Posted by briesen on 24th July 2012
On June, 11–a day before Team USA’s first exhibition game against the Dominican Republic–Kobe Bryant claimed that his currently constructed team could take down the original 1992 Dream Team. Two weeks later this claim has changed from laughable to absurd.
While Team USA still remains the heavy favorite, there is also no way to deny that there are weaknesses. There is really only one true center on the team, Tyson Chandler, and he is offensively challenged to say the least. Because of this offensive ineptness, Chandler has only averaged 14 minutes through the first four games. Team USA’s strategy seems to be to go small with Kevin Durant, Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony handling the big man duties. While this has helped Team USA’s offense, their rebounding has suffered. Through four games Team USA has grabbed 161 rebounds, their opponents have grabbed 160. They’ve been out rebounded by both Great Britain and Brazil and were only +3 in rebounds in a six point win over the 3rd ranked team in the world, Argentina.
However, what makes Team USA the heavy favorites is the fact that they win nearly every other category. By going small, everyone on the court can both handle and pressure the ball. They’ve averaged just 11 turnovers per game while forcing 22.
Later today, Team USA faces their toughest challenge when they play Spain, the 2nd ranked team in the world. Spain can put more quality big men on the court then any team including Team USA. Their front line is anchored by Pau and Marc Gasol, both of whom are better then any big man on Team USA. They have NBA leading shot blocker Serge Ibaka coming off the bench. For Team USA to win, they’ll have to find a way to minimize Spain’s low-post advantage which likely means more minutes for Chandler. Whether they can win this way is yet to be seen.
Team USA needs to stop worrying about being better then a team that played 20 years ago and start worrying about how they can beat the team they’re playing later today.
Tags: Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, NBA, Team USA
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Posted by thethreelions on 28th June 2012
In 2007 both Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined forces with Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics, and what seemed to be a simple move to make their team stronger, the Celtics dramatically changed the NBA. The Boston Celtics had arguably created the best starting line-up in the NBA, since the 1998 Bulls (remember this includes Rondo and Perkins) and the way they did it was like never before.
Most teams before had one or two strong players, and one of these was generally because one was drafted into the mix, like that of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Lebron James in Cleveland, but now a team was able to create its own all-star team, and they made it look easy. The Boston Celtics went on to win the NBA title that year, and while they didn’t create any sort of legendary dynasty, like the Bulls in the 1990’s, they helped change the way teams went about creating their rosters.
Today we see teams like the Heat with Dwayne wade, Lebron James, and Chris Bosh, a line-up that is 3/5 the way to an eastern Conference All-Star game, and one that if I mentioned seven years ago, people would of laughed. As the 2012 NBA Draft nears we see more an more teams then ever before making moves and trades in hope to build their very own “super-team”, whether it be the Nets trying to lure Dwight Howard along side Deron Williams, or the Knicks trying to get Steve Nash to an already failed attempt as a super team.
There is suddenly this perspective that the only way to win an NBA Championship is to create their very own All-Star team, which I feel in a lot of ways kind of ruins the NBA, its now like the ideas of role players is a distant memory from the past, and realistically there are only a select few teams with that kind of money to create these teams. Its no longer about a players skill and a teams chemistry like the past, its about what great players you can hopefully throw together and hope for the best. I don’t even know what the need for a coach is for teams like the Heat, because their isn’t much strategy in “give Lebron the ball”, and if he isn’t open, “give it to Wade”.
Tags: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Chris Bosh, Cleaveland Cavaliers, Deron Williams, Dwayne Wade, dwight howard, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Miami Heat, Michael Jordan, NBA, New Jersey Nets, paul pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen
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Posted by briesen on 19th June 2012
I got into a debate with a friend the other day. It was on a subject I and everyone else has debated about too much: is Lebron James a clutch NBA player? The media and fans seem to think not. While it may look like it, the question can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. The perception of Lebron changes almost everyday depending on what happened in his last game. This isn’t what makes it difficult though. The problem is clutch has no standard definition when it comes to basketball. Is it putting up great stats in a big game? Is it hitting a last second shot? Is it not charging into the stands when a fan throws a beer at you? Is it avoiding a TV special to announce where you will take your talents? Is it not bringing guns into the locker room? Maybe it’s all these things, maybe it’s none of them.
