Monthly Archives: October 2010

SUCK IT WE WANT PAGE VIEWS: Miami Heat Trounce Orlando Magic

Well.

That went well.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts, meat and potatoes, Riggs and Murtaugh of this game, we need to look at something really weird from this contest. In looking at the box score from HoopData (which gives you a nice breakdown of shot locations if you didn’t already know even though we’ve been pumping this site for a year now), you’ll notice something really strange.

Knowing that Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis were guarding Dwyane Wade and LeBron James and knowing that Joel Anthony was guarding Dwight Howard, how many shots at the rim would you expect for this game? For a little perspective, the Heat averaged 22.5 attempts at the rim in their first two games and the Orlando Magic attempted 21 shots at the rim in their blowout win over Washington on Thursday night. So knowing all of that, how many total attempts at the rim would you guess?

That’s right. The two teams combined for just 17 shots at the rim in this game. Miami had just 10 attempts at the rim. Orlando had seven. Seven!!! I was dumbfounded to find that in the box score this morning. I knew there were a lot of long jumpers taken in this game. Tom Haberstroh breaks it down wonderfully at the Heat Index. It’s astounding to me that these two teams who have a reputation for attacking the rim so ferociously already would settle for lower percentage shots all game long (cue LeBron critics shouting about his shot selection).

But that’s not really the whole story of this game. The Miami Heat is a second half team. Even though they played well in the first half offensively, they have now shown in three straight games that they come out of halftime with a defensive intensity that not many teams will be able to match. The Boston Celtics had enough of a cushion to withstand it in the first game. The Philadelphia 76ers were simply overmatched in the second game. And the Orlando Magic wilted in this third game.

The first half was disjointed but pretty good. Dwight Howard showed off a weird array of jumpers and running hooks that he efficiently showed in the preseason. LeBron James was settling for long 2-point shots instead of ferociously trying to tear the rim down whenever he could (which is a trend when he plays against Dwight). Either team will settle for that happening all game long because that’s what you want them to take. But for the most part both teams exchanged blows in the first 24 minutes of this game.

Then the second half happened and the Miami Heat clamped down on the Magic. Their perimeter defense is scary good. Think about the fact they’ve only been playing together for three games and it looks this good in the key stretches of games. What’s it going to look like in February? May? June? I know their interior is perceived as weak but it’s not really about having a Dwight Howard or Andrew Bogut in the middle for them. They don’t need it because the rest of the defense appears to be so good. Granted, they lucked out on a lot of missed 3s by the Magic (4/24). It doesn’t change the fact that the Magic scored just 25 points in the second half while shooting 19% from the field and 12.5% from 3-point range.

The perimeter defense just swarms the entire time and they end up running the shot clock down for the other team because of it. They did this in the second half against Orlando. The double teams were fast and aggressive. The rotations were even faster and helped them recover incredibly fast. The defense won’t be like this every night. Sometimes it will be worse. But sometimes it might also be better when they get more continuity with each other. This was an impressive win (maybe not a statement making win) any way you look at it.

Let’s Talk About Role Players

Zyndrunas Ilgauskas was fantastic in this game. He didn’t dominate Dwight Howard or hit a bunch of key jumpers. He just did his job of being big and getting in the way of the things going on inside. 8 points on 10 shots looks bad and frankly, it is. But he had five offensive rebounds in the game and neutralized Orlando inside when he was on the court.

In three games so far this year, Eddie House and James Jones have combined to hit 16 of their 30 3-point attempts. Imagine this constant outside attack when Mike Miller comes back to the team and gets into a rhythm. What do you do? How do you guard them? Does it really matter they don’t have an All-Star caliber center?

Udonis Haslem has 22 rebounds against the Celtics and Magic this season. Granted, one of those games ended up being a loss but he’s going to be as important as any role player on this team. He’s always been willing to sacrifice his personal adulation for hard work and everything that will benefit the team. We need to get him onto a serious 6th Man of the Year award watch.

Oh, Before I Forget … This Happened

Why LeBron James is going all Kristen Stewart on us, I don’t really know. I’m not quite sure if this is a tribute to True Blood, Twilight, or if he just wants to turn the term “fangbanger” into one of his signature dunks. Regardless, this just seems dangerous and irresponsible. You’re just asking to impale your own lip or get caught in Dwyane Wade’s cheek when you do one of those super cool flying hip checks to celebrate a big shot.

On: LeBron

A discussion of the reigning MVP and most polarizing figure in the NBA today, reflected in various styles.

THIS POST IS ON: LEBRON

Part I, Longform: The Main Event

Dan Feldman is the author of Piston Powered on the TrueHoop Network. He graciously agreed to write this selection on LeBron and the real core of his ethos. You can reach Dan at @pistonpowered. The topic? FUN! -Ed.

In May, a reader e-mailed Bill Simmons about a way to analyze players: one-word goals. Force yourself to describe a player’s singular purpose in one word, and you’ll learn a lot about him.* The concept is marvelous, but Simmons and the e-mailer both missed the mark on LeBron. They both chose “amaze.”

There’s a more apropos word:

Fun.

*I thought choosing “greatness” rather than “winning” for Kobe was genius. “Yes he’s going to win some, but only because he wants to be considered great and that will be a by-product at times.”

You can view all of LeBron’s decisions to date through the lens of: how can he maximize his fun? LeBron might not realize this is how he approaches everything, but he’s been successful.

