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Taking My Talents….Home!

 

The Miami Heat’s failure to capitalize on its first shot at an NBA Championship, with their “Big 3,” in place, will undoubtedly go down as one of the biggest disappointments in Sports History.  It’s not the fact that a team so top-heavy in talent can lose a series; it’s what happened prior to this point, that’s the problem.  This series wasn’t about what Dallas Accomplished, but more about what Miami failed to Accomplish.  The series wasn’t about the dynamic leadership displayed by Dirk Nowitzki, but the lack of leadership by LeBron James.  All of these things are magnified due to the brash and very bold statements made by James, starting with “The Decision.”

The Decision

James’ announcement of his choice of team via Television Special, followed by a proclamation of at least 7 Championships, ultimately set the Heat up for failure.  James was so confident in the team’s ability to succeed, that he hinted at victories even if Pat Riley was the team’s starting Point Guard.  With a team this talented, who’s going to argue LeBron’s statements?  I for one saw the Heat as a dead-lock for the Finals, which was correct.  I initially picked them to lose the Finals versus the Lakers, but uhh…We saw how that turned out for “Showtime!”  Once the Lakers were ousted, I didn’t see anyone standing in the way of Miami’s Destiny.  As a team, they entered the playoffs clicking on all cylinders, and even watched LeBron mature as a player through the first 3 series.  But then came the Big Stage…(Here’s where you insert for favorite sad face : ( perplexed style : / or the highly emotional crying face (,-__-,)

 

James basically disappeared in the Finals, averaging 18pts, 7ast, & 7reb!!! LeBron is a former NBA Scoring Champ, and averaged 18 ppg!  Let’s also note that James averaged 21ppg as a ROOKIE!  Now, not taking anything away from his overall playoff performance, because he is the reason Miami got to the Finals.  James was playing like a man possessed in the first 3 rounds, and hit some huge shots in both the Boston and Chicago Series’.  You can argue that it’s a team game, and all of the blame can’t be placed on James, which is correct.  However, LeBron’s actions coinciding with his talents are what create the enormous bulls-eye on his back.   He also doesn’t help the scrutiny by his comments, and almost nonchalant attitude at press conferences.  Again this is a team game, but the team itself doesn’t share in the talking aspect, which James excels in.  If you go back to the introduction of “The Heatles,” it was LeBron who did the most talking, and predicting on behalf of the Heat.  Look at it like this…Muhammad Ali was known for his trash talk before, and during, some of the biggest fights of his life.  While Ali didn’t have an unblemished record, he always came back to avenge a loss, thus backing his proclamations.  LeBron doesn’t have a history of closing games, playing to his full potential, nor being the leader that the “Face of the NBA,” should; but talks as if this isn’t the case.  If LeBron showed a little more humility, I don’t believe the backlash would be to this unbelievable level.

 

So What Exactly Happened?


Aside from LeBron’s shortcomings in the Finals, what else seemed to go wrong for Miami, that didn’t for Dallas?  Let’s start with Miami’s consistency outside of its core.  The bench play was much uninspired throughout the series, while Dallas had its role players contribute on a nightly basis.  But despite the poor role playing on behalf of the Heat, they controlled this entire series.  Splitting the first 4 games, could have easily been a 4-0 Miami Sweep.  Dallas turned the Heat into a jump shooting team, and prevented them from attacking the paint, which is their
strong suit.  Along with Dallas’ defensive adjustment, was Dirk’s relentlessness as a leader.  There wasn’t a moment in this series that Dirk wasn’t in attack mode.  This same thing can be said about Dwayne Wade, who played his heart out throughout the series, and if not for injury, wouldn’t have let up.  If you take each team at 100% attack mode, the Heat should win out every time.  My reasoning is simple; Dwayne Wade and LeBron James excel on BOTH sides of the court, which is a headache for every team in the league.  I fully believe that if LeBron guarded Nowitzki for the entire series, and Wade on either Terry or Barrea (depending on who’s in the game), I don’t see Miami losing this series at all.  This tactic then forces other players to beat you, who aren’t as offensively gifted as the aforementioned Nowitzki, Terry or Barrea.

