Starting Five: The week’s best NBA players

January 11, 2012

Kobe hung 48 on the Suns this week. Face.

By Jack Maidment

The Week’s Best

@Kobe Bryant. Doing anything he can to get wins for the Lakers. Including hanging 48 points on the Phoenix Suns. He did take 31 shots but Los Angeles took the win, 99-83. Like he says, scorers gonna score.

@Evan Turner. He had 16 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesaday. His team got the win, 112-85. The Sixers are 7-2, their best start since Allen Iverson led them to The Finals in 2000-01.

@Ricky Rubio. Last three games: averaging more than 30 minutes on the floor, he has had 12, 6 and 14 assists with at least 10 points – 32 assists and 12 turnovers in total during that period. He also posted 7 steals and at least 4 rebounds each game. Regardless of the statistics he has made the Minnesota Timberwolves relevant and must watch television.

@LaMarcus Aldridge. The Portland Trailblazer’s best player has been getting it done this season, leading his team to a 7-2 record, 6-0 at home. The Blazer’s are deep but Aldridge is the man who gets things done when they really need a score. They are the best team in the West right now and a lot of that is because of Aldridge.

@Nate Robinson. Picked up by Golden State, Robinson has been a fire cracker off the bench and excellent value Stephen Curry insurance. He scored 24 against the Miami Heat on Wednesday in a Warriors OT win, 111-106. Bargain.


NBA 2010 Season Preview

October 27, 2009

dwayneby Jack Maidment

And so it was that months of speculation came to an end. With the simple blow of a whistle this evening the NBA season will begin, banishing, or at least relegating, any thoughts of free agency and draft pondering for, well, a few weeks at least.

Unless your are a Knicks fan I guess.

The over-saturation of the media has effectively made fiends of all basketball fans around the world. With news and hopeless rumours available at our fingertips, a day in which literally nothing happens is greeted with the shakes and level 3 cold turkey. I NEED A FIX. Something more nourishing than Glen Davis’s contract stipulations. Something more nutritious than The Dunk That Didn’t Happen.

Luckily for us the NBA is back and the players are geared up to go. Tip off beckons and and all of the speculation that accompanied the draft and summer league is replaced by actual basketball that means something, where putting the ball in the hoop means more than a new contract and a bigger house.

Ultimately its about wins. For the League’s best it is time to begin the arduous and troublesome ascent toward a Championship. For the basement dwellers the new season represents the opportunity to gain restore some respect to once great franchises and to set course for better days. Faith must be found and trust must be given.

The questions that have existed since June now become more important. With the first game about to be played our answers become something more than mere guesswork and preference. Evidence aids a constant re-evaluation.

With that in mind, now is the final time that wild predictions can be made with a relatively clear conscience: no evidence, just opinion. Whatever happens form here on in is based on results and stats and evaluation. If you want to be a mystic or a psychic or a preacher, now is the time.

East? The fact is that the three top teams in the East are so close to each other that betting on the victor is unbelievably difficult. The Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic will be 1,2,3 in the Eastern but in which order is anybodies guess.

Many people would point to a healthy Celtics team as the favourites and they would probably be right. But, how many times has a team that needs to be healthy to have a chance ever been healthy when the time comes? Once Injury rears its ugly head it is essentially impossible to banish. Without Garnett or Pierce, Boston will not be advancing past the Conference Semi Finals.

Cleveland? Imagine if LeBron goes down for any amount of time. Doesn’t bear thinking about. Even with the King firing on all cylinders the Cavs will have their work cut out beating a collectively more talented Orlando Magic team. Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis and Dwight Howard. 4 All-Stars. Can LeBron and his new running (!) mate take that down? I say not. Orlando Advances.

That is to say nothing about the teams occupying the middle echelon of the East. Toronto Raptors have enough talent and fire power to be a fantastic dark horse selection. Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani will hold the fort down low and Hedo Turkoglu coupled with DeMar DeRozan and Jose Calderon have a nice balance of scoring, clutch, decision making and athletic potential.

The same can be said of the Atlanta Hawks who, with the addition of Jamal Crawford, return one of the most potent teams in the League. The question is whether or not the ATL can up there defense against the NBA’s best.

The rest will be a toss up, entirely reliant on ifs and buts. Miami? Need heroics from Wade and sanity from Beasley. Philadelphia? A breakout from Andre Igoudala and return from Elton Brand will help, but with no recognisable point, who is steering the ship?

A new defensive identity could see the Memphis Grizzlies make a return to relevance, but the addition of Allen Iverson is unlikely to mark the dawn of a intensity on D. Charlotte Bobcats, Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls? Mediocrity beckons with the Bulls the most likely to plunge or sky rocket.

West? The Los Angeles Lakers should be even better than they were last season with Artest bringing more to the team than Ariza, regardless of age. A healthy Lakers will make it back to the Conference Finals. Who will meet them is a little tricky.

The San Antonio Spurs will be in the mix as long as Mr Duncan is around and their supporting cast is second only to the Lakeshow. Dejuan Blair will prove to be the steal of the Draft and Manu, Parker and Jefferson will join Timmy D as part of one of the best starting line ups League wide.

The Denver Nuggets are no where near as deep as the Spurs or Lakers and will do well to scale the hieghts of last year. Portland still needs experience while the Jazz just look messy in the front court.

The conference is undoubtedly talented but other than the Lakers nobody sits above anybody else.

Too many questions. But there will be answers. Just enjoy the process. NBA 2010.


NBA Playoffs 2009: Fouls Are Fouls, Right?

