Thursday, March 31, 2011

Guess that NBA Player

 Answers are in the comment section.

The Legendary One

I was watching a game a couple days ago on NBA TV (Mia vs. Clev) and they had a NBA Cares commercial about AIDs during the break.  Everything was fine until I saw the picture below.  I have no idea how they got in contact with this huge NBA Legend, let alone get him to do a TV appearance.
In case you haven't seen the great one play here is a link to quick video of his legendary days in the NBA.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

You Know Where to Find Me

When the pressure comes, you always know where to find Lebron... Hiding in the bathroom.

The Cleveland Cavaliers shocked King James and the rest of the NBA by beating the Heat 102-90 at Quicken Loans Arena. The head-scratching Heat loss was foreshadowed when LeBron James missed pregame introductions and the highly-anticipated chorus of Cleveland boos.  

Why? The NBA's biggest star said after the game, "I was just using the restroom. Am I allowed to do that?"

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Great Trade Danny!

Shaq is still not healthy and his return seems to get pushed back further and further, leaving you wondering if he will ever see the court. Jermaine O'Neal is supposedly close to coming back, but lets be real, how much will he really effect the game and how long until he gets hurt again? Kristic has come back down to earth after his honey moon phase and turned into the defensive liability that was expected. The great hyped Troy Murphy has looked horrible every single time he has stepped on the floor and is now hurt with no return date. Celtics do not have one legit healthy center on the team. This was all painfully obvious to see coming when Ainge pulled the trigger on this trade. Other teams are getting more second chance opportunity's then ever and any big man with any type of offensive skill can score at will (Hibbert just dropped 26). Big Baby is not meant to be guarding 7 footers.

As the great GM Danny Ainge said, this trade was also so Pierce could get some rest and give the team more depth. Pierce is avg 34 mpg the month of March, two less minutes a game then February, but also two more minutes then January. Rest does not look like it is in his immediate future either as they keep slipping and now have to fight just to get the 3rd seed in the East. Jeff Green, who I do like a lot and think will be a very good player in the future, does not instantly turn a mediocre second unit into a great one. Besides for the Indiana game in Boston, the second unit has been absolutely terrible, letting every lead the starters get slip away whenever they touch the floor. It is not too often you take a look at the box score and every single starter for one team is positive in +/- and on other side every single starter is negative... and the negative team wins. The best part of all is the biggest reason you can call this team more deep is because West has come back energized and has been playing great, something that would of happened regardless if the trade went through or not.

Imagine for a second the Celtics did not trade Perkins but did the Daniels trade and the Erden and Harangody trade. They would have the same starting five, including Perkins, they have had from 07-08 season and still have 3 open roster spots. They could still go after Arroyo, Pavlovic, Troy Murphy in free agency and give the team the 'great depth' that Ainge insisted the trade gave us. Is it hard to say which team would be in better shape right now?

On the other side OKC is 6-1 since Perkins started playing and the team has not looked better all season.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bold Predictions Pt. I

Last night's NCAA tournament games were a star-studded affair, featuring three of the expected top ten picks in next years' NBA draft as well as a host of other prospects. After watching the games, I have some predictions to make regarding some of the players' NBA futures:

Jimmer Fredette
Jimmer Fredette (BYU): Someone will reach on Fredette and pick him in the middle of the first round or perhaps even late in the lottery. However, he will never flourish in the league and will bounce from team to team as a shooter off the bench. Due to all the attention that he got last night, his BYU teammates were often wide open, but I was not impressed with his passing and floor vision. Also, when pressed by Florida's athletic perimeter defenders, his handle seemed to at times come undone. Combine those two elements and he's not an NBA point. He will also struggle to create his own offensive in the league and his defensive liabilities are quite plain to see.