I also believe that the Heat lost some faith in the process at some point.  Squandering big leads in games they controlled from the beginning, is inexcusable.  The team got extremely passive during the final moments of Game 6, and the stars of the team almost seemed to defer to its role players.  A play that replay’s endlessly in my mind, is the Chalmers turnover under the basket.  With 3 players making over 100 million dollars each, and have the ball in Mario Chalmers’ hands in crucial parts of the game in ridiculous!  I just don’t see the team letting up if Pat Riley is who you have to face when you come off the floor, versus Erik Spolestra.  While Spolestra did improve as the season went on, I think his lack of big game experience is what ultimately did him in.  But again, the coaches aren’t the ones who perform on the floor…it’s the players!

 

The Fallout

While the Heat are the early favorite to win next year’s Title, something has to change.  With 7 players as unrestricted free agents, 3 will likely return with their player options (House, Jones & Illgauskas).  Mario Chalmers is the team’s lone restricted free agent, and has already been rumored to be receiving a qualifying offer from Miami.  Two things that need to change are the team’s ability to score off the bench, along with the team’s interior defense.  When your Shooting Guard is blocking as many, or more, shots than your big’s…There’s a problem!  But not only does the interior defense need to improve, but the overall toughness of the team.  As it stands, it seems as though when Wade isn’t at 100%, the team loses its heart and backbone.  If Miami is lucky enough, there are a few players that I feel could be added at a bargain price to aid in the team’s improvement.  Perimeter Players – Tracey McGrady, Tayshaun Prince, Al Thornton, Michael Redd, T.J. Ford, Shane Battier, Andrei Kirilenko, and Josh Howard.  Interior Players – Kenyon Martin, Samuel Dalembert, Chuck Hayes, Craig Smith, Chris Wilcox, Boris Diaw, Troy Murphy, and Etan Thomas.  While these are all unrestricted free agents that are all possibilities for the Heat, bigger players like Jason Richardson, Jamal Crawford, Nene, and J.R. Smith, are all likely to command too high of a price tag on the market.  Players like Redd, Prince, Ford, Battier, Kirilenko, Martin and Dalembert, would dramatically improve the Heat’s overall roster.  Dalembert provides added shot blocking, along with Martin, who also would be an enforcer that the Heat desperately need.  Battier, Prince and Kirilenko provide length, and solid perimeter defense, as they can defend several positions on the court.  TJ Ford would be a tremendous upgrade at the Point Guard position, while Redd provides more scoring ability off the bench to go along with Mike Miller & James Jones.  Players like McGrady, Josh Howard and Michael Redd are all very injury prone players, but can be very serviceable if their health/minutes are preserved for a playoff run.

 

Along with these changes, I have a strong feeling that Pat Riley will step in as the new coach.  Riley worked too hard to put this team together, to see them fail.  Riley is often linked with the great Phil Jackson, as they not only were great coaches, but managed some of the game’s biggest personalities.  Riley has the pedigree to get the most out of this Heat team, and surely would not have allowed them to relinquish those late game leads.  Look for major changes in South Beach, which will result in Miami’s hoisting of the Championship Trophy.  The only thing that could prevent a title run from happening, are another implosion by the team itself, but if Pat is patrolling the sideline, I wouldn’t bet on it!

 

 

Follow – @TheKidSkoob

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Carmelo Anthony Likely Headed Out

It looks like Carmelo Anthony could be headed out of Denver, reports ESPN the Magazine’s Ric Bucher:

All signs continue to point toward the eventual divorce between Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets.

League sources say it is now a matter of when, not if, Anthony and the Nuggets will go their separate ways.

Anthony is weighing whether to sign a three-year, $65 million extension offered by the Nuggets. His dilemma, league sources say, is what affords him the best chance of continuing his career elsewhere. Anthony could sign with Denver and convince the team to then trade him. His other option would be to not sign the extension, thereby forcing the team to move him rather than risk losing him next summer as a free agent.

It’s obvious that Anthony is envious of LeBron’s attention this summer, so he’s going to try to emulate his style and get all the love and money he wants. The difference this season might be in how the team handles it.

