Friday, February 25, 2011

Well, I need a cigarette.

That was one of the more furious NBA trading deadlines I've seen. Superstars Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams dealt to the Eastern Conference immediately following the NBA All-Star break. Celtics big man Kendrick Perkins dealt to Oklahoma City in a deadline day shocker. Portland adds Bobcats small forward Gerald Wallace. Houston deals Shane Battier and Aaron Brooks. All while the East's not-so-sleeper Chicago Bulls stand pat and drop the Heat on Thursday night.

Left scratching your head? We'll help . . .

The team that did the most this week has to be the New Jersey Nets and owner Mikhail Prokhorov. If in fact it was the Nets final offer to Denver in a last ditch attempt to acquire All-Star Carmelo Anthony, which in turn forced the Knicks to make an offer Denver couldn't refuse, Prokhorov successfully drove the price up on the Knickerbockers. Even Knicks team president Donnie Walsh has to know that giving up Ray Felton, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, along with a first-rounder and cash, may have been way more than they thought it would take to acquire Anthony. Did the Knicks think Prokhorov was going to steal 'Melo if the reached free agency? Then, just as the new-look Knicks were making their debut, Nets GM Billy King moves rookie Derrick Favors, veteran guard Devin Harris, draft picks and cash to Utah in exchange for one of the leagues premier point guards in Deron Williams. With more than a season to prove to Williams that he will be the face of the Brooklyn Nets, prior to hitting free-agency in 2012, the Nets are off and running.

[I retract all of the following if the Knicks win a title by 2015.] I can't say I know exactly what the Knicks are planning here. So yes, I'm betting against James Dolan and Isiah Thomas. As I wrote earlier this week, no matter what Donnie Walsh says in the press, this wasn't the deal he wanted. The Knicks could have held off on Carmelo till the summer, because he wanted New York not East Rutherford. Wasn't trading draft picks and dealing away quality pieces, and over paying what got the Knicks into problems under the Isiah regime? All of my questions on Amare's health haven't been answered just because he's been healthy in 2010-2011. The Knicks summer 2010 splash has only played in 56 or more games in five of his eight years in the league, and you don't get healthier as you get older. If they find a way to bring in the Chris Paul in another year, then that changes the game, but overpaying for Carmelo Anthony just didn't seem as necessary at this point with all they gave up to do so.

As for the Boston Celtics, I really don't know. On the one hand, Kendrick Perkins was probably going to cost the Celtics more than they wanted to pay him. With his knees issues raising major concerns in the front office, this shouldn't be as big of a surprise. The C's were 33-10 while Perkins recovered from knee surgery much of the first half of this season, (0-1 in Game 7), and Celtics GM Danny Ainge has to think long-term with the Celtics at some point. You know the ages of Boston's three veteran all-stars which has to play a factor here. We as fans aren't concerned about 2012,2013, or 2014, yet Ainge still has to be. Let's face it folks, who the Celtics got in return, Oklahoma City's Jeff Green, well he's a good player. The C's get a young guy who can give Paul Pierce rest he needs. The Celtics last time out against the Miami Heat, Pierce was dog tired covering LeBron James and useless on the offensive end. Judging by the other smaller moves Boston made, moving rookie Luke Harangody, Semih Erden, and Marquis Daniels, the Celtics are prepared to add a buy-out player any day now. It's a gamble for Ainge and the Celtics, considering how well Perkins fit in this starting five, but as Ainge did in 2007, maybe this was the best move to improve their roster.