Derrick Williams
Derrick Williams (AZ): Williams impressed me. The guy can elevate, can shoot the three (shot 25% from deep as a freshman and then 60.3% (!) as a sophomore), and hits the boards. He almost averaged an insane 2 points per shot attempt this year. Guys who shine during the tournament often see their draft statuses rise (see Utah's ridiculous selection of Gordon Hayward last year) and I expect Williams to be drafted in the top 5. In the NBA, Williams will be a good, but not great, player. With his varied offensive game, he'll thrive if he goes to a team where he can play off of teammates that require a defense's attention. His sharp rise in outside shooting this season indicates to me that he works hard on his game, which bodes well for his continued improvement. Williams will have a difficult time on defense, where he's a bit of a tweener. He doesn't have the lateral quickness to hang with NBA 3s on the perimeter or the size (he's 6'8) to defend many 4s. During his career he will make one or two All-Star appearances and will always be considered a solid contributor.

Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving (Duke): He'll be selected #1 in the draft. Irving showed uncommon maturity as a freshman, going to the defending national champions and immediately asserting himself as a leader. He's already a polished shooter (over 50% from the floor, over 90% from the line, 46.2% from three). His assist numbers were quite good early in the season, but tumbled in the tournament after he came back from injury. Irving takes care of the ball and had a solid Ast:TO ratio. From what I have seen and heard, Irving is a very solid defender. The fact that he played in the tourney at all is impressive; he was already pegged to be the top pick and didn't have anything to gain on a personal level. Irving's only negative is that he doesn't have the athleticism of some other recent NBA point guard prospects such as Derrick Rose and John Wall, which may somewhat limit his upside. However, I would venture that he is more NBA ready than either of those players were going into their drafts. The guess here is that Irving is an All-Star within his first four years and is a top-30 NBA player for most of his career. However, he will never reach MVP/superstar level.

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker (UConn): Talk about a guy carrying a team on his back. I'm usually not one for "intangibles," but it's difficult to not be impressed by the way Walker has led this unheralded, young group to the Big East Championship and the Elite 8. His shooting percentages aren't great, but much of that can be attributed to the fact that he has been asked to be UConn's sole creator all season against one Big East team after another. Also, he's still managed to be efficient enough to have a top-10 PER this season. His game has really improved over the years. His jumper has come a long way and he can still get to the hole nearly at will. He's also a solid passer and floor general. Many teams will be scared off by his small size and concern over whether he'll be able to defend the 6-3 points of today's NBA. As with Chris Paul, I think these fears, while real, are overblown. Walker appears to have the lower body strength to keep opposing guards out of the paint. His height will be a liability when closing out on shooters on the perimeter, but his strengths make up for that limitation. He'll be picked in the 8-10 range because of concerns about his size, but will make a few of the teams that pass him over regret their decision.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Take Your Time

If you have even seen one Celtics game in the last two years you have seen this happen.  Inbound to Rondo who casually walks it up the court.  18 seconds on shot clock.  Rondo walks to top of the key and starts directing traffic but no one gets open.  10 second on shot clock.  Rondo waves at whatever big man is closest to him to run up and do a pick and roll. 6 seconds on shot clock.  Rondo runs around the pick, his defender runs under the pick. 3 second on shot clock.  Rondo takes a 20 foot jump shot that doesn't come close to going in.  Other team rebounds the ball and end of possession.  Considering Rondo has shot 32% from 16-23 foot range in the last two months this has to be one of the worst and most inefficient ways of running an offense the Cs can think of.  Every time this sequence starts to happen you can always expect to see Doc Rivers on the side line screaming at the players (Rondo) to speed it up, so it has to make you wonder.  Why is Rondo not listening and why does this happen so frequently?  Whether it is injury, fatigue, or just laziness, it has to stop if C's expect to get banner 18.

The most efficient scorer in the NBA?

Of the players with the twenty highest usage rates in the NBA this season, who has the best true shooting percentage? It's not Kevin Durant or LeBron James (and it definitely isn't Derrick Rose, who isn't even near the top of the TS rankings and whose percentage is worse than Lou Williams'). The answer: Kevin Martin. Martin has a true shooting percentage of 60.5% and the ninth highest usage rate in the league (27.2). Martin's offensive game, full of three pointers and trips to the free throw line, is designed for efficiency. And this year is no outlier--Martin has previous seasons with TS%'s of 61.8% and 61.4%. This season Martin has shown that, even while upping his usage rate to a new career high, he can still keep his TS% above 60.