LeBron can appear selfish, immature and secluded. And he might really be all those things. But he has only developed those traits in the name of having fun.

Despite his tarnished image, few NBA players appear to enjoy playing basketball as much as he does. He spends a lot of time smiling on the court — and for good reason. He’s the best player in the league. That’s gotta be fun.

Pregame faux photoshoots are fun. Dunks are fun. Celebrating every above average play is fun.

Winning is fun, and in the regular season or early rounds of the playoffs, winning easy to a player of LeBron’s caliber. Winning deep in the playoffs is also fun, but it’s much more difficult. Difficulty isn’t fun, and that’s why LeBron disappeared during the conference finals against the Celtics.

LeBron’s desire to have fun doesn’t end at the sideline. Fun explains his summer, too.

Holding the basketball world’s attention for months is fun. You can go about it the hard way, like the Lakers and Celtics, battling until the end of the season. Or you can make several teams believe they’ll sign the best player in the world. Either way, everyone focuses on you all season.

Having teams beg you to join them is fun. LeBron is one of the few players never recruited by colleges. He was an NBA lock years before graduating from St. Vincent-St. Mary. It’s one of the few fun experiences denied to the young multi-millionaire. A series of hotel meetings changed that.

Fun also explains why LeBron ultimately signed with the Heat.

Living in Miami is fun.

Playing with your friends is fun.

Winning championships is fun.

This plan may backfire for LeBron, of course. Winnings titles is hard. The most successful players of this generation, Kobe and Duncan, don’t have much fun on the court. But they win. Winning and fun don’t exactly go hand in hand.

Maybe LeBron has found the easy way out. He’s aligned himself with an incredibly talented group of teammates, teammates who can do the non-fun work. With Bosh, LeBron won’t have to play in the post. With Wade, he won’t have to lead.

LeBron might have put himself in a position Kobe and Duncan never could: maximizing his fun and championships. I don’t care what anyone says about LeBron now, if he wins titles, and he has a great chance to do that, he’ll be the face of the NBA.

And that face will have a huge smile.

TIME TRIALS

Thursday night I contacted the HP family and told them they had thirty minutes or less to jam out a set number of words on LeBron. They attacked the challenge head on. These are the results of their efforts. -Ed

Rob Mahoney

Even after months of constant vilification, LeBron James still looks odd in black.

The NBA is filled to the brim with arrogance, showmanship, and greed. It’s a hype machine not reliant on fossil fuels, but powered by the purely renewable resource of human imagination. It’s easy to point to The Media as the source of all hype, the benefactor of the stars, the generator from which everything detestable to the average fan originates. After all, it has to come from somewhere, and it couldn’t possibly be from us…could it?

LeBron, The Decision, and the Miami Heat all inspire hatred, which most trace back to media oversaturation. I don’t see it. The most infuriating part of the summer’s free agent preparations and presentations was not the sheer volume of coverage, but our indisputable hunger for it. We claimed to want less, but sent a different message with our TV ratings and our click-throughs. We claimed to have be tired of LeBron, but turned him into a daily trending topic. We claimed to want other things — other free agent coverage, more Team USA analysis, more trade talk – and yet when the moment came, we shushed those around our television sets, scanned Twitter furiously, and mashed the refresh button in anticipation.

As much as we “hated” the summer of 2010, the free agent hoopla, and all of LeBron’s shtick, the most bothersome fact of all is that we refused to look away. We had that power all along, but we followed the saga through every update. As people, we knew that what LeBron was doing was childish and self-absorbed, but we were powerless to do anything but indulge him.

LeBron James is deeply flawed. But the reason why he’s struck such a chord with sports fans is that he reminds us that we are, too.

We are enablers. We are the justification. We know better, and should have refused the obsessive step-by-step coverage of LeBron’s decision. We didn’t, and in order to interpret our decision in a way that makes sense to us, we flip the script. Rather than be accountable for the fact that we chose to read and watch and consume information on every aspect of LeBron’s summer, it had to be LeBron. It had to be the media. It had to be anything other than an immature, preening star being an immature, preening star, on television, while we all elected to watch. The only agency involved was LRMR, and we had no will of our own. That has to be the case.

But what if it’s not? What should we do? Should we admit that we’ve made mistakes?

Zach Harper

First impressions after LeBron James’ first two games with the Miami Heat?

Work in progress.

While that seems like a very basic analysis of a 1-1 record by the Heat in which they’ve completely overhauled their roster from something out of a NBA superstar’s nightmare to a coach’s fantasy, it permeates throughout every aspect of the way this team has played so far.

This team has started out very slowly in its two games against Atlantic Division foes so far and the reason for that is the lack of continuity this roster has with one another. For the most part, it should be expected because they haven’t been together in a meaningful setting at all. But the blame and vitriol will immediately go to LeBro James for the way he’s performed in these two games.

It’s been quite the mixed bag for LeBron with his 31-point effort that included a flurry of long jumpers to bring the Heat within tying distance against the Celtics in a game that looked to be a laugher for Decision critics early on. He led his team to just 30 points in the first half and managed to be down by 20 points very quickly. His defense has been suspect as well. While his isolation defense is still very good, his ability to close out on shooters and actually challenge shots on defensive rotations leaves a lot to be desired.

