 18.6 points and 9.6 rebounds, have confirmed the inkling that started to manifest last year that this guy could be really, really good. Or at least a great complementary piece on a really, really good team.

Imagine how much worse the Nets would be as a team and as a prospective free agent landing pad without Lopez.

Sure they suck this year, but without him their prospect of signing anyone worthwhile next summer would be cut in half. At least.

With him their turnaround could be rapid: Nets win the lottery, take John Wall. Sign LeBron who wants to play in Brooklyn for Jay-Z. Sign Chris Bosh who wants to play with LeBron and actually win.

Starting five of Wall, Harris, LeBron, Bosh and Lopez.

I’d take that to the Conference Finals right now.

Kevin Love

Kevlar (thanks Bobbito Garcia) has been so good this year and you didn’t even realise it.

You probably knew that last year he was a rebounding beast who led all rookies in anything to do with getting the ball of the glass.

He averaged 9.1 rebounds a game last year. He now grabs 12.3. Sorry to do the math for you, but that’s 3 boards a game more than last year. Just wow.

Combined with a 4 point increase in scoring (11.1 as a rookie, 15.2 as a soph) Love has improved more than anyone anticipated.

In fact, if there were an award for Sophomore Stat Leap of the Year then Love wins now. Regardless of what he does the rest of the season.

He’d also win the You Said I’m Overweight, Fuck You award. Catchy.

If only his Wolves weren’t so bad.

Danilo Gallinari

If you get drafted #6 overall, ahead of Eric Gordon, Brook Lopez and Jerryd Bayless and you happen to be white, God help you. You inevitably get the ‘White guy in top 10’ hype/scepticism.

As if that wasn’t enough hype to kill, Antoni calls you the best shooter he’s ever worked with. Nash, Nash, Nash. Enough said.

So he is hyped. And he has/did have/almost certainly will have a dodgy back. But hell, he’s here now and, whisper, he’s actually pretty good.

There is no doubt the Italian can shoot. 14.6 points a game in what is effectively his rookie year testifies to that.

And he can rebound, pulling in 5 a game. Not bad, huh?

He has been licensed to shoot what appears to be as much as he wants and as you might expect he’s a little streaky. Some nights he plays like the player Antoni believes in so fiercely. 26 versus Miami, 29 against Phoenix etc. The next night he can’t hit a barn door.

But. It is basically his rookie year. And, considering the hype, Danilo Gallinari is performing admirably.


NBA Rookie Ratings: Tyreke Evans, The Next Derrick Rose?

October 11, 2009

rekeby Jack Maidment

Whose the best? This guy is.

Or at least that is what countless General Managers around the League would have you believe. As far as guards go, Tyreke Evans is the most highly regarded and highly rated in this years’ rookie class.

Sure Johnny Flynn is nice and what he did at Syracuse last year, especially in their major 6 overtime win over Connecticut, was as close to heroism as you are ever likely to see. And sure, Ricky Rubio may be The Next Big Thing out of Europe and the best young player not playing in the NBA. And nobody in this draft can score like Stephen Curry from the guard spots, who has many a coach purring over the abilities that made him the 7th overall pick coming out of Davidson College. James Harden may well be the player who can contribute to his team the most in the back court.

But. Before an NBA regular season game is played, with the exception of Sam Presti of the Thunder, 99% of the other teams would almost certainly elect to take Evans on board and into their back court given the chance.

So what makes the West Chester, Philadelphia native such an attractive proposition. It probably isn’t the fact that the man apparently running the point in Sacramento this coming season has never really played the position full time before or that his jump shot needs some work before it can be classed as at least passable.

Despite his perceived deficiencies, the upside of Tyreke Evans is enough to make those in charge of NBA franchises across the land sit up and listen.

A year in college at Memphis will have given Evans a taste for big time basketball but the leap to the pros should hurt nobody more than the next member of the ‘one and done’ club. Or at least you would have though that, especially for a point guard, if Derrick Rose hadn’t poured gasoline all over the League last season before igniting in the Playoffs.