Is Kevin Martin a superstar? No. His game is pretty one-dimensional. He's nothing special with regard to passing or rebounding and is poor on the defensive end. But teams with smart management like the Rockets realize that if you're going to have a guy whose primary function is putting the ball in the basket, you definitely want him to be efficient at his art.

For comparisons sake, take a look at the players that took over Martin's scoring load in Sacramento. Tyreke Evans: 48.1 TS%, 24.8 usage rate; DeMarcus Cousins: 48% TS, 25.8 usage rate. Unlike Martin, both of these players' rely on volume, rather than efficiency, for their scoring numbers. Unsurprisingly, the Kings come in at 25th in points per possession, whereas the Rockets come in at 7th.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

SHOCKER: Carmelo stops the ball on offense, sucks on defense

I have a question for all the Knicks fans that were salivating over Carmelo Anthony a few weeks ago and are now shocked and in despair over his play. Who did you think that you were getting?

Carmelo is playing one-on-one too often on offense, settling for a lot of contested long jumpers, and isn't trying all that hard on defense. In other words, he's playing the exact same as he has for years. Did Knicks fans really think that coming to the "basketball mecca" was somehow going to transform 'Melo into a guy with a different playing style? Was Mike D'Antoni going to teach him something that George Karl was unable to pass on? Perhaps Knicks fans just never watch teams from the Western Conference and basically only remember watching 'Melo from Syracuse and Team USA.

New Yorkers are panicking because they had unrealistic expectations. Carmelo Anthony does NOT transform the Knicks into a contender. They were not going to make any real noise in the playoffs pre-trade and they are not going to make any real noise now. The sooner Knicks fans come to terms with their new "star's" limitations, the sooner they can come to their senses.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The What If Team

I could be lazy and just say the Blazers (Oden, Walton, Bowie, Roy, etc.), but lets take a look at careers we missed.

Starting PG

Penny not only has some of the best looking basketball shoes there is, he could of been the 2nd best pg of all time outside of Magic Johnson.  He seemed to be 5 seconds ahead on every play, could pass with the best of them, and could get to the basket at will and finish.  Being a 6'7 PG has its advantages.  He had no weakness and it seemed like destiny him and Shaq would be running the NBA for years to come as one of the best C/PG tandem ever.

Starting SG

T-Mac has turned into a contract, a joke, and the guy who couldn't get out of the first round of the playoffs (He finally did, but was on the bench the whole time due to injury).  People are quick to forget 13 points in 33 seconds, or 33 PPG, .457 shooting, 6.5 rpg, and 5.5 apg year.  He did have a chance to shine, but it was short and on talentless teams that were on his back.  I don't think he has or ever had the drive Kobe had, but he is more physically talented and could of been a first ballot hall of famer if injury did not shorten his career.
Starting SF

Before there was Lebron James, there was Grant Hill.  He was the original lead the team in every category possible player.  Of everyone on this list, his potential was the highest.  Although you have to give the man all the credit in the world for staying relevant, playing back to back healthy season, and contributing on a playoff team, his career is not close to what it could of been.  His second year in the league he was averaging 20, 10 rpg, and 7 apg.  In his prime he could attack you from everywhere on the floor regardless where he received the ball and was one of the top passing non-PG ever.  He could of been a top 10-15  player ever. Easily.

Starting PF

McDyess was the definition of a beast.  He is what Shawn Kemp could of been with the right attitude and less wings and alcohol.  McDyess easily would of had a career avg of 20 and 10 and brought the type of toughness to a teams defense that made coming into the paint a scary thing.  He could of been in the 5-10 range of all time PFs in NBA history.

Starting Center

The list of centers is never ending, but Yao still takes this award pretty easily.  You have to wonder what could of been if Yao and McGrady could of both stayed healthy for the Rockets.  Yao was virtually unstoppable on the offensive side when he was aggressive, and was finally beginning to understand the physical nature a big man needs to play with in the NBA.  He could of had countless 25/10 years in NBA and been the center piece for any NBA franchise.  His body was just too big and his legs/feet could not withstand the pounding.