The media seems to want to define it as hitting shots at the end of a close game. So when Lebron dropped 45 points and 15 rebounds on the Celtics in a must win Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, that wasn’t so much clutch as it was a great performance in a big game. Since everything in the NBA is defined by stats, clutch has to be held to the same standard.
For the sake of this argument lets define clutch as shots taken with under 5 seconds to tie or take the lead in the fourth quarter or overtime. Let’s apply that only to star players starting in the 2000-01 season through February of the 2011-12 season. Using that formula, Kobe Bryant has hit more shots then anyone going 9-19. Carmelo Anthony is second at 6-15. Lebron James on the other hand, is 0-11. For these players, perception seems to fit perfectly with reality, but that is not always the case.
Kevin Durant is the three time scoring champion, but is just 3-23 in “clutch” situations. Sure, he’s made 3 more then Lebron, but he’s also taken 12 more. On the other hand, Rudy Gay is 4-7, better then guys like Dirk Nowitzki (4-12), Dwayne Wade (4-13) and Paul Pierce (2-9). Gay has never had the reputation as a clutch player, but according to stats he is. The bottom line is that “clutch” isn’t something based on numbers or reality. It’s based on perception and that will likely never change. Just know that reality and perception don’t always match up.
Tags: Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, NBA
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Posted by briesen on 18th June 2012
The NBA Playoffs often serve as a stage for players to earn big contracts. Summer free agents like Roy Hibbert and Brandon Bass have surely earned themselves nice contracts from their post season play. But not everyone benefits from team advancing in the playoffs.
Serge Ibaka and James Harden are two players who looked destined to get huge contracts when their current ones run out in 2014. There’s even been recent buzz lately about Harden possibly getting a max contract somewhere, but if the season were to end today, that would be hard to imagine. Their play in the NBA Finals has been sub par to say the least. Now you don’t want to overreact to just 3 games, because after all they’re just 3 of 84 games the Thunder have played this year. They’re also playing one of the most versatile defensive teams in the league in the Heat. But it’s still worth noting. Harden’s had an especially tough time averaging just 11.6 ppg on 41% shooting. He’s struggled defensively getting benched in favor of Thabo Sefolosha for much of Game 1 (the only game the Thunder have won…).
However, in my opinion, it’s Ibaka whose been the bigger disappointment. He’s averaged just 7.0 points and 5.0 rebounds. What’s been so disappointing though is his paint protection. Ibaka has led the league the last two years in blocked shots, but has been completely infective stopping the Heat from getting to the rim. He has 7 blocks in 3 games, which isn’t bad stat wise, but considering the Heat have made just 38 shots outside of the paint, as oppose to 65 in the paint, Ibaka should have a lot more then 7. Luckily, neither is a free agent this summer, but both may be remembered this season more for what they didn’t do then for what they did.
Tags: James Harden, NBA, NBA Finals, Serge Ibaka
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Posted by briesen on 15th June 2012
Games 1 and 2 of the NBA Finals were oddly similar on paper. Both games the Heat played a solid first half and took a fairly comfortable lead into half time. Both games the Thunder were carried back into the game by Kevin Durant. The individual stats of each star player were also similar. Lebron, Wade, Durant and Westbrook all finished with very similar numbers in both games. Chris Bosh and James Harden, who are each considered the third part of the tricycle on their respective teams, had weak performances in Game 1 and strong performances in Game 2. The difference between the two games? The Thunder won Game 1, the Heat won Game 2.
So what happened? The biggest difference between the two games was what happened in the paint. Despite Bosh playing center for most of Game 2, the Thunder shot just 17-49 (35%) on shots in the paint. Compare that to Game 1 where they shot 26-50 (52%) on shots in the paint. In Game 1, they had 56 points in the paint; in Game 2, they had just 32. In Game 3, the Thunder will have to make the Heat pay for playing Bosh at center by continuing to get to the rim. Whether or not they can finish their shots will most likely decide the game and ultimately the series.