In light of how doomed the Cleveland Cavaliers are now that their superstar is gone, the Denver Nuggets might look to avoid that by dealing Anthony to a team he wants before the deadline this February. It would have to be with a team that Melo likes, as indicating that he wouldn’t re-sign with a particular team is a de facto no-trade clause for the small forward.

Who might he agree to? The Knicks, a destination that has been mentioned for another superstar trio, or the Nets, who will be in Brooklyn in two years where Melo grew up, are the two frontrunners at this point.

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Anthony Won’t Sign Extension With Nuggets

Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets will not sign a contract extension this summer and will likely test the waters in next summer’s free agency. From Yahoo! Sports’s Mark J. Miller:

The Denver Nuggets wanted their three-time All Star, Carmelo Anthony(notes),to sign a three-year extension this summer, but HoopsWorld reports that the 26-year-old small forward won’t be signing anytime soon.

The deal would have paid him $65 million, so Anthony is walking away from some serious dough if HoopsWorld is correct. If he doesn’t sign an extension, Anthony will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Anthony’s no fool. He saw what happened this summer. He knows that he can get a lot more money next year and can either go somewhere else or stay with the Nuggets; he’s keeping his options open.

The case for signing an extension this summer was that he could guarantee his money with the looming threat of a lockout next year, but he likes the chances the owners and the players work it out (I, too, think the concerns of no basketball in 2011-2012 are entirely premature).

That said, this report only further increases the chances that there’s a new supergroup brewing. He very well could be on his way to New York next year, with Chris Paul not far ahead or behind.

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LeBron to Announce Decision Thursday

Free agent LeBron James will put an end to speculation as to where he’ll play next season Thursday, the first day that players can officially sign with teams, on a 9 PM eastern special on ESPN.

LeBron James will announce the team with which he will sign during a one-hour special on ESPN Thursday night, ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard has learned through independent sources.

ESPN would only confirm that active discussions for the special are ongoing. But sources tell Broussard that representatives for James contacted the network, proposing that James makes his announcement during a 9 p.m. ET special.

Those sources said that James’ representatives requested they be allowed to sell sponsorship for the one-hour special, with the proceeds going to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and that ESPN agreed to the proposal but had not been told what James has decided.

While I doubt there’s any substance to it, his decision to publicize his choice in this way suggests he might be leaving Cleveland. It seems like he’d want a quieter, more direct approach if he were re-signing. But no one really knows.

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Free Agency Profiles: Dwyane Wade

Now that the draft has passed, it is time to focus on attention to the event that NBA fans have been anticipating for literally years. On Saving the Skyhook, I’ll do a review a day of each of the major players who figure to command the most attention come July 1 — in no particular order. Today features Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat.

April 12, 2010: Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) talking things over with Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem (40) while time is called during the NBA game between the Miami Heat and the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Heat beat the 76ers, 107-105.

Source: Yardbarker.com

Well, the negotiating period for free agency is just hours away now, and the tension is palpable. I know I didn’t get to as many of the premiere free agents as I would have liked, but as I only have one night left, I figured I’d write about Dwyane Wade. LeBron has gotten enough free-agency coverage, so I’m sure most of you know his deal already anyway.

On the basketball court, Dwyane Wade is a man’s man. On the offensive side of the ball, he’s an absolute god among men, combining incredible scoring prowess with plus passing and world-class intangible value.

In terms of his scoring, Wade is adept both around the hoop and also at range. It’s very hard to stop him driving to the rim, as he’s among the league’s best at making effective shot adjustments and finishing despite contact. His ability to absorb the hit from defenders and finish garnered him .96 and-one conversions per game, ranking him third in the league. Wade was also fourth in the league in free throws attempted, so his aggressive style gains him a lot of easy points from the stripe.

But aside from his dominance in the paint, Wade is also an accomplished jump shooter. While he doesn’t hit the three like Ray Allen, he makes shots from long two-point range and beyond with regularity. His threat as a shooter encourages defenders to guard him tightly, allowing Wade to sneak by for a drive to the basket. Moreover, his pump fakes are very effective, and he continually draws defenders in the air and takes the contact to shoot free throws.