Before Rose, the rule book was fairly sturdy and solid: playing point in the world’s best basketball league is not easy and learning it’s ins and outs takes dedication and patience. After Rose? Anything is possible. If you are an immensely talented guard who has the strength and drive to decimate any defense, preferably out of Memphis, the League beware.

Fortunately for Evans, Sacramento isn’t going anywhere fast with just about the worst roster in the NBA, at least in terms of competing this coming year. That should mean that the 20 year old has the opportunity to grow into the League and the position along with his other young ( and promising) team mates.

The lottery may be beckoning the Kings once again before even a whistle has been blown in anger but with Evans and his, whisper it, potential, they can at least ring their cow bells safe in the knowledge that their will be a future for their team.

That is unless the franchise decides to move.

I guess some things are never certain.


NBA Playoffs: Home Court Is Far From Sacred

April 23, 2009
Rose is Scary

Rose is Scary

Who would have thought it? Despite the fact that, with the exception of L.A and Cleveland, this years first round match ups were some of the most widely anticipated and closest to call, nobody would have expected there to be this many twists already. And each team has only played 2 games this post season!

 

While the Lakers and the Cavaliers take care of business by destroying the Utah Jazz and the Detroit Pistons, the rest of the playoff hopefuls have clearly been listening to David Stern showing the world that the NBA really is where amazing happens.

 

Just ask Boston. Literally the day before they are due to begin their title defence against the written off Chicago Bulls they receive the news that their reigning Defensive Player of the Year will be missing for what could be the entire post season. Ouch.

 

Even so, the Celtics still boasted two more All Stars than the Bulls. And they had a fit Rajon Rondo a player who makes the champs tick. So regardless of Garnett’s forced absence, the good folk of Boston still would have expected an easy first rounder. The playoffs start in the semis right?

 

Que Derrick Rose who clearly had not attended the meeting when NBA rookies were told how they are supposed to play in their first season. He decided that the Bulls belonged on his shoulders, and with a little help from Ben Gordon, proceeded to snatch home court advantage from the Cs. Oh how the mighty can fall.

 

Meanwhile, Josh Smith and the Atlanta Hawks did what few have; silencing Dwayne Wade only for Wade to find his team and his stroke, leading his Miami Heat to victory to even the series and grab home court.

 

Apparently home court is no longer sacred as the Magic also decided to make their lives much harder by letting the Sixers back into a game that they should have killed at half time. Superman can only do so much.

 

Out West things were much the same with home court also counting for nearly nothing. Dallas marched into San Antonio and Dirk plus JJ Barea turned the Spurs over, taking the series back across Texas with home court and the series tentatively balanced at one apiece.

 

It could be a Texas thing. The Houston Rockets defeated the Trailblazers in Portland. It seemed that only Brandon Roy came to play with the rest of his team hiding like children, scared by the Big Bad Yao. This series, also at 1s, goes to the Lone Star State with everything to play for although their will be no more finger wagging with Dikembe Mutombo forced into an ‘early’ retirement after twisting his old old old knee. Damn shame.

 

Pretty sure that Mr Big Shot might have been hired by a certain Jason Kidd to exact brutal revenge on the point guard who shouted at anyone who would listen that ‘this guy can’t me!’ Dont anger veterans Chris Paul. They are a protective bunch who maintain a pack mentality if threatened. Billups proceeded to shoot the lights out in Paul’s face going a Denver Nuggets franchise record 8-9 from down town. In. Your. Eye. The Nuggets are looking pretty darn good right now. They couldn’t. Could they?

 

Nevermind amazing. The NBA is where ANYTHING can happen. Unless you’re on a team with Kobe or LeBron. But they’ll have to play eventually. Unmovable force against Unstoppable force?

 

There are no ties.