Tags: Dwayne Wade, Kevin Durant, Lebron James, Miami Heat, NBA, NBA Finals, Oklahoma City Thunder
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Posted by briesen on 14th June 2012
While most NBA teams acquire their talent through free agency and trades, the Oklahoma City Thunder took a different approach and it has paid off handsomely for them. The Thunder have built there team almost exclusively through the draft. Their best player on their current team acquired through free agency or trade is either Thabo Sefolosha or Kendrick Perkins who combined to average 10.4 points per game this season.
Their drafting expertise started in 2007 when they drafted the now three time defending scoring champion Kevin Durant 2nd overall. It continued in 2008 when they drafted Russell Westbrook 4th overall despite Westbrook averaging just 12.7 points and 4.3 assists the year before at UCLA. They also used the 24th pick to draft Serge Ibaka from the Republic of Congo. Ibaka had only started playing basketball recently and didn’t speak a word of English. In 2009, they would use the 4th overall pick to select James Harden. These players are now the four leading scorers on the team.
No team’s perfect though, the Thunder have made a few mistakes in the draft. The only mistakes I could find was: 1. In the 2009 draft they traded the draft rights of Rodrigue Beaubois to Dallas for the draft rights to Byron Mullens; 2. In 2010 they traded the rights to Eric Bledsoe to the Clippers for a future protected first round pick (not exactly a mistake yet, but Bledsoe’s been a nice player.); 3. You could argue drafting Cole Aldrich 11th in the 2010 draft was a bad move, but really there wasn’t much after him: There was Avery Bradley who went 19th and would have been a solid bench player for them, Landry Fields who went 39th and really just would have been a younger version of Sefolosha and Lance Stephenson who went 40th and could have made choking signs at Lebron in the Finals.
These mistakes are all minuet though and because of the Thunder’s impeccable drafting abilities they look to possibly have a potential dynasty. There only challenge will be keeping all their drafted players.
Tags: James Harden, Kevin Durant, NBA, Oklahoma City Thunder, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka
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Posted by briesen on 31st May 2012
The Spurs have won 20 games in a row. They’ve won 31 out of 33. They are currently 10-0 in the playoffs. But what is so amazing about this run is how San Antonio has managed to stay under the radar throughout it. Maybe that’s because the Spurs themselves are so quiet. While teams like the Heat, Lakers and Knicks seem to be in the news everyday, the Spurs just continue to win. Where they play certainly has something to do with it, but its more then that. It’s a head coach who is able to communicate to his players that winning is all that matters. It’s star players like Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker who understand it’s not that name on the back of the jersey that matters; it’s the name on the front.
Only three teams had ever won twenty games in a row before the Spurs recent streak: the 1972 Lakers who won an NBA record 33 in a row, the 2008 Rockets who won 22 in a row and the 1971 Milwaukee Bucks who won 20 in a row. The most the Jordan led Bulls and the Bird led Celtics ever won in a row was 18.
What’s so remarkable about the Spurs streak is when they’re doing it. The lockout shortened season crammed 66 games into 122 grueling days. It was supposed to all but eliminate veteran teams (just look at the Celtics limp their way through the Eastern Conference Finals). As if that wasn’t enough, the Spurs are doing this during the Playoffs. Sweeping a team once in the playoffs is difficult enough, winning 10 in a row? Nearly impossible. The longest win streak by a team in the playoffs is 12 (ironically by the 1999 Spurs). These Spurs still have a ways to go before this can be considered the greatest streak of all time, but at this point it doesn’t seem so far fetched.
Tags: Los Angeles Lakers, NBA, NBA Playoffs, San Antonio Spurs, Tim Duncan
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Posted by briesen on 24th May 2012
Before the season began, this match up would have heavily favored the Thunder. But as the old sports adage goes: that’s why we play the games. This was supposed to be the year that young teams like the Thunder and Heat finally took the reigns from older teams like the Spurs and Celtics. However, it doesn’t look like the old guys are ready to pass the torch quite yet. The Spurs come into the Western Conference Finals riding an 18 game win streak including an 8-0 playoff record. The Thunder also come in hot having lost just one playoff game, but they haven’t looked quite as invincible as the Spurs.