Wade is also an incredible leader on the floor. He’s never afraid to take the last shot, and he’ll hit thrilling buzzer-beaters at least a handful of times every year. He has also taken the Miami Heat team under his wing, and he has shown great maturity and leadership despite his team’s largely mediocre performance of late. Wade is a model NBA citizen.

On defense, Wade pairs awe-inspiring athleticism and great quickness, which make him a fantastic container. He’s always a threat to pick up a steal off the dribble or the pass, and he, too, has grown fond of that chasedown block that LeBron has made famous. Heck, he’ll even block a seven footer off a flat-footed jump every once in awhile, too. Just ask Brook Lopez.

In terms of negatives on the court, Wade doesn’t really have any. If you want to be picky, he could shoot a better percentage on his jumpers, but considering his scoring output, that’s a minor problem.

The only problem teams have with Wade in free agency is his propensity to get injured. His reckless attacks to the basket expose him to a lot of hard hits, and he bears the brunt of them with injuries all over his body. Teams have to be careful, because signing a guy like Wade and then having him miss large chunks of time because of nagging injuries could be devastating to the club. Regardless, Wade deserves, and will get, a maximum-salary contract this July. He has proven time and time again he can be the first option for any team in this league, and he’ll throw in great sportsmanship and leadership along the way.

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Free Agency Profiles: Dirk Nowitzki

Now that the draft has passed, it is time to focus on attention to the event that NBA fans have been anticipating for literally years. On Saving the Skyhook, I’ll do a review a day of each of the major players who figure to command the most attention come July 1 — in no particular order. Today features Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks.

Apr. 23, 2010 - San Antonio, TEXAS, UNITED STATES - epa02129865 Dallas Mavericks player Dirk Nowitzki from Germany goes to the basket against the San Antonio Spurs in the second half of their Western Conference first round playoff game at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas USA, 23 April 2010. The San Antonio Spurs won 94-90 to take a 2-1 game lead in the series.

Source: Yardbarker.com

Dirk Nowitzki surprised a lot of people last month when he announced that he would opt out of his contract with the Dallas Mavericks and test the free-agent waters in the summer of 2010 — especially his companions in the Lonestar State. While most still see it as a long shot that he’ll sign a deal with a team other than the one that has been his home for his entire career, stranger things have certainly happened. One thing’s for sure, though. Whatever team manages to pick up Dirk will acquire one of the best-scoring seven footers in the history of the game.

On the offensive end, Nowitzki is an absolute assassin shooting the ball. While his around-the-basket game is serviceable at best, his silky-smooth jump shot more than makes up for any deficiencies near the rim. With a fade on his shot that comes naturally, Nowitzki has the advantage of being able to get a shot over nearly anyone for a clean look, especially since he’s seven feet tall. As a result, Nowitzki is virtually a lock to score more than 23 points per game in a season, making him an offensive force to be reckoned with.

The strange thing about Nowitzki’s game is how many low-percentage shots he manages to drain. Nowitzki vastly outdistanced anyone else in the league in taking 8.3 16- to 23-foot shots per game, which are the least efficient on the floor. But he converted an unfathomable 46 percent of them, tops in the league for big men who took more than two per contest. Nowitzki also has good range on his jumper, and he knocked down 42 percent of his three-point heaves in 2009-2010, but he’s taking fewer and fewer threes as his career progresses.

Nowitzki can also handle the load at crunch time, and he scored 47 points per 48 clutch minutes this season. That ranked him third behind only Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

As a rebounder, Nowitzki brings in his fair share, but considering his height, his skills are lacking. In fact, that part of his game is so poor, that he ranked only 53rd in overall rebound rate among power forwards in the league. To say the least, he does not like to bang around in the paint.

Then there’s the main question mark about Nowitzki’s game: his defense. For all the greatness he provides on offense, he’s nearly as much of a liability on the defensive side. While his height allows him to reel in some blocks, he has long has a reputation as a complete softy, and opposing big men treat him as such. Nowitzki is routinely bullied in the paint, and he pays the price in how many points he allows. Furthermore, he is not very athletic and he has no lateral quickness, so he struggles to contain guards on pick-and-roll switches and more agile big men.