He’s also been forcing the ball like crazy. 17 turnovers in two games is an alarming number at any level of basketball. Some of that is bad timing with his teammates. But for the most part it’s just him forcing things that aren’t there. He’s trying to bully his defenders and instead ends up playing out of control basketball. This might have to do with the fact that it’s been about a half decade since he played the point guard position. Carlos Arroyo is out on the court to make the lineups look pretty and organized but LeBron has been the facilitator of this team thus far.

The solution is undoubtedly to set him up for easier decisions and give the Heat some much-needed offensive organization. LeBron has essentially been thrust into an All-Star game system in which isolations and trying to make your own magic happen rules the possession. He is not thriving in this when he has to face a defense that actually gives a damn. It’s on Erik Spoelstra to make LeBron’s job easy and give him less responsibility while having more of a role.

Maybe that means he goes into the post a lot more than even what we’ve seen early on. Running the ball through a posted LeBron like an oversized Mark Jackson could be the simplest way to cut down his turnovers and maximize the usage he is exhibiting on the court. LeBron is clearly feeling some pressure from the expectations. It’s the only reason to explain the fact that he had 10 games of eight or more turnovers in seven years with the Cavaliers and has already had two in his first two contests with the Miami Heat.

It’s safe to say he’s handling having to do less in the offense pretty poorly. With fewer responsibilities, he’s trying to make more happen and that’s a recipe for bad execution.

I don’t expect LeBron to do this all season of course. He’d end up shattering the season turnover record of 366 by more than 300 turnovers.

It’s just going to be a mixed bag of highlights and forceful play until he settles down and realizes that less is more or more is less or 1-on-5 basketball is no longer necessary.

Graydon Gordian

Initially, LeBron James seemed to be more than another NBA celebrity, or even era-defining superstar. He appeared to be a palpable step forward. Not a step forward on the court, although of course his unique physical talents suggested that he may have been that when he first came to the public’s attention.

He was a step forward in terms of how he understood his own celebrity. He was conscious, and conscientious. He was everything to everyone: Somehow both humble and theatrical; yeoman-like and flamboyant; a hometown hero with big city swagger.

It’s not that professional athletes, and more specifically NBA players, haven’t had complex, somewhat paradoxical public personas in the past. But they never manufactured that complexity – that subtlety – so consciously and so thoroughly.

When looking for the historical precedents of a phenomena, it’s possible to always look farther and farther back. To see the revolution as not only inspired by the uprising immediately preceding it, but as an outgrowth of the public unrest that preceded that.

Personally, I see Magic Johnson and Larry Bird as the origin of modern NBA celebrity. Obviously there were famous athletes before them, but it was Bird and Magic who most boldly explored – consciously or unconsciously – the interrelationship between advertising, media and the game of basketball.

It was Magic who first said, if I smile incessantly, I can be all things to all people. It was Bird who first said, if I shrug my shoulders and say “aww shucks” in an Indiana accent, I can disguise the pit bull that I am on the floor.

Jordan was the next evolution in this chain, combining Magic’s charisma with Bird’s need to obfuscate the vicious style of his play. That’s not to say Bird or Jordan were cheap or dirty players. They were just arrogant and mean-spirited, and absolutely brilliant.

However, by smiling over and over again alongside a Big Mac or a pair of shoes or a pack of underwear, Jordan not only convinced us he wasn’t an asshole. He convinced us he was Magic. He played basketball with cartoon characters and flailed around in a grass skirt with overweight sketch comedians. The distance between Jordan the man and Jordan the brand was so great that it appeared there was no distance at all.

In the wake of this unprecedented transformation, Kobe Bryant entered the scene. For years, he seemed to be on the same steady path that his forebears had laid out for him. But his inability to shake the “selfish” label, combined with an act of indiscretion in Eagle, Colorado, derailed his stardom, at least until he finally won his fourth title. But then again, maybe the post-Jordan malaise was never meant to have a star.

At first, it seemed that LeBron had learned from Kobe’s mistakes. There were no press conferences with sunglasses, or rumors of infighting with his team’s other superstar, although that person’s non-existence helped some. There was just a perfectly manicured image.

It actually started to fall apart long before The Decision. I remember the exact moment LeBron exposed his chink in the armor. It was at the end of Game 6 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals. The Cleveland Cavaliers had just lost the series 4-2 to the Orlando Magic, and instead of congratulating the victors, LeBron stormed off the court.

All things considered, it wasn’t a severe offense. I’ve seen several players do the same thing, including the much-revered Tim Duncan at the end of the first round of the 2009 playoffs. But given how much we had come to expect from LeBron, how flawless the whole production had been up until that point, the whole world noticed.

Noam Schiller

One of Lebron James’ biggest supposed adjustments this season is supposed to be playing Magic instead of playing Jordan. After years of being not only the best guy on his team (he’ll be that on all teams) but the only decent guy on his team, he suddenly has to share the spot light with two all world guys. While the general theme of thinking is that Lebron prefers to be the distributor over the scorer, this is very much speculation, as none of us possess the ability to read Lebron’s mind (and if you do and you’re not sharing what happened in Game 5 against Boston, shame on you).

All of this has been pretty much played out in every outlet possible, so I won’t overwhelm you with unnecessary details. Just know that Wade+Bosh>all Cavaliers from 2003 onward and let’s move on.