May 9, 2009

Lebron foul1

The question is there to be asked. Should there be equality across the League in dealing with players that break the rules of conduct, or should certain people be exempt from them in the interest of entertainment?

This year’s playoff series have done nothing but highlight the disparities in the way that the NBA deals with its superstars and everybody else.

The best example of this chasm of difference came in game 2 of the Lakers/Rockets Semi Final match up.

Coming off of a screen Derek Fisher dropped his shoulder and ran over Luis Scola. He was ejected and subsequently banned for game 3. The whole saga was underlined by high fives from his team mates as he left the court. Ha. Playoff Basketball.

The game was littered with technicals and joining Fisher in the locker room was Ron Artest who was thrown out mid way through the fourth for ‘gesturing’ at Kobe Bryant.

He ‘gestured’ and shouted a little. A fairly calm response from the combustible Artest considering he had been elbowed in the throat by Kobe Bryant under the basket.

So, while Fisher and Artest lounged in the lockers, Kobe talked about a good, hard, playoff game. He knew damn well that he was never getting ejected let alone banned for a foul that was obvious, but not as blatant as needed to get a star as bright as the Mamba to receive a ban.

Meanwhile back East in game 2 of the Celtics/Magic series Rafer Alston was ejected and banned for the next game as a result of slapping Eddie House round the back of the head. Whoops.

You cannot really defend Rafer’s suspension and Fisher’s was undoubtedly harsh, but Bryant’s lack of a short holiday is just bemusing if not really surprising. Superstars don’t get suspended, do they?

The one problem with that assessment is that Dwight Howard was recently banned for a game because he threw an elbow at Samuel Dalembert.

Howard, the lead vote getter for the All Star game, is the epitome of a Star in the NBA. But. The blatant nature of his elbow effectively made it impossible for the League NOT to suspend him.

Kobe’s was amid the scrimmage for a rebound whereas Dwight nailed Dalembert as the ball went the other way. And it’s kinda hard to miss a seven footer throwing an elbow.

Most people don’t have a problem with the League’s stars getting preferential treatment in the suspension column because it is why we watch. Best players in the world playing the game.

However, it is the extent of this blind-eye-turning that truly undermines the game. It is why LeBron goes most games picking up ONE foul.

For a player that often picks up the trickiest perimeter assignment, that is amazing. He must be really, really good. No doubt, but fouls are fouls and the referees are apparently stead fast in the belief that ‘Oh, it’s LeBron, can’t have been a foul.’

For the opposing team, how much does that suck. Just ask Atlanta. They did not get one call in Game 2. Not One. Josh Smith got practically assaulted by James yet, oh wait, yep, its Cleveland ball. Josh Smith must have fouled LeBron as he fell to the floor.

Keep the stars in the game, but fouls are fouls.


NBA’s Normal Service Resumed: Kobe’s Lakers Blowout Durant’s Hopeful Oklahoma City Thunder

March 25, 2009
Texas Beckons?
Texas Beckons?

If a team in the NBA wins by 18 points whilst benching their best player for the entire fourth quarter, two things should be clear: one, the opposition are likely not going anywhere fast, and two, the team on top is unquestionably

E-L-I-T-E.

 

Kobe Bryant sat for the entire fourth last night, happy to rest as the depths of the LA Lakers’ roster played some extended minutes against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Lakers were out of sight by the end of the first, strolling to a leisurely 17 point lead. After 1 quarter. In the NBA.

 

The message from Phil Jackson could not have been more clear last night: no more mistakes. The Lakers no longer sit atop the NBA standings having been supplanted by the King and his Cavaliers. The Lake Show are one game behind Cleveland for the NBAs best record and Andre Igoudala’s game winning three pointer at the buzzer to lift the Philadelphia 76ers over their hosts is beginning to look like one of the most crucial plays of the NBA season.

 

One game could be the difference between home court in the Finals. Regardless of Kobe’s bravado after the loss, saying that he couldn’t care less who has the best record and that his Lakers can win anywhere, there is no doubt that home court could be vital against a Cavalier’s team who quite simply do not lose at home.

 

So the Thunder got blown out by the NBA’s second best team. That’s not too surprising. The good news for the Thunder is that they don’t have to play the Lakers or the Cavaliers every night. They also get to play Sacramento. And the Timberwolves. And all the rest of the NBA’s basement dwellers. These games are the reason that there is hope in Oklahoma.

 

Before the Lakers came to town the Thunder were at .500 for their previous 10 games. Considering where they were as a franchise last year, that is a vast improvement. Some people thought that the Thunder would struggle to get more than 10 wins this entire season. Yet, with three weeks to go, Oklahoma is just below .300 for the season. Going in the right direction? Absolutely.

 

The young core that the Thunder has assembled has changed the way that the franchise is viewed around the NBA and by critical NBA fans who in recent years would have been totally indifferent to a visit of the Thunder. Oklahoma is no longer a ‘pass’ game, or at least not as much as it was.

 

Kevin Durant is ‘the key’ to the NBA franchise’s resurgence. How is he allowed to be this good and that young? Who cares. Durant averages 26 points a game in only his second year in the NBA. His second year. Dude can score in buckets. In Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant has two capable and suitably athletic sidekicks. The core of those three players will surely drive the Thunder into the playoffs if they can stay together for a few years.

 

This is the major issue facing Oklahoma. There are countless teams who would move heaven and earth to acquire a talent as astounding as Durant. And surely teams will try. For example, when, rather than if, Tracy McGrady is shipped out of Houston it would be surprising if the Rockets did not try to tempt Durant back to Texas. If he is traded the Thunder will be back to worse than square one.

 

10 games in a season? Try 5.