Honorable Mentions:  Drazen Petrovic, Danny Manning, Len Bias, Reggie Lewis, Ralph Sampson

Upset Special

Not long ago, when a team from a mid-major conference won a game in the NCAA tournament it it was a monumental upset. Remember when Valpo beat Mississippi in 1998? CBS loves playing replays of Bryce Drew's game winning shot to this day. That opening-round game arguably has an even larger legacy than the championship game that year, won by a Tubby Smith-led Kentucky team.

Fast-forward to the present. Hardly anyone beats an eyelash when VCU beats down Georgetown and Purdue in consecutive games. And Morehead State's victory over Louisville was fun, but I guarantee that Delmonte Harper's three-pointer won't have the replay value of Drew's shot.

So, what's changed?

The primary difference maker is the fact that big-time schools find it nearly impossible to hang on to stars for more than a year or two. Check out this recent post on Celtics Hub discussing what some top teams would look like if players had not fled for the lottery. According to the poster, Tyreke Evans, last year's NBA rookie of the year, would have only been a Third Team All American this year. For better or worse, top players primarily view college as a way to maximize their draft position. Once they are assured of being a first-round pick (and sometimes before that's the case), they're gone. Many top-seeds, such as Kentucky last year and Ohio State this year, are led by freshmen that everyone knows are one-and-done. Meanwhile, mid-majors have senior-laden squads of full grown men that know how to play together.

A secondary cause is that success for mid-major teams begets success. As mid-majors began to win more games in the tournament, they got more TV time. Players began to get more name recognition. Stars saw their draft prospects improve. Going to a mid-major no longer meant that your dream of being featured on ESPN or of playing in the NBA was over. As a result, coaches like Mark Few have been able to recruit players that a mid-major wouldn't even have dreamed of not long ago.

Perception has been a bit slow to catch up with reality. When the playing field began to level out, people were still shocked by each years' "upsets." But over time, Gonzaga's tournament runs became less and less surprising. And after George Mason broke into the Final Four, it was clear that mid-majors could hang with anyone. Butler nearly made the ultimate breakthrough last year. While Gordon Heyward's half-court shot rimmed out, it is only a matter of time before a team from a mid-major conference wins the whole shindig--perhaps even this year with two teams, San Diego State and BYU, ranked in the top-10 for much of the season (again, that never ever could have happened ten years ago) still being alive.

Unless David Stern is somehow able to do the impossible and force players to stay in school for more years, parity in college basketball is here to stay. Is that a good thing? I'll leave that discussion for another day.

Monday, March 21, 2011

See You in Court

I wonder if Bill Spooner knows what type of doors he is opening.  Spooner, a 22-year veteran NBA official, is suing Minnesota Timberwolves beat reporter Jon Krawczynski for tweeting during a game that Spooner promised coach Kurt Rambis that he'd get the Wolves two points in the form of a make-up call.  Refs get bashed all time by reporters, announcers, coaches, players, and fans.  This happens in every sport.  You have to feel bad for the refs, they never even get pats on the backs for doing a good job from fans but will receive plenty of death threats if they do a bad job.  Suing a reporter is one of the worst ideas of lashing back for a ref and I am sure the leader of the unfree world, David Stern, is not happy about this.  This lawsuit will allow reporters/lawyers to bring horrible (Not to hard to find) after horrible calls made by Spooner, or any official in NBA, and have him explain in open court the reason for the calls.  It is also impossible for Spooner to prove that Krawczynski, the reporter who tweeted it, did not hear what he said he heard.  The NBA and Spooner put themselves in a lose/lose situation while Krawczynski has probably never been happier and will have a chance to question the integrity of the horrible officiating in the NBA and finally get a response.  I can not not wait to see explanation for calls like this.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Celtic Play of the Game

 Every single time Delonte has played this season coming off long inactive stretches you expect some rust, but he never seems to miss a beat.  Must be all those push ups.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why Rose still IS MVP


This is why we can not depend 100% on stats. To look at unadjusted defensive rating you have to understand the Bulls. Derrick Rose is 12th in the league in minutes played and anytime he steps off the court it is Bulls' 2nd unit vs. another team's 2nd unit. Bulls have a great defensive 2nd unit with Brewer, Gibson, Kurt Thomas, CJ Watson,  and Deng (4th in league in mpg) usually sticking around. This unit can understandingly usually man handle any other team's second unit defensively. Boozer, Noah, and Bogans all are on the wrong side of 0 in this stat as well. Deng is the only one on the negative side (the lower the number the better) from the group of five starters, and he regularly gets burn with the 2nd unit because of lack of depth at wing.  Every single person on the 2nd unit is on the negative side except Kyle Korver, one of the worst defenders in the league.  And even Korver manages to have better +/- then all of the other starters besides Deng.

