NBA 2012/13: Decision making and why the Los Angeles Lakers will make The Finals

October 2, 2012

by Jack Maidment

Sometimes it is easy to over think things.

Grocery store. Clothes shopping. Take out.

That’s why I advocate the philosophy of the Afro Samurai: My goal is to only move forward. Make a decision and don’t look back.

It doesn’t matter if it’s second thoughts about going for a new job or worrying that a girl you want to ask out might say no – in most cases the best thing you can do is just do it.

Open your mouth, inhale, speak and see what happens.

More than that, don’t wait. Every second you spend thinking about whether you should buy a black VW or a white one, or debating the merits of whether or not you actually want to see Looper (you do) is time you can’t spend thinking about this. Or this.

Decide. Move on. And if it doesn’t work out, at least you tried.

Nowhere is second guessing more prevalent than in sports – particularly in sports fans.

“Man, if Horry didn’t hit that three from the top of the key at the buzzer in game four, we would have killed the Lakers.”

Maybe. But he did.

Or: “Man, if Rose hadn’t gone down in the first round last year we would have taken the East and rolled the Thunder in the Finals.”

Maybe. But he did.

Don’t get me wrong, I like playing the historical What If? Hindsight Game as much as the next guy and that specific section in Bill Simmons’ excellent Book of Basketball is especially enjoyable.

But in the present I prefer to stick to my guns. No flip flopping.

So, embrace the spirit of the samurai and play along: I asked the following five questions about the forthcoming NBA season of myself and answered with no hesitation. You try too.

1. Are the Lakers good enough to get out of the West and win it all.

Yes. Just because it looks good on their promotional posters doesn’t mean it isn’t true. When the Lakers take to the floor against the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday October 30 for the start of the regular season, their starting five will have 33 All Star nods, 4 defensive player of the year awards and three MVPs between them.

With that much experience and talent, along with having Dwight Howard at the rim to negate any worries about ageing legs, LA is not only good enough to make The Finals, with their roster and leadership they have to. And I believe they will.

2. Will LeBron James be any better this season?

Yes, definitely, even if that seems ridiculous given how good he was in 2011/12, but having firmly cemented his position atop the basketball mountain and got rid of the championship monkey which had been lingering on his back for almost a decade, there is every reason to believe King James will elevate even further.

Statistically speaking a 28-8-8 could be possible, maybe even a 30-8-8 if Wade goes down for any length of time. Enjoy.

3. Will Anthony Davis win rookie of the year?

I say no. I’m taking Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. That’s not to say anything bad of Davis, who I think will be a very close second and eventually a franchise guy, but MKG just has something about him that makes me buy in from the get go.

You would think that changing the losing culture that’s so ingrained in Charlotte would be a nigh on impossible task but that’s what will make MKG’s achievement all the greater when he does it. The man is a tear-your-heart-out killer. I love him.

4. Mediocrity, thy name is..?

Brooklyn. Love the new arena, love the new logo, love the name. To a certain extent I love the backcourt.

But the rest of the team is simply underwhelming. Pricey and underwhelming.

The Nets as currently put together will never get out of the Eastern Conference semi-finals. Essentially they are the new Atlanta Hawks – good, but in the worst possible way.

5. Who will have the last laugh: Jeremy Lin or the New York Knicks?

Lin, almost certainly. The Knicks say letting the Harvard man go was a strictly financial decision, which on many levels is fair enough (salary cap) but in others (shirt sales, ratings)? Not so much.

Regardless, replacing him with Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd? Madness.

While the Knicks wait for their PG to bring the ball up the floor every possession this year, Lin will have all the shots he wants in a system built around him. And when he isn’t on the court he will be in his Houston penthouse counting cash from his latest endorsement deal and remembering how he used to sleep on a sofa and had to put up with Melo’s stink face.

Advantage Lin.