While Dirk will get max. money no matter which team he signs with, at this point in his career, it’s a tough call. He’s 32 now, and while jump shooting big men typically experience far greater longevity than their counterparts, he has played an inordinately high number of minutes in his career. So the question is: will his past ability to elude the injury bug follow him through the final years of his career? It will, in all likelihood, at least for a few more seasons. But Nowitzki is going to get a five- or six-year deal. So while a contract will pay off in the short run, the final seasons could end up coming back to haunt the team that inks this German giant.

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NBA Today: June 27

  • Rod Thorn plans to retire from the Nets on July 15 after the important weeks of free agency are over. Thorn orchestrated the Nets’ back-t0-back Finals runs by trading for Jason Kidd, and he is best known for drafting Michael Jordan.
  • Joining Avery Johnson on the Nets bench this season is new lead assistant Sam Mitchell. The Nets now have two of the last five NBA coaches of the year on their staff.
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NBA Today: June 26

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Free Agency Profiles: Chris Bosh

Now that the draft has passed, it is time to focus on attention to the event that NBA fans have been anticipating for literally years. On Saving the Skyhook, I’ll do a review a day of each of the major players who figure to command the most attention come July 1 — in no particular order. Today features Chris Bosh of the Toronto Raptors.

Toronto Raptors Chris Bosh speaks to the media after finishing the NBA season in Toronto April 15, 2010. REUTERS/Mark Blinch (CANADA - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Source: Yardbarker.com

As free agency approaches, arguably the third-most-discussed name on the market behind LeBron James and Dwyane Wade is Chris Bosh. For most of the season, it was generally accepted that Bosh would leave Toronto this offseason, unhappy with the team’s production and his supporting cast. When the Raptors narrowly missed out on the playoffs in April, his departure became nearly certain.

Bosh is one of the league’s best big men. In 2009-2010, CB4 averaged 24 points and almost 11 rebounds, taking offensive control for a team that didn’t really have much else to rely on. Bosh possesses a rare combination of inside and outside game for the NBA, complementing great touch around the rim and decent post moves with a silky-smooth jump shot out to 20 feet.

On the defensive end, he could improve, but right now he’s serviceable on that end of the basketball. With decent athleticism and good length, he can contest shots and he’s an excellent rebounder.

Furthermore, Bosh’s value gets a boost because he has largely avoided injury throughout his career. Amid other power forward targets like Amar’e Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer, Bosh has the cleanest bill of health, making his contract a rather secure one.

Bosh needs to improve his passing, though, as he finished the season a mere 35th in assist ratio among power forwards league-wide. One could make the argument, however, that on a Raptors team with little offensive presence, he didn’t really have anyone dependable to whom he could pass the ball, so his best bet was to take it to the rim himself.

Moreover, GMs have to worry slightly about Bosh’s attitude in Toronto this season. For most of the year he seemed checked out, waiting for the opportunity to jump ship and sign with a contender. When he got a whiff of the playoffs, however, he righted his emotions and turned on his game. That emotional unevenness did not hinder his production, though.

On the free-agent market, Bosh can be a great addition to any team that has the cap space to sign him. He’ll bring an immediate presence in the post, but the role he wants is yet unclear. At first, Bosh suggested that playing second fiddle to someone like James or Bosh would not satisfy him; he wanted to lead a team himself. Many questioned the potential of a team with him as the first option on offense, so he seems to have changed his tune. Now he seems ready and willing to play sidekick to another free agent in order to win.

That doesn’t mean he’s willing to accept sidekick money, though. Bosh will demand a maximum-salary contract, and he’ll get one, too. With all the desperation among teams to make a significant improvement through free agency this July, no team will hesitate to fork over max. money to the most desirable big man on the market.

In the long run, Bosh would probably be best off being the second option. With that in mind, his best option would be to team up with Wade in Cleveland or Miami, or go with Wade of James to a team that can afford two max.-contract players, like Chicago or New York.

Nevertheless, he is going to make some team a whole lot better this summer.

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NBA Today: June 19

  • Well, LeBron showed up for the rally in Akron — even if he came after the event had officially ended.