The most interesting sidenote had to be the Heat vs. Bulls game on Thursday night. As the trade deadline approached, both teams holding still, the Bulls roared to a statement making victory over Miami. Several things became much more clear to me in the Miami loss than they had been all season: (1) No team in the Eastern Conference is rolling over because of what Miami did this offseason, in fact they've become more hungry than ever. Teams like Boston & Chicago play up to Miami even in the regular season. (2) Did the Bulls become the strongest post All-Star break? With Noah returning from injury and enough time to get it together before the postseason, they might just have. (3) No matter how many times Kobe Bryant wills his Western Conference All-Stars to a win and an All-Star game MVP award, he's still only one of ten players on the court giving an effort.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Just Play Ball

There is little doubt Utah Jazz all-star point guard Deron Williams is 1A or 1B at his position. Averaging 17+ points and 9 assists-per-game over his six-year career, Deron Williams is making Jazz fans forget about Hall of Fame court general John Stockton very quick.

At 26-years old, embattled Nuggets superstar Carmelo Anthony is one of the league's most dynastic talents. The 6'8" small forward scoring machine who is good on the glass as well, has become the most talked about player in the league over the last three months.

That aside, these two Western Conference all-stars have managed to do what I'd thought was impossible just months ago: Put a dent in the Anti-LeBron sentiment running through The Association.

What reasons does Deron Williams have to be upset about with his situation in Utah? Till a couple weeks ago, Williams was being coached by a Hall of Famer, not the likes of Mike Brown. Till this summer, Williams had a running mate in Carlos Boozer who was putting up 20/10 a night, as oppose to guys like Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes, and Anderson Varejao. What is wrong with playing for a franchise which was contending for titles before him, has shown the ability to stay relevant over the past 15 years, and has fans as rabid for hoops as their religion? However, all of that doesn't seem to be good enough for the 26-year old guard who is now throwing his name into the Tri-State hoops reorganization. Deron Williams isn't playing in the sports dungeon of Cleveland, and as far as I'm concerned has a pretty good thing going on in Utah. So what's the problem D-Will? The Jazz went out and got Al Jefferson, a 26-year old replacement for Boozer's production, who hasn't missed a game this season and is pulling down almost 10 boards a game. Deron's got no reason to be upset about playing for an organization like the Jazz, it's about time he just let his play do the talking and we'll talk about 2012 (when he can become a free agent) when it gets here.

Let's get after Carmelo Anthony. Hope you're happy now. As of 10:45 PM on Monday night; Carmelo is a Knick. Hold on though, just one second. . . What's the draw? O.K. I get it, played his 1 season of college ball in upstate New York, from The Big Apple, but what's the end result here? LeBron, Dwyane, & Bosh are just going to get even better. The Celtics have been more than obvious that they intend to contend every season, and that ownership group is committed to winning. But the Knicks? If James Dolan owned the Timberwolves, would Amare & Carmelo ever have thought about Minnesota? So he brings in Donnie Walsh, all due respect but has Donnie Walsh ever put together a championship team? To make things worse, Dolan still employs Isiah Thomas, the same man responsible for embarrassing the franchise on a number of occasions. Mike D'Antoni? His teams still don't play defense and you know what those men in Boston do best? You guessed it. I hope Melo knows what he is getting into, only way I see this working out is if Walsh, Thomas, Dolan, and D'Antoni can somehow lure in a top notch guard in the next two seasons.

Bottom line here, 'Melo & D-Will need to stop talking and step-up, like Rose is doing with injuries in Chicago, and Rondo did by defending LeBron, it's time these two players get to it!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

All Roses

As season 3 of NBC's hit comedy The Office kicked off in the fall of 2006, we saw it coming. New addition to the cast Ed Helms was a certifiable superstar. With Stamford office co-worker Andy Bernard, Helms gave the show yet another hilarious funnyman and a reason for viewers to continue to come back week-after-week. Just over two-years later, Helms was pulling his teeth out of his head and marrying strippers in the box office mega-hit, The Hangover. Why does this matter on a sports blog? It's the best career comparison I could think of to describe what we're witnessing this season with Chicago Bulls super-guard Derrick Rose. From 2008, a year in which Rose appeared in the NCAA National Championship game, w0n NBA Rookie of The Year honors, and battled in an epic 7-game playoff series with the Boston Celtics, to his now sudden rise to NBA MVP candidate in 2011, Rose stock is selling at an all-time high.