How did you do? And remember: No flip flopping…


Oklahoma@Miami, Lakers@Clippers: This much we know

April 5, 2012

By Jack Maidment

Four teams with realistic championship aspirations faced off against each other on Wednesday night with the NBA regular season finish line in sight.

Here’s what we learned.

Oklahoma City Thunder @ Miami Heat.

@There are way too many hot, young women going out with old (rich) men in Miami. Man.

@My heart might want something different (I see you Chi-Town) but an OKC-Miami NBA Finals would be out of this world. The standard of play when both teams are on the floor is off the scale.

@Kevin Durant has acquired The Look.

@LeBron James-KD is the best player match up in the league by a long way. They play each other pretty much the entire game and guarantee the other a tough night, both offensively and defensively.

@OKC can be nasty when it needs to be. Between Ibaka, Perkins, Mohammed and Collison, the Thunder have four solid bodies who can dish out a hit and on Wednesday they did. Frequently. The game had more missed layups than any other I have watched this season and every one was down to players waiting for the crunch.

@If I was a Miami fan, I would worry about Chris Bosh. He was milk-carton missing on Wednesday night and wanted no part of a positively scary OKC frontline.

@On that note, OKC’s front line is the best in the league. Between Perkins, Ibaka and Durant the Thunder have everything you need to be a great team on both ends of the floor.

@If Shane Battier cannot consistently make the left corner three in the fourth quarter the Heat could be in big trouble.

@Eric Spoelstra must drink a lot of Red Bull prior to each game. He walks around a lot. (Could make a ‘he spends more time on the floor than Mike Miller’ joke here, but I won’t because I am all class.)

@There is no scarier defensive player in the League than Serge Ibaka.

@If OKC-Miami do meet in the Finals Mike Breen is going to need to take a deep breath.

@Mike Breen is the best announcer in the NBA and it’s not even close.

@James Harden is the slipperiest player the the league.

Los Angeles Lakers @ Los Angeles Clippers

@There are way too many hot, young women going out with old (rich) men in Los Angeles. Man.

@Kobe Bryant is still Kobe Bryant. The ‘raise up’ wing three pointer he hits with alarming regularity is probably the toughest shot any player takes in the league and it is also probably the most demoralising for the opposition.

@Yes Blake, the dunks are nice. But they are still only worth two points.

@Pretty sure Vinny Del Negro pulls names out of a hat to pick his starters and their minutes.

@Chauncey Billups has some truly horrible ties.

@Andrew Bynum is the biggest and strongest player in the league. There is no one in the entire NBA who can play him one on one any more. He made DeAndre Jordan look like a 6-year-old on the low block.

@Blake Griffin looks lost in just about every half court set. Although to be fair, so would you if you had VDN teaching you.

@Randy Foye cannot play Kobe Bryant straight up. Who knew. Kobe was asked in his half time interview what he thought about the Clippers leaving Foye on an island. Kobe grinned and simply said in that situation ‘it’s just time to go to work’.

@Pau Gasol is the most skilled big man in the league. He is also the owner of the best stinkface. After Blake dunked on him a second time on Wednesday Pau gave a facial expression similar to the one given by a workman who arrives home to see his wife getting banged by an alligator. Amazing.

@A Clipper-Laker series would be fun, but the Lakers would win.

@Ramon Sessions is an upgrade over Derek Fisher in the same way that the animation in Toy Story is an upgrade over Steamboat Micky.


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?


Starting Five: The week’s best NBA players

February 1, 2012

By Jack Maidment

The Week’s Best

@Derrick Rose. His Bulls may have lost, but my goodness did the MVP earn his pay cheque against the Miami Heat last Sunday. The numbers (34-6-6) don’t do him or his importance to Chicago justice. Nor do they tell you how hard he had to work to get them, hitting all manner of bankers and floaters and generally dominating the paint.

His performance against Miami was far from a one-off surge either as he has at least 34 points in each of his last three games (two wins and a loss). Rose is better than last year and last year he was the best in the league. Math.