What really interests me, though, isn’t how Lebron will learn to play with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade (though that’s obviously interesting in and of it’s own) – it’s for him to truly learn how to play with himself (that came out all kinds of wrong). Because for all of his pedigree – best basketball player alive and all that – he still has an abundance of untapped talent.

The still raw post game. The mediocre-at-times outside shooting. The still questionable decision making, such as opting for jab step jumpers over thunderous penetrations, or overplaying his passing game (seriously, Lebron, just because you’re the only human being alive that can successfully convert a full court pass while you’re in the air doesn’t mean you can’t just make a simple bounce pass).

To me, Mike Brown’s biggest sin wasn’t leaving Shaq on the floor instead of J.J. Hickson, or Larry Hughes instead of Daniel Gibson, or insisting that Ben Wallace guards Rashard Lewis. It was the inexplicable resistence to make Lebron James a better basketball player. Brown instilled a commitment to defense in James for the 2008-2009 season… and that’s kind of it. All other Lebronian progress seemed detached from his coach – again, to these eyes.

And that, to me, is Miami’s greatest challenge (title reference!). Sure, they could win 7 straight titles. They could give us unlimited highlights and the type of defense that we haven’t seen since the last time the league’s best 2 and the league’s best 3 played together. And all of that could be absolutely awesome to watch, even if you’re not a Heat fan.

But as someone who constantly ponders players maximizing their potential, and who laments those who don’t (pours one out for Andray Blatche), turning Lebron into LEBRON could be the greatest achievement ever. Talent wise, this is a kid – still a kid – who can be the best ever. He can. Jordan was Jordan, and we all appreciate him for that, but he was not a faster Karl Malone with the court vision of John Stockton. Nobody was ever born with this raw talent, save for maybe Wilt. By villanizing James, Miami owes us this much. Make him all that he can be, because we’ve never seen anything like it before, and we deserve it.

SUCK IT WE WANT PAGE VIEWS: Miami Heat Take Liberty From 76ers

The Heat are a .500 team! The Heat are a .500 team!

This is incredible.

The Miami Heat were done as of about 2 quarters into this game. They were struggling against the lowly but athletically stupendous Philadelphia 76ers. Keep in mind they were up eight points at halftime.

The problem with this Heat team is they’re still getting used to each other. Yes, that’s an easy excuse to make but it doesn’t make it wrong. You can tell in the way they’re running the offense. Defensively, I don’t believe it to be an excuse because that’s just a matter of awareness and effort. But offensively, there is a certain timing and understanding amongst all the players (outside of Haslem, Wade and Arroyo who play well off of knowing each other’s games) that is lacking.

Does that mean when they get this timing and understanding down they’ll run through the entire league and manage to win three championships in two seasons, cure cancer, defeat the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and put out a folk album that makes The Beatles’ White Album look like a Ricky Martin interpretive dance cover band’s mixtape?

No, not necessarily.

It just means we won’t see them be so careless with the ball and have LeBron James turning the ball over enough times to make Darren Collison blush. Or maybe they will still turn the ball over from trying to do too much. Look at the Celtics. They have great chemistry together and still turn the ball over an obscene amount of times.

The things I noticed about this Heat team is when the defense is clicking, they’re pretty special to watch. In the second half of the loss to the Celtics, they locked down defensively and made enough runs to make this game extremely interesting. In the third quarter of the win against the 76ers, the clamps were applied and the Sixers had nothing they could do about it. Some of that had to do with a young point guard like Jrue Holiday still feeling his away around a good perimeter defensive unit.

In the ultimately decisive third quarter, Philly had more turnovers (six) than made baskets (four). Elton Brand scored three of those buckets and two of them were inside. The rest of the Sixers offense got chased all around the perimeter and forced into poor decisions.

Hey, let’s talk about the role players for a minute.

James Jones can fill in for Mike Miller. Maybe you don’t want him to do that when it’s playoff time and you need a better playmaker in case the defense chases him off that 3-point shot. But as of right now, James Jones can get hot and will always have open spaces to shoot. He knocked down six 3-pointers in this game and was sort of ridiculously hot all game. When the Sixers made a couple of runs, he answered with 3s, especially in the second quarter.

Carlos Arroyo isn’t really that good but he had a nice steady hand in this game. He’s going to get abused by the Rondos of the world but so do most point guards. Put him against a young guy like Holiday and the talent discrepancy is diminished because of a little veteran savvy.

Udonis Haslem should not guard athletic 3s posing as terrifyingly athletic 4s. Thaddeus Young abused Haslem every time he had to guard him. Young was simply too quick for Udonis and blew by him whenever he wanted. In the later rounds of the playoffs, you’ll see more and more matchups with Haslem guarding more traditional 4s but if you can stretch out the offense a bit (I’m looking at you, Orlando) then you might be able to expose that part of Halsem’s game.

Key Stat of the Game

Dwyane Wade had 12 shot attempts at the rim. 12 is not an absurd number by any means but it was a lot better than what we saw against the Celtics when he had seven attempts and the majority of them were not all that aggressive and composed. It’s probably easier when you don’t have the Celtics help line to contend with and Wade took full advantage of Spencer Hawes and Elton Brand being the stopgaps.

Ah, I See Derrick Favors Is Our Early Lead For “Rookie To Make Matt Look Like A Tool”


When I factored Favors’ development, I wasn’t counting on Terrence Williams developing a chemistry with the big teddy bear. Williams’ game is raw, but it’s got such great daylight in between the cracks. Like this play. It’s not youth, it’s confidence. It’s not folly, it’s courage. Being willing to make that pass takes a certain type of player. Combine that with his athleticism and upside? Favors could feed off this kid’s energy to a ridiculous degree.