No team is heading into the All-Star break playing with as much confidence as Derrick Rose's Chicago Bulls. On the heels of a 10-point home thrashing of the NBA's best San Antonio Spurs, Rose and the Bulls have more than playoffs on their mind. In their 109-99 victory over the Spurs, the Bulls All-Star guard went off for 42-points, eight assists, and five rebounds. With Rose amongst the top-ten in both scoring and assists, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the Bulls have dropped the Celtics, Heat, Mavericks, Magic, and Spurs all since the first of the year. At 25-4 in Chicago, they boast the Eastern Conference's best home record, for that the Chicago faithful made Rose the Bulls first All-Star game starter since MJ.

Averaging career highs in nearly every statistical category, Derrick Rose is for sure front running the MVP race this season. Even more to his credit, prize off-season acquisition Carlos Boozer has missed 18-games this season due to injury along with center Joakim Noah who has missed 30, including that 10-point win against San Antonio. With Boozer back and playing well, and Noah expected back from injury soon after the break, how much better will Rose have these Bulls playing? How much upside to these Bulls have ahead of them? If the Bulls can continue their great play against the NBA's best, the Celtics and Heat better take notice if they haven't already. Derrick Rose is an MVP and the Chicago Bulls are for real!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

How Does This Play Out?

A banged-up Paul Pierce (right hand, left ankle) shooting 0-10 from the floor. Playing without injured 'big-men' off the bench, Shaquille O'Neal (right leg) and Semih Erden (right groin). Still, the Boston Celtics find a way to beat the now 39-15 Heat for the third time this season on Sunday afternoon, 85-82.

How? Well, it's that Championship Pedigree that continues to push these Celtics. The 16-points and clutch free throws off the bench from forward Glen Davis. The triple-double from guard Rajon Rondo, making up for the play of ailing fellow starter Paul Pierce. 15-point (season high)Center Kendrick Perkins performance, taking full advantage of the Heat playing without the injured Udonis Haslem. Snapping Miami's 8-game win streak, beating LeBron for the fifth time in his last seven games against them, reminding everyone who holds court till you take it away, those are the moments the near 40-win Celtics show up, regardless of who's injured. At 39-14, the best in the Eastern Conference, a 24-5 home record, allowing the fewest points per game in the entire league, how will the 10'-11' season play out, the fourth year of their current dominating run?

To get where you're going, you've got to know where you've been . . .

'07-'08 NBA Finals [defeated Los Angeles 4-2]

08'-'09 Conference Semifinals [loss to Orlando 3-4]

09'-10' NBA Finals [loss to Los Angeles 3-4]

Why this ends in an another title!

There is a new captain of this ship, Rajon Rondo turned the page in '10-'11. The Future, The Clinic, The Game. Call him what you will, I'll refer to him as Banner 18. As his team grows older around him, Rondo seems to become stronger allowing his game to flourish. His third quarter defensive stand against LeBron James who had more than eighty pounds and seven inches on the Celtic point guard may not have been effective in a coaches eyes, but the intangible effect? The packed to the rafters Celtic faithful roared on each possession. The Heat turned confused, frustrated, even angry. The veteran Celtic roster came alive. Rondo, on his own, began to filter into LeBron's head every trip down the court, pestering him by nearly jumping in his pocket. Think LeBron, Wade or anyone in this league could intimidate Rondo at this point? He's gone toe-to-toe with Derrick Rose two years ago, and I'm going to just come out and say it, he's the best passer in the NBA.

Put Rondo & a healthy supporting class in the postseason, and the Eastern Conference better watch out. Follow Lynchy on Twitter!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Believe It

Lately, it seems like every Sunday afternoon we're getting a blockbuster showcase from the NBA. This Sunday afternoon? The Miami Heat head to Boston. With the Heat beginning to really flex their muscles, let's take a quick look back . . .