@Deron Williams. I feel sorry for Deron. He has nobody to play with on the Nets and the likelihood of help this season is looking remote. That said, at least he is making the most of the situation by padding his stats and putting on one hell of an audition for all of next year’s free agents.

‘Come play with me! Look what I can do with these scrubs! Imagine what I can do with someone who has a pulse!’ Winning more than one game in a row may be starting to feel like a forgotten memory for the former Jazz point guard, but he is getting his. 34-7, 24-6 and 27-10 in his last three. And that’s with Johan Petro on the floor.

@Anderson Varejao. Yes, he is overpaid. And yes, his hair is ridiculous. But the Brazilian All-NBA energy guy is still going to be drawing furtive glances from contenders across the league. His game (90% energy, 10% grit and determination) is tailor made for a good team, wasted on a bad one.

And you better believe the Cavaliers are a bad team. They are no Charlotte Bobcats, but still. Varejao submitted two great ‘come get me!’ games against Boston this week, recording his first ever 20-20 in one of them. Only problem is his contract, otherwise he’d be else where by now.

@LeBron James. He was here last week and to be honest his play of late has made me convert fully and with total conviction to the Church of LeBron. I don’t care if The Decision was a terrible idea anymore. I don’t care that he doesn’t shoot so well in the fourth quarter. I care about how he makes his teammates better, how he runs the floor like a hot-pokered rhino and finishes at the rim like he’s half-man half-Mjolnir.

I care that he is submitting one of the greatest seasons by anyone ever (29-8-7). I care that LeBron makes basketball unbelievably fun to watch. Three wins in a row this week and James was imperious in all of them.

@Brandon Rush. Wildcard! Yes. Good times. Rush is leading the NBA in 3pt% coming off the bench for the Golden State Warriors (just in case you didn’t know where he was). He is chipping in almost 10 points a game, but more than that he makes the Warriors’ second unit go. You need to see the crowd reaction when he enters the game. It is unbelievable. Brandon Rush. Who knew?


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.


The Art of the Miami Heat

January 28, 2012

By Jack Maidment

I cannot stand people who are addicted to their cameras. If I go the aquarium I don’t want you in my face taking pictures. If I’m drinking at the club I don’t want you bothering me for a snap.

Why can’t people just enjoy the now, the real thing, instead of interrupting the moment to create a pale imitation?

Why take a picture of a Lichtenstein original when you can take in its genius with your own eyes in the present?

The same can be applied to sports.

Basketball is such a unique blend of power and poetry that the game can explode into life at any moment. Why miss the explosion or interrupt the oh-shit-this-is-about-to-happen feeling trying to grab a photo?

I just don’t understand it. Watch the game.

The Miami Heat are the reason I bring this up.

They beat the New York Knicks last night 99-89 and they put on a show so exciting it was enough to shake me from my severe dislike of The Decision. No mean feat.

The first quarter was an absolute dunkfest and the entire game was one long highlight reel.

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade had five dunks each, running the floor and punishing the Knicks for every sloppy turnover.

Two especially stood out.

1.LeBron James dribbles his way down court off a Knick miss, backing into the paint with Bill Walker trying to guard him. LeBron feints slightly to his left shoulder as if looking for the turnaround jumper before powering to his right as the Knicks clear out. One dribble, two steps and LeBron elevates off his left foot before powering the ball through the hoop with his right hand, the wrong hand.

2. Wade receives the outlet pass off another New York miss just before half court on the near side. Two Knicks race back and Landry Fields meets Wade at the three point line. Wade takes one dribble before executing a perfect euro step, evading Fields, and elevates, jams. No other guard in the league is physically able do this. When you thought he would reach his ceiling and have to lay it up Wade carried on rising. Unbelievable.

Why the hell would you want to miss this?

(For the record I love photography, especially Ansell Adams and Weegee. Check them out.)