Farmar’s another one who really showed a lot in terms of working with the Nets’ bigs. Farmar worked with both Favors on his first bucket on a great drive and dish, and Brook Lopez. Lopez’ early first half pick and roll work was mostly Farmar, actually, and they killed it on that right wing.

Great start for the Nets.

AND YES, THAT MEANS BETTER THAN LAST YEAR WHICH COULD NOT HAVE BEEN WORSE.

Have Ball, Will Travel: Dwyane Wade

Today marks the launch of a new semi-regular video feature here at HP: Have Ball, Will Travel. Through this series, we’ll take a look at iffy traveling calls and non-calls, break down the plays step by step, and attempt to make some official determination of the validity of the play based on documented rule.

In our first installment, we’ll examine a play from the second quarter of last night’s game between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics, during which Dwyane Wade was called for a traveling violation.

As is noted in the video, the NBA’s Video Rulebook states that “a dribbler may take two steps after gathering the ball to end a dribble.” In the context of this play, this means that after Wade has gathered/collected the ball (which occurs when he has the ball in his hands, and not at any time prior during his final dribble), he’s entitled to two steps, which he takes.

Perhaps one could argue that the collect/gather interpretation of the rule is a bastardization of its original intent, but that responsibility lies with the league. From where I sit, it’s fairly clear that Wade takes only two steps after collecting his final dribble, which is a legal maneuver according to the rule as written. It’s just a creative use of space.

SUCK IT WE WANT PAGE VIEWS: Heat Lose Opener To Celtics 88-80

Panic. Shock. Awe. Failure. Need to go 72-9 now.

The Miami Heat lost a game – their first game. It was an eight-point dismantling that was actually a three-point game with 50 seconds left.

It’s pretty much a lost cause. Well, okay. It’s not a lost cause. But it’s an embarrassing loss that shows the utter stupidity and ridiculousness of The Decision.

Well, okay. It’s not quite that dramatic. But they only scored 30 points in their first 24 minutes of the season. That was pretty bad.

The Miami Heat are down to 0-1 on the season after being smothered by some Celtics defense before getting it together a little bit only to prove none of them are winners and they simply can’t do it on their own or as a collective unit at the end of games or something.

I don’t really know what you take from this game other than the Celtics defense looks freaking good.

Did the Miami Heat have opening night jitters? Nine points in the first quarter and just 30 points at halftime thanks to some 26.8% shooting from the field certainly say so. At the same time, you have to attribute the Celtics defensive cohesiveness for turning the Heat into a jump shooting team. The Miami Heat had just 28 points in the paint. That’s 14 baskets in the paint and considering they only made 27 shots in the game, it shows just how little the Heat were able to do on the perimeter.

The Miami heat took 50 jumpers (out of 74 total field goal attempts) in this game and made just 13 of them. The Celtics took just 33 jumpers (out of 69 total field goal attempts). For the most part, the Celtics were attacking inside and finding ways to get guys open shots. Rajon Rondo played the role of willing playmaker while dissecting the Heat defense as if it was were a fetal pig in biology class (had to do that once in high school. It was weird). The Heat had Carlos Arroyo and Eddie House run the point whenever LeBron wasn’t dribbling around the perimeter.

It doesn’t mean the Heat are a flawed team by any means. One game (especially the first game together) doesn’t kill this experiment or prove the naysayers to be correct. It’s just as easy to say this team can’t play together as it is to proclaim they simply need more than three preseason minutes together to get any sense of cohesion.

As bad as the first half looked for the Miami Heat, they sort of pulled it together in the second half and had a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter if they could make one stop. Instead, they gave up a huge 3-pointer to Ray Allen with 49 seconds left in the game. The Heat erased a second half deficit like many Celtics opponents did last season. But when it counted, they continued to give up wide-open looks from 3-point range that the Celtics knocked down in a clutch manner.

Overall, there wasn’t a huge advantage for either team in most aspects of the game. Rondo had more assists (17) than the entire Miami team (15) and the Celtics dominated the points in the paint. And that might have been the only difference between an eight-point loss in Boston and pulling out a win in their first real game together. The Celtics had a negligible advantage on the boards, were worse in turnovers and free throw shooting, and allowed the Heat to stay relatively in the game with a lot of turnovers in the first half.

The problem was the Celtics brought a championship level defense to the party and the Heat’s second best player in this game ended up being a tie between Udonis Haslem and Eddie House.

Let that marinate until Game 2 for Miami.

Post Game Tweets!

@KingJames – “Rome wasn’t built in a Day! Work in progress. On to the next one”

@Dwadeofficial – “Not a great 1 but its 1 of 82..felt good 2 finally play a game this season. Now ill work on my rhythm and chemistry with the guys..”

@chrisbosh – “The wait is finally over. Opening night is finally here and I’m more than ready!”

Okay, that last tweet from Bosh before the game. I guess he wasn’t in the mood to tweet.

Your 2010-2011 Hardwood Paroxysm Season Predictions Post: Where We Look Like Morons In Seven Months. Again.