When they fell to the defending Eastern Conference Champs on opening night 80-88, we smirked. When they were an unimpressive 9-8 after 17 games, we chuckled. As the cracks became gaping, rumours began swirling, from the firing of head coach Eric Spoelstra to the possibility of trading prized free agent power forward Chris Bosh, we out and out started laughing. LeBron, Pat Riley, Dwyane Wade, the Miami Heat, it was all blowing up, overreactions were spilling over everywhere. On November 27th in Dallas, the Miami Heat lost their eighth game and fourth in their last five. They'd been outscored in the third quarter against the Mavericks to the tune of 31-17. LeBron James had a forgettable night going just 5 of 19 from the floor, Miami turned the ball over 14 times, and their lack of interior size was exposed as Maverick center Tyson Chandler poured in 14 points while pulling down 17 boards. What happened to the team that was supposed to challenge Jordan's 72-win Chicago Bulls team of 95'-96'? Had LeBron & Wade orchestrated this all wrong? Did they leave themselves no outs? Had their contracts while fitting for their 'Big 3' made it impossible to add pieces that would win you a title? To the viewing public, Public Enemy #1 was getting what they had coming to them.

Spin that clock forward to February 13th, an hour before tip-off against those very same defending Eastern Conference Champs, the Miami Heat are absolutely not the team that opened looking very average. Opening just 9-8, LeBron James and the Heat have ripped off win streaks of twelve games, nine games, and have currently won their last eight. Since November the 27th, the Miami Heat that looked to be a gross miscalculation of talent, have transformed into a team that has gone 30-6 since that loss in Dallas. James and Wade are amongst the top five in scoring, the team is allowing just 94.1 ppg which is good for fifth in the league, and with a win in Boston this afternoon, guess who will be the frontrunners in the Eastern Conference? The Miami Heat. Watching his former team lose a record setting 28-straight, a season after winning 61-games with him, did you actually think the Heat would be dead in the water with LeBron James leading the way? Who is still laughing? The Heat are not only the most likely to dethrone the Boston Celtics, they're doing it with everyone who was laughing, now shaking. A banged up Celtics club, getting a Miami team coming in strong, you guess what will be front and center tomorrow morning? Believe it.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

To The Biggest Of Dances We Go

Two rabid fanbases, two prolific quarterbacks, defenses lead by future hall of famers, in the Lonestar State, if we're getting locked out this coming Fall, what better way to end this season? With hours remaining before kickoff, let's empty the proverbial Super Bowl clip . . .

(scroll to the bottom for Super Bowl pick 'em)

Get After It!

The Weather of Super Bowl Week(s) Hey! People covering the game from North Texas - THE GAME IS IN INDOORS! Not a single person in the U.S. feels bad that an ice storm slammed Fort Worth the week leading up to the Super Bowl. Roofs are collapsing all over the Northeast corridor and it baffles me that we've seen 200 reports about the weather this week in Dallas. Of course there is no budget in those cities for snow removal, it never happens! You should have packed gloves, when you get home you're back in it! As for that Super Bowl scheduled in New York for 2014, good luck! Miami, New Orleans, & Arizona are the only three sites which should ever host a Super Bowl, 'nuff said!

Sounding off on Big Ben. Ever since the Steeler quarterback rode his motorcycle without a helmet back in 2006, subsequently bouncing his skull off the trunk of a Chrysler, I knew the youngest quarterback to lead a team to a Super Bowl win was missing something in the good judgement department. Another Super Bowl victory and two sexual assault allegations later, my call on Roethlisberger remains slightly the same; Future HOF'er - still a creep. They'll be no rooting for ole' Big Ben in this corner tonight. They'll be no cheering for his comeback and calls for a second chance over here. Maybe Roethlisberger did get scared straight, and maybe he did find 'Jesus.' Seeing his career flash before his eyes while being suspended for the first four games of this season, sure I guess it's possible he'll be a better person going forward. However, I'll refrain from making that personality call for at the very least a few more years of better off-the field behavior. Again, he's one of three quarterbacks I'd want under center on this stage, doesn't change what he really is.