Rose is also 5th best in unadjusted offensive +/- rating in the entire NBA. He is still the only play maker on the Bulls, now number one in Eastern Conference, and creates almost all of their offense.  When Rose has scored 18 points or less this season Bulls are 8-5, when he has gone over that mark they are 40-13.  You can also take a look at the Bulls adjusted +/- rating to get an idea of how much he matters,  Rose's rating is + 9.08.  Besides him only Asik (plays 12 minutes a game) has a rating better then 1.  Without Rose the Bulls might be slightly better defensively but could not come close to keeping up with anybody offensively.  Rose is still MVP of the league.

side note: If there is anybody else who should have a chance, it should be Dwight Howard and not Lebron James

More on why Derrick Rose is not the MVP

A few weeks ago my brother and I had a disagreement over the league's mid-season MVP. He said the award should go to Derrick Rose and I said LeBron was more deserving.

The Bulls have played well since that time, but my opinion has not changed. Why? Because, as Justin Kubato states in a recent post on the New York Times Off the Dribble Blog, "while the Bulls have improved on both ends of the floor, it is mainly their improvement on the defensive end that has them in the hunt for the top seed in the Eastern Conference... [The Bulls] are on pace to become just the fourth team in the last 25 years to lead the N.B.A. in defensive rating one season after finishing outside the top ten in the same category." Meanwhile, a little bit of digging shows that Derrick Rose has the 6th worst unadjusted defensive +/- rating in the entire NBA this season. What do these numbers tell us? That it's too bad the MVP can't be awarded to Tim Thibodeau.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fountain of Youth

When is the last time anybody has seen Pierce throwing dunks down like this??

ESPN The "Ocho": Overreactions in the 24/7 Sports News Era

A week ago, the media outcry would have had you believe that the Miami Heat's season was in tatters. Players were crying after games (everyone assumed "players" referred to Chris Bosh), were demanding to get more touches (everyone knew this was Chris Bosh), and were losing games. Of course, the Heat have since beaten the Lakers and blew the Spurs off the floor. Now, the same members of the media that less than 10 days ago were saying the Heat should be looking toward next year are saying they are favorites to win the Eastern Conference.

Stop the madness! During a 82 game regular season, every team (save for rare examples such as the '95-'96 Bulls) will go through ups and downs. Before ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, and ESPN The "Ocho", there was less of a tendency to overreact to each and every hot and cold streak. But now commentators need something new to talk about each day on PTI, Around the Horn and And hardly anyone wants to hear about things such as how a team is improving their reaction to the pick and roll or is changing their substitution patterns. So instead, in an effort to cater to a low-brow audience, the media resorts to over-reacting to the results of each game. The Heat add LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Dwayne Wade--they're the best team of all time! The Heat start out the season slowly--they're complete failures! The Heat start winning games--they're great! The Heat lose a bunch in a games in a row--they suck! They beat the Lakers and Spurs--championship time! (Another case in point of overreaction to small sample size is when Bill Simmons claimed during last year's playoffs that Rajon Rondo was the best point guard in the NBA. Rondo then went on to be the Celtics achilles heel during the Finals, with Kobe ignored him on the perimeter and played free safety.)

The Heat are still the same team today that they were a week ago--a flawed championship contender. They have one transcendent player, one great player, one good player, and a bunch of players that range from mediocre to terrible. They have the best point differential in the league (+7.2) but have had a tendency to falter against good teams in crunch time with LeBron bombing unwarranted threes and Wade offering unwarranted help defense. From here on out, lets try to pay attention to their whole body of work and evaluate them accordingly, and leave alone the knee-jerk reactions to every new streak.