Well it’s that time of year, kiddos. Autumn is in full swing, Halloween’s bursting at the door, and the NBA is ready to kick off its most exciting season in ages… before it goes completely silent while two sides who are both wrong figure out an agreement neither side will be satisfied with. Awesome. Anyway, big slate o’ games tonight and we’ll have piece from each one. But for posterity’s sake, thought we’d put our predictions in print.

******************************************************************

Rob Mahoney:

Division Winners:
Northwest: OKC
Southwest: Dallas
Pacific: L.A. Lakers
Central: Chicago
Atlantic: Boston
Southeast: Miami

1. Lakers
2. Mavericks
3. Thunder
4. Spurs
5. Blazers
6. Rockets
7. Jazz
8. Grizzlies

Lakers over Grizzlies
Mavericks over Jazz
Thunder over Rockets
Blazers over Spurs

Lakers over Blazers
Mavericks over Thunder

Lakers over Mavericks

1. Heat
2. Magic
3. Celtics
4. Bulls
5. Bucks
6. Hawks
7. Bobcats
8. Knicks

Heat over Knicks
Magic over Bobcats (Again? Sigh.)
Celtics over Hawks
Bucks over Bulls

Heat over Bucks
Magic over Celtics

Heat over Magic

Heat over Lakers

Three random predictions that will probably be wrong:

  1. Greg Oden will come back from injury with a very specific vengeance, and literally ask Matt Moore to “Tell [him] how [his] patella taste.” Not quite All-Star caliber, but Oden will be effective defensively and put up quasi-All-Star numbers.
  2. Everyone will ooh and ahh over Kevin Durant all season long, and he’ll win the MVP award despite Dwight Howard, LeBron James, and probably Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul posting superior overall seasons.
  3. Jawad Williams will be your least favorite member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who might be your least favorite team to watch. By that, I mean that of all the Cavaliers that you don’t really care about, you don’t care about Jawad the most.

********************************************

Zach Harper:

Division Winners:
Atlantic: Boston
Central: Milwaukee
Southeast: Miami
Pacific: L.A. Lakers
Northwest: OKC
Southwest: Dallas

West playoffs:
Lakers vs Suns
Mavs vs Spurs
Rockets vs Blazers
Thunder vs Jazz

East playoffs:
Heat vs Bobcats
Magic vs Knicks
Celtics vs Hawks
Bucks vs Bulls

Lakers over Rockets in WCF
Heat over Celtics in ECF

Heat over Lakers in Finals

Three random predictions that will probably be wrong:

  1. Greg Oden plays over 55 games (Double-layer cake or nothing!)
  2. LeBron wins Defensive Player of the Year
  3. Matt Moore shatters his own record of Twitter fights with Lakers fans per 36-Minutes

****************************************************************

Noam Schiller

Division Winners:
Southeast: Miami
Atlantic: Boston
Central: Milwaukee
Pacific: L.A. Lakers
Northwest: Utah
Southwest: San Antonio

Lakers over Rockets
Spurs over Suns
Jazz over Mavs
Blazers over Thunder

Lakers over Blazers
Spurs over Jazz

Lakers over Jazz

Heat over Pacers
Magic over Knicks
Celtics over Hawks
Bucks over Bulls

Heat over Bucks
Magic over Celtics

Heat over Magic

Heat over Lakers.
Three random predictions that will probably be wrong:

  1. Tyreke Evans will average 25-5-7, make the all-star game, and will be touted by Bill Simmons as this league’s best young point guard.
  2. Around January, Josh Smith will demand a bigger role in the offense, and will either get traded or get his wish.
  3. Tony Allen will win DPOY. No, wait, that’s Sheridan’s thing. So… either Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner will lead the Sixers in rebounding

****************************************************

Graydon Gordian:

Division Winners:
Pacific: L.A. Lakers
Northwest: Thunder
Southwest: Spurs
Atlantic: Boston
Central: Chicago
Southeast: Miami

1. Lakers
2. Spurs
3. Thunder
4. Mavericks
5. Rockets
6. Blazers
7. Jazz
8. Grizzlies

Lakers over Grizzlies
Spurs over Jazz
Thunder over Blazers
Mavericks over Rockets

Thunder over Spurs
Lakers over Mavericks

Lakers over Thunder

1. Heat
2. Magic
3. Bulls
4. Boston
5. Hawks
6. Bucks
7. Bobcats
8. Knicks

Heat over Knicks
Magic over Bobcats
Bucks over Bulls
Celtics over Hawks

Heat over Celtics
Magic over Bucks

Heat over Magic

Heat over Lakers

Three random predictions that will probably be wrong:

  1. The East wins the All-Star game.
  2. The Spurs win the Shooting Stars Competition.
  3. John Wall wins the skills competition.

*********************************************************

Jared Wade:

Celtics
Bulls
Heat

Lakers
Thunder
Mavs

Heat over Cs in ECF
Lakers over Spurs in WCF

Heat over Lakers in Finals

Three random predictions that will probably be wrong:

  1. LeBron wins the MVP
.
  2. Andres Nocioni is exposed for running an illegal dolphin fighting ring
.
  3. Rob Mahoney once again murders double-digit Mexican migrant workers during an NBA season without getting caught — the “Refried Threepeat,” he will later term his 2010-11 “season” in his tell-all, confessional biography written from prison to finance his failed legal defense.