The 'other' quarterback. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has an opportunity to place himself in THAT category. Ring rocking quarterbacks Brady, Brees, the Mannings, and Roethlisberger, winners of eight of the last nine Super Bowls. Since the preseason, everyone from coast to coast suspected after his 4,400 yard passing and 30 touchdown season a year ago, Rodgers was ready to take this next step and lead the Packers to the Super Bowl. Back healthy from two concussions earlier this season, Rodgers entered the postseason with a path that would surely lead to three straight road games to reach North Texas. Winners in Philadelphia, Atlanta, and finally in Chicago, Rodgers is playoff tested. In this years playoffs, Rodgers has thrown for close to 800 yards, six touchdowns, while completing 66 passes. As a card carrying member of the visceral 'Favre hate' club, I feel very strongly when I say it, a Super Bowl win not only puts Rodgers ahead of the Packer legend, and his game will prove it. For the 23 teams that passed on the California quarterback in 2005, you're in for a tough night if Rodgers ends up hoisting the Lombardi trophy.

The Steeler X-factor. They've defined championship pedigree over a decade. They've got a quarterback who above all knows how to win at the highest level. They've got the reigning NFL Defensive MVP roaming the secondary and a dominating slew of linebackers. Yet tonight, it's their offensive line who must come to play, in particular 13-year veteran tackle Flozell Adams & backup center Doug Legursky. Adams has the unfortunate responsibility of battling blitzing linebacker Clay Matthews and the 2009 Defensive NFL MVP, cornerback Charles Woodson. 'The Hotel' will have to be on his game if the Steelers plan on rushing the ball and protecting Big Ben. If Matthews can steal the edge from Flozell, expect it to be a long night in Pittsburgh. As far as Legursky goes, he's had just a couple weeks to prepare for B.J. Raji, the Packer monsterous nose tackle and defensive tackle Ryan Pickett as well. Due to the injury of rookie center Maurkice Pouncey, the Steelers have had to patchwork their offensive line which can't be good for running back Rashard Mendenhall and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

The Packer X-Factor. Charles Woodson. Tramon Williams. Sam Shields. Charlie Peprah. Nick Collins. Atari Bigby. Otherwise known as the Green Bay secondary. Led by Woodson, the Packers secondary is going to have to work hard in this game and stay home while Roethlisberger buys time in the pocket trying to extend plays with his young receivers flying around. From Tramon Williams and his six interceptions during the regular season to Nick Collins and his seventy tackles at the safety position, the Packer secondary is littered with speed and guys who know where to be in Dom Capers defense. A defense that puts pressure on the quarterback is going to have to adjust in the secondary due to the plays becoming more jailbreak like for the Steeler offense as Ben trys to make those plays he's become famous for, an escape artist in his own right. If he can take advantage of the young kids like Sam Shields, the Packers will be on defense for a long time.

Pick 'Em: Here I go. I'm a big believer of a couple of things, and karma is one of them. I didn't see the Saints winning the Super Bowl last year, I didn't see Ben winning another one in '08, and I didn't see the Patriots missing 19-0 the year before. So I'm changing some things up here and going all positive on this one. Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy deserve a Super Bowl win on their resume right now, before they begin to labor for one. Charles Woodson is one of the games greatest talents of all-time, and he too should get that ring. I can't fathom a world in which people compare Tom Brady and his record breaking numbers to the likes of Ben Roethlisberger. Not a person on this planet actually looks at the Steelers recent run as a dynasty, the play of Peyton Manning and that of the New England Patriots dominates all over the past ten years, like it or not people of Pittsburgh. This game is going down to the wire, and given my poor performance in postseason picks, you can go the other way if you'd like. Packers -3

For fun: 'The Props'

Charles Woodson wins the MVP at +1500 Two INT's

MVP thanks 'God' first at +175 Easy money.

Thanks for reading all year long!