Why Do the Refs Hate Boston?

 I have been saying for years the Celtics get the least calls of any good team I have ever seen.  It is hard to argue because unless people watch the games they will just assume you are a huge homer who thinks every call should go his teams way.

Lets take a look at numbers though. Celtics are tied for 23rd in the league in "Free Throws Attempted per a Game Differential" at -2.  That means in the average game they take 2 less shots from the line then the opposition.  It may not seem like a lot but that ends up being 164 less free throws attempted over a season.  While you do have take into consideration the playing styles of a team and players like Durant or Dwight Howard will get you many trips to the line, there is no way Celtics should be this low.  The top five teams in differential are Denver (Mello played there most of the season), Lakers, OKC, SA, and MIA.  See a trend?  Of all the teams who have differential of -1 or better 15 of them having winning records and 4 of them have losing.  Of teams with differential of -1 or worse 9 have losing records and only the Celtics have a winning record.  Whatever Paul Peirce did to the refs it is time they forgive him.

C's worst enemy

Celtic's have to be happy they don't have any back to backs in the playoffs.  After killing the Bucks and holding them to 56 points for the entire game, letting the starters rest, getting Big Baby back, and only having to travel to NJ you would think they might be able to switch the script.. Guess not.  They are 2-6 for the season on back to backs on the road with losses to Cleveland, Washington, Charlotte, and New Jersey.  They still have 5 back to back  road games left and are currently tied with Chicago for first place in the East.  Lets see if they can do a little better the rest of the season and keep that number one seed.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A rare feat?

While perusing the box score from the Celtics smackdown of the Bucks this afternoon, I noticed that every single Celtic that entered the game had a positive +/- and every Buck that got on the floor had a negative +/-. Damn. I can't imagine that occurs very often.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

David Stern's Contradiction

When is the last time you have seen a Tim Duncan NBA Commercial?  When is the last time you have seen NBA advertise the Spurs/Lakers rivalry?.. I can wait.  Intensity and emotion sells in the NBA and David Stern knows this, but he is still set in his ways of turning this into a game of robots while selling to the fans the emotional play. "Dunk of The Night" yesterday was Pierce's dunk on Frye in which he stared him down immediately after the dunk.  Pierce staring is what made this dunk so much better and probably what turned this dunk into "Dunk of The Night".

What you can not see is that Pierce got a tech for this.  Tommy Heinsohn, one of the biggest homers on TV, pointed out over the 100 replays they showed that Pierce did not say one single word to Frye after the dunk.  Not only is this ridiculous to give a tech for showing some emotion after a dunk, it is a complete contradiction to show this as "Dunk of the Night" a couple hours later.  This is the exact same as NFL fining James Harrison 75k for a hard hit and then trying to sell the photo of the exact same hit on their website.  You can not advertise and make money off of something and at the same time fine players for doing it.  I know the NBA is still trying to get their image as far away from the infamous Palace Brawl, but it is time to stop being scared of what you are.  The NBA became popular again off of emotional and physical rivalry's like 80s Bos-LA, early 90s Chi-Det, late 90's Chi-Jazz, and even late 90s NY-Mia.  NBA needs to finally embraces this and stop penalizing players for doing the exact thing that makes the NBA popular.  How great would the NBA be if players could still do this?

While NBA will without a doubt be playing that on an official NBA commercial the next day, you will be getting a tech immediately following and turning a great play into a 1 point possession.  If you don't believe me ask Baron Davis who had one of best dunks of all time, got teched, and proceeded to see the same dunk and reaction over and over on NBA "Where Amazing Happens" commercials.

Does Dwight Howard have the drive to be a champion?

I usually don't buy into the notion that some top player doesn't have the right killer instinct or the will to get to the top. Just because someone scowls a lot doesn't mean anything. So when people bring up Dwight Howard's smiling as a reason for why he hasn't won a championship, I think it's pretty absurd. Dwight Howard hasn't won a championship because his surrounding cast has never been anything special and because, until this year, the development of his offensive game had largely stagnated since his first few years in the league.