*****************************************************

Matt Moore:

Division Winners:
Atlantic: Celtics
Southeast: Magic
Central: Bulls
Pacific: Lakers
Southwest: Mavericks
Northwest: Thunder

1. Magic
2. Heat
3. Celtics
4. Bulls
5. Bucks
6. Hawks
7. Knicks
8.  Bobcats

Magic over Bobcats
Heat over Knicks
Celtics over Hawks (NOTE: I feel horrible about this and literally spent fifteen minutes fretting over it. Nothing sets itself up more for the series that gets hyper-competitive while everyone in the blogosphere goes “Wait, what?!”)
Bucks over Bulls

Magic over Bucks
Heat over Celtics

Heat over Magic

1. Mavericks
2. Spurs
3. Lakers (They coast for the first month and last two months of the year.)
4. Thunder
5. Jazz
6.  Rockets
7. Blazers
8. Hornets

Mavericks over Hornets
Blazers over Spurs
Lakers over Rockets
Thunder over Jazz

Mavericks over Thunder
Lakers over Blazers

Lakers over Mavericks

Yes, Lakers over Heat. I know. Original.

Three random predictions that will probably be wrong:

  1. John Wall is Rookie of the Year, and it’s not close.
  2. O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay start to have serious issues over usage.
  3. Dwight Howard averages over 35 points a game versus the Heat this season.

Hardwood Paroxysm’s Incomplete 2010-2011 NBA Previews: New Jersey Nets

Yeah, yeah, we didn’t do one for every team. Not like you all won’t get your fair shake around here, for better or worse. Trust me, if you’re some of the teams out there, you don’t want to hear us talk about you.

But, with a little less than 48 hours to go before the season opener in Miami,we’re going to throw up some stuff discussing the upcoming season. And now, we bring you the Nets.

GUEST LECTURE

Sebastian Pruiti is the author of NBA Playbook, which puts our pitiful ramblings about playsets to shame. Today he delves into his former haunt, the Nets.-Ed.

Despite only winning twelve games last season, the Nets seem poised to have a bounce back year.  Although everyone seems to agree that they will win many more games this season, nobody is really sure how much better they will be though (In fact, ESPN’s experts have them finishing anywhere between 7th and 14th in the Eastern Conference).  There are few factors that will help determine how good the Nets can be this year.
The first is the new coach, Avery Johnson.  Johnson is going to really have to earn that reputation as a defensive specialist this year.  The Nets’ projected started lineup of Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow, Travis Outlaw, Troy Murphy, and Brook Lopez features four below average defenders, and even if Harris returns to his Dallas ways on the defensive side of the basketball you aren’t going to beat teams with two defenders.  Team defense is going to be the key, and he needs all five guys to buy into his system, trust each other, and help when needed.
The second factor is Devin Harris.  Harris seemed to be the player who struggled most on last year’s twelve loss team.  With no other perimeter threat, Harris’ game really dropped off as defenses loaded up against him.  This is something that Harris never really had to deal with in previous seasons, and with defenses loading up on him he really couldn’t get in the lane and create the havoc he is known to on the offensive end.  With some strong shooters on the outside (Murphy, Outlaw, and Morrow), a better Brook Lopez in the middle, and a dynamic player in Terrence Williams on the outside, teams can’t really load up on Harris anymore.  Look for Harris to return to his All-Star ways, if he can stay healthy.  Harris hasn’t played over 70 games since he was a role player on Dallas’ 06-07 team (he played just 26 minutes a game that year).
The final key for the Nets this year is Brook Lopez.  Lopez put up some fantastic numbers last year, scoring 18.8 points and grabbing 8.6 rebounds.  Lopez is just 22 and is still learning the center position, so you can expect him to have an even bigger season since he will be facing less double teams.  Much in the same way that no outside threat hurt Devin Harris, that lack of a threat hurt Brook Lopez as well.  The Nets were the worst three point shooting team in the NBA last year, so whenever the ball was entered into Brook, he would see a quick double team (and even triple teams later in the season).  Now with shooters surrounding Brook and with one at the high post in Troy Murphy, Lopez can work knowing that teams will be very hesitant to double him, because if they do, he can simply hit one of the shooters sharing the court with him.
I think that we can all agree that the Nets will improve on last year’s terrible season.  How much depends on whether or not coach Avery Johnson can get them playing team defense, whether Devin can return to his all-star ways, and if Brook can take another step towards his development.  Sure there are other factors (can Anthony Morrow add to his game, can Travis Outlaw prove he can be a starter, Terrence Williams’ effectiveness), but these are what can really take the Nets’ to next level or keep them in the bottom of the East.

Despite only winning twelve games last season, the Nets seem poised to have a bounce back year.  Although everyone seems to agree that they will win many more games this season, nobody is really sure how much better they will be though (In fact, ESPN’s experts have them finishing anywhere between 7th and 14th in the Eastern Conference).  There are few factors that will help determine how good the Nets can be this year.

The first is the new coach, Avery Johnson.  Johnson is going to really have to earn that reputation as a defensive specialist this year.  The Nets’ projected started lineup of Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow, Travis Outlaw, Troy Murphy, and Brook Lopez features four below average defenders, and even if Harris returns to his Dallas ways on the defensive side of the basketball you aren’t going to beat teams with two defenders.  Team defense is going to be the key, and he needs all five guys to buy into his system, trust each other, and help when needed.