The Thunder are familiar with this situation. Just last year they faced a similar scenario when they squared off against the “supposed to be too old” Mavericks. Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs made easy work of the young Thunder eliminating them in five games before eventually winning the NBA Championship. The Spurs seem likely to follow the same path as the Mavs as they could certainly make quick work of the Thunder before eventually beating the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
Tags: Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat, NBA, NBA Playoffs, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs
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Posted by briesen on 18th May 2012
The Heat are beginning to unravel at the seems and may be out of the NBA Playoffs soon. In the midst of last nights shellacking, Dwayne Wade began to take his frustration out on head coach Eric Spoelstra. Spoelstra’s been in a no win situation since this whole thing started: if his team wins he’ll get no credit and if they lose he’ll receive plenty of blame. If the Heat duck out to the Pacers in round two, Spoelstra will most likely be fired and Pat Riley will have to think about breaking this team up. And maybe it’s for the best.
We all know Dwight Howard is looking for a new home and the Magic are desperate to get something back for him. If the Heat were to offer Wade and Bosh, it would be impossible for the Magic to turn that down.
Combining Lebron and Howard would be putting together the two most athletically gifted players in the game (and possibly the two most athletically gifted human beings of all time). While this seems like a lot to give up for Howard, it would free up plenty of cap space for free agents such as Steve Nash and Jason Terry who have already expressed interest in joining the Heat.
The Heat are learning a hard lesson: that you can’t just combine talent and expect it to work. You must build a team to win. It’s why the Spurs are now the favorites and it’s why we may be looking at an entirely new Heat team next year.
Tags: Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, dwight howard, Eric Spoelstra, Jason Terry, Lebron James, Miami Heat, NBA, Orlando Magic, Steve Nash
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Posted by briesen on 17th May 2012
The 2011-2012 NBA playoffs are only in their second round. Yet injuries have already put a large asterisk on whoever will be named champion this year. What’s been surprising about the injuries is not necessarily that they’re happening, but who they’re happening to. Old teams like the Celtics and Spurs have stayed relatively healthy, while younger teams like the Bulls and Heat have lost key players.
This injury saga started before the playoffs when Dwight Howard attempted to give Stan Van Gundy a piggy back (just kidding) and herniated a disk in his back. He would elect to have surgery that would cause him to miss the rest of the season.
Then came Derrick Rose whose injury was reminiscent to that of Boobie Miles from the movie Friday Night Lights. In Game 1 of their series vs. the 76ers, the Bulls led by twelve with 1:20 to go. It’s not over until it’s over. But this game was over. Rose drove to the basket to attempt to extend the lead to fourteen and fell awkwardly on his knee tearing his ACL. The Bulls were the only team that could challenge the mighty Heat so the Eastern Conference had an asterisk on it from Game 1. As if that wasn’t enough, the Bulls would go on to lose Joakim Noah to an ankle injury and then become the 5th number one seed to lose in the first round.
Then came the Knicks slew of injuries which included Iman Shumpert doing his best Rose imitation by tearing his ACL and Amar’e Stoudemire showing he is in fact capable of crashing the glass. While the Knicks posed no real threat to the Heat, they at least could have momentarily slowed them down.
Finally, two days ago Chris Bosh went down with an abdominal strain that will sideline him indefinitely. Bosh has often been referred to as the half man in Miami’s “Two and a Half Men” but his absence was clearly noticed as the Pacers beat the Heat in Bosh’s first game out.
Many fans are glad to see something bad happen to the Heat, but at least they made things exciting. Just wait until we’re watching Indiana play San Antonio in the NBA Finals.
Tags: Amare Stoudemire, Chicago Bulls, Chris Bosh, Derrick Rose, dwight howard, Iman Shumpert, Joakim Noah, Miami Heat, NBA, NBA Playoffs, New York Knicks
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