However, I'm not sure what to make of Howard's recent explanation that "Orlando is the most attractive place for me right now" because "they have been in the top four in the Eastern conference for the past four years." Howard also mentions the Magic's "sexy new arena" and "beautiful franchise." Now, I don't want to make too much of this statement and also don't know the tone in which it was made. But can anyone imagine Kevin Garnett saying he decided to go to Boston because of the wonderful opportunity to have home court advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs?

Stay Classy Phoenix

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

No Place Like Home

Getting a high seed, and therefore home court, is more important to Chicago right now than to any other top team in the NBA. The Bulls' away record so far this year is 15-13 and when playing on the road they are 0-5 vs. top contenders (C's, SA, OKC, Mia, Orl, and LA). Their home record is 2nd best in the league at 26-4 and they are 7-1 in Chicago against those same top teams. They are a young, and now healthy, team that can beat anybody in the NBA at home. The last 24 games for them should be a race to move past Miami and get at least the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference and home court advantage until the EC Finals. Right now they and Miami are tied in the loss column with 17 and Miami has two more victories than the Bulls. Both teams have difficult upcoming schedules. Chicago has 13 road games (next three games @Atl, @Orl, @Mia) out of their 24 games left and has 14 games left against playoff teams. Miami, who has struggled all year against top teams, has 13 games of their final 22 games vs. playoffs teams including a real rough stretch with 11 of their next 12 against playoffs teams. This should be a good race to finish the season and I'm betting it will be the deciding factor on whether Chicago or Miami will make it to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Buyoutees--Mike Bibby and Troy Murphy

Mike Bibby and Troy Murphy will both soon have new homes. Word is that the Celtics and Heat are pursuing both players, with Bibby having already chosen Miami and with Murphy still weighing his options, but leaning towards Boston. The question is, how much will with either player help during the stretch run and the playoffs?

Mike Bibby is a very old 32. He plays like he's 38. He is unable to stay in front of his man on defense. Since he's left Atlanta, the Hawks defense has improved, with Josh Smith and Al Horford making clear that they don't miss having to cover up for Bibby's deficiencies. Also, Bibby has never been a great passer for a point, having averaged over 7 assists just once in his career. Moreover, he no longer is able to get to the hole. So, what can he do? Shoot open three pointers. This year he's shooting 44% from long range, a career high. Is that percentage sustainable? Perhaps not, but his career rate of 38% isn't too shabby either.

The guess here is that Bibby goes to Miami, since he'll be promised a much bigger role there. But I really don't know how much of an improvement he'll be over Mario Chalmers and Carlos Arroyo. He can shoot a bit better than the Heat's not particularly impressive duo, but Chalmers in particular is a better defender than Bibby. And the Heat don't have a presence in the paint that can force misses at the rim when an opposing player blows by Bibby on the perimeter. Instead, Dwayne Wade will probably continue his overhelping, leaving his man alone at the three point line. So, yes, Bibby will probably go to Miami, and in the process may bump Arroyo out of the rotation, but I don't think it makes much of a difference. And I don't see Bibby cracking the Heat's crunch-time rotation.

Troy Murphy can do two things well--shoot and rebound. Like Bibby, he is a sieve on the defensive end. On Miami, Murphy is another of a string of big bodies with deficiencies that Spoelstra can experiment with in an effort to settle on a rotation. If Murphy goes to Boston, he would be a laughable replacement for Kendrick Perkins' post defense. However, the Celtics real problem may be on the boards. Glenn Davis is not a good rebounder. In many of the games when he plays 30-35 mins, the Celtics get pounded on the boards. I'm glad the Celtics are shifting Jeff Green from the 4 to the 3, because he is also not a strong rebounder. Who knows when Shaq will really be healthy and whether, when he is able to get on the floor, he can play more than 20 minutes a game. If the Celtics can hide Murphy on a poor offensive player, he should be able to crash the boards while minimizing the harm from his bad defense. And his shooting will help space the floor. But like Bibby, I don't think Murphy sees the floor during the last five minutes of the fourth quarter, unless Rivers is making offense/defense substitutions. The Celtics can't risk the possibility of open looks after Murphy is MIA on a rotation.

So the final verdict? Murphy and Bibby will be much hyped signees, but neither will make a difference in the playoffs.