The second factor is Devin Harris.  Harris seemed to be the player who struggled most on last year’s twelve loss team.  With no other perimeter threat, Harris’ game really dropped off as defenses loaded up against him.  This is something that Harris never really had to deal with in previous seasons, and with defenses loading up on him he really couldn’t get in the lane and create the havoc he is known to on the offensive end.  With some strong shooters on the outside (Murphy, Outlaw, and Morrow), a better Brook Lopez in the middle, and a dynamic player in Terrence Williams on the outside, teams can’t really load up on Harris anymore.  Look for Harris to return to his All-Star ways, if he can stay healthy.  Harris hasn’t played over 70 games since he was a role player on Dallas’ 06-07 team (he played just 26 minutes a game that year).

The final key for the Nets this year is Brook Lopez.  Lopez put up some fantastic numbers last year, scoring 18.8 points and grabbing 8.6 rebounds.  Lopez is just 22 and is still learning the center position, so you can expect him to have an even bigger season since he will be facing less double teams.  Much in the same way that no outside threat hurt Devin Harris, that lack of a threat hurt Brook Lopez as well.  The Nets were the worst three point shooting team in the NBA last year, so whenever the ball was entered into Brook, he would see a quick double team (and even triple teams later in the season).  Now with shooters surrounding Brook and with one at the high post in Troy Murphy, Lopez can work knowing that teams will be very hesitant to double him, because if they do, he can simply hit one of the shooters sharing the court with him.

I think that we can all agree that the Nets will improve on last year’s terrible season.  How much depends on whether or not coach Avery Johnson can get them playing team defense, whether Devin can return to his all-star ways, and if Brook can take another step towards his development.  Sure there are other factors (can Anthony Morrow add to his game, can Travis Outlaw prove he can be a starter, Terrence Williams’ effectiveness), but these are what can really take the Nets’ to next level or keep them in the bottom of the East.

AN ALTERNATE DISCUSSION

Rohan from At The Hive.com chimes in with an alternative take on the Nets.
The gap between what the 2010-2011 New Jersey Nets are and what the 2010-2011 New Jersey Nets could have been is staggering. The team entered the summer in position to challenge for multiple marquee free agents, over $20 million dollars in cap space and an extraordinarily rich owner on the horizon. At various points, New Jersey was a rumored destination for LeBron James, Carlos Boozer, Amar’e Stoudemire, and John Wall (as a first overall pick). At summer’s end, the team instead finds itself with Travis Outlaw, Anthony Morrow, and Jordan Farmar (and let’s not forget that Billy King is the new GM).

And yet, it’s not all bad. Despite Devin Harris’ struggles in 2009-2010, he figures to rebound somewhat. Derrick Favors is more a project than an immediate solution, but he’s still one of the most impressive post prospects in years (and he only turns 20 next July). Brook Lopez is already one of the league’s top centers at just 22 years old. And as wildly different as Outlaw, Morrow, and Farmar are from James, Boozer, and Stoudemire, they still bring great athleticism, great shooting, and steady bench play, respectively. This is a deep team. This is almost certainly a playoff team out East.

It’s hard to imagine last year’s horrific, injury-marred season impacting this one in too many ways. Even though the previous incarnation won a putrid 12 games, they underperformed their Pythagorean by 5 whole wins (largely fueled by their NBA-worst record of 1-13 in games decided by 5 points or less).

The team will largely be ready for the slow pace Avery Johnson brings with him. Team insiders are already citing the immediate impact Johnson is having on the defensive end with young players like Terrence Williams. And Johnson has obviously worked with Devin Harris before. It could take a while for a relatively young core to fully buy into Johnson’s system, but his defensive impact in Dallas was undeniable. There’s certainly reason to believe it’ll work again, in a much weaker conference.
The Nets are essentially in a position few teams get to experience: they’ve got the building blocks for an elite squad in place, without too much immediate pressure. Avery Johnson should get time to implement his strategy, and the team has an opportunity to be patient with Derrick Favors. 2010-2011 can essentially function as a “feeling out” period, with the added bonus of potential playoff experience for Favors, Lopez, et al. New Jersey can then move in for that final missing piece, whether through a trade, the acquisition of Carmelo Anthony, or simply the realization that Favors can indeed play at an All-Star level.

What’s currently unfolding in New Jersey feels very organic. Fans will get to watch a young team grow in front of their eyes. Maybe that’s not worth missing out on a free agent superstar. But maybe it is. With just a couple lucky bounces, New Jersey could very well send the Nets off to Brooklyn in style.

PLAYABLE TUNES

PLAYER WHO COULD BE AN IMPACT GUY BUT PROBABLY WONT’ BE:

Jordan Farmar. In the Nets’ last preseason game against the Knicks, Farmar came off the bench and went en fuego. He lit it up. Absolutely torched the Knicks from the perimeter and helped lead the team back. They were within one possession, they were locking down. And then… Farmar needlessly gambled on a steal, leading to a wide open thee. Game over.

Aaaaaaand that’s Jordan Farmar’s career, right there.

YOU SHOULD WATCH BECAUSE:

Terrence Williams, Brook Lopez, together in any capacity, is like the second Band of Horses album.

YOU SHOULD HATE THIS TEAM BECAUSE:

They couldn’t leave well enough alone to just build through the draft. They had to get all cute and fancy and sign a bunch of players just to say they spent money. It’s like putting a spoiler on a mini-van. I hate those things.