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Season Recap: Why Predictions are Stupid, and Other Stories

Well folks, as the regular season winds down, I think that now is an appropriate time to look back on the season that was. Actually it’s more like the season that “is,” since the regular season hasn’t actually finished yet. I’m just really tired of regular season basketball right now. If you follow me on Twitter, you could tell that baseball has swallowed my attention, and that basketball, for now, has taken a backseat. Sure, playoffs are starting soon, like REALLY soon, but I couldn’t resist doing a recap now. I’m just way too restless.

Alright, so since none of you want to listen to me ramble on about baseball, I’ll start off by picking five stories at the start of the season, that didn’t quite pan out. Obviously I need to talk about the Miami Heat. No one has done that enough. And of course, I need to talk about Kevin Durant, since people were calling him MVP before the season started. I can’t NOT talk about the Lakers, they had a season that was unlike anyone could expect. The Spurs deserve some attention as well. And no recap list would be complete without Carmelo/Knicks/Nuggets on it. Continue Reading

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N.Y. State of Mind


Losers of 6 straight, and 9 of their last 10 games, the New York Knicks are in a bit of a, “funk,” so to speak.  Acquiring a major talent in one, Carmelo Anthony, just before the NBA Trade Deadline, seemed to be the next big step, in “Righting the Ship.”  However, the Knicks have found themselves in a worse predicament than they were before the deal.  A lot of people, namely “fans,” are suggesting that maybe that was the wrong move to make, in acquiring Anthony.  They feel that blowing up the team, and trading away its young talent, was a mistake.  A record of 7-9, and falling to the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference, would also back those claims.  With the Knicks currently facing a potential playoff match-up with the Celtics, whom the Knicks are 0-3 against; the future doesn’t seem much brighter.

So who gets the blame in this situation?  We could point the finger at the Star Players, Melo & Amare, but they’ve performed consistently.  What about the bench…Or lack thereof?  Naaah, that’d just be a cop out of sorts and besides that only, consists of 3-4 players at max.  The finger can be pointed at the Front Office for making the deal, right?  Let’s face it; the Knicks weren’t exactly playing elite basketball prior to the trade.  Their record only stood, 2 games above .500, which isn’t saying much compared to where they are now.  There isn’t one specific, “Answer,” to the Knicks’ problems.  There are several things wrong with this team. Continue Reading

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Team USA Gets a Wake-Up Call

U.S. national basketball team players (L-R) Lamar Odom, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose take a break while warming up at Madrid

Source: Yardbarker.com

Team USA got a message Saturday night in Madrid. Winning the World Championships in Turkey will take a lot more than just out-talenting a slew of competitors.

Prior to Saturday, Team USA hadn’t had many problems in their contests against international opponents, easily disposing of China and France in two exhibitions last weekend in New York City. It was a different story a week later, though, as Lithuania gave the Americans a run for their money in the first half.

Without the Olympian superstars like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, and the rest, this year’s national team is overwhelmingly devoid of players with notable international experience, and that shined through on Saturday.

Team USA was not expecting Lithuania’s physicality, as players repeatedly took beatings as they drove the lane, which forced them to settle for jumpshots that did not fall in the first half. It was the first time that the lack of depth up front for the U.S. was truly an issue, as the Lithuanian bigs bruised and battered the Team USA guards.

But it wasn’t just an insufficient interior presence that caused problems. The team appeared to lack chemistry, often turning the ball over unnecessarily and making bad decisions. Furthermore, there were environmental problems. The floor seemed oddly slippery, causing problems for the quick USA guards. In addition, the rim seemed less generous than Ebenezer Scrooge at Christmas time — at least in the first half.

In the second half, Team USA swept Lithuania under the rug, in part thanks to a 17-0 run but more because the coach of Lithuania wanted to save its offensive plays and sets for the games that are going to count.

Even though Team USA didn’t lose, the struggles in the first half were an important milestone in the development of this team. For a bunch of players who haven’t played together that long, this helps to reduce the overconfidence that was evident among the younger players.

Now they know they can’t take any plays off, can’t take bad risks, and can’t be flashy lest they miss dunks like Rudy Gay. Lithuania is hardly the best team the U.S. will face in this tournament, with Spain and Greece as very formidable opponents. But at least Team USA knows it is no longer bulletproof. It’ll take a lot more hard work and a lot more concentration and effort to come out on top in Turkey in a couple weeks.

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Signing Stoudemire Nothing to Love

April 03, 2010 Milwaukee, WI. Bradley Center..Phoenix Suns Amar

Source: Yardbarker.com

Free agency can produce a number of outcomes for the teams that depend on it each year. First, there’s the super-duper-fantastic result, awarding a team with everything it could have hoped for (see the 1996 Los Angeles Lakers). Then there are those teams who get completely shafted, either because of regrettable tactics or because there just isn’t enough to go around (see 2008 Philadelphia 76ers). Further, still, are the teams that fall somewhere in the middle — nothing to scoff about and nothing to pop the champagne for.

The New York Knicks have apparently come to an agreement with inside force Amar’e Stoudemire, and the’ll pay him $100 million over the next five seasons to sport the blue and orange. Don’t get me wrong: in light of the city’s deprivation of even halfway-decent basketball this decade, this move shouldn’t make the Knick faithful drown themselves in the tears they’ve accumulated over the last several years.

That said, given the risky contracts extended to players like Eddy Curry, Stephon Marbury, and Steve Francis in recent seasons, one might figure Donnie Walsh would be slightly more cautious in extending a maximum contract to a player who lacks the ability to transform a down-in-the-dumps franchise.

Stoudemire is a great NBA player. He’s ruthless (borderline unguardable) on the offensive end when he’s got his head right, and his supernatural athleticism puts asses in the seats. In that regard alone, he’s beneficial for the Knicks. Furthermore, inking STAT might slightly increase the odds that the Knicks can bring in a true superstar (e.g., LeBron James or Dwyane Wade) to really transform the team. But honestly, it would have been much wiser to have gone in reverse, as it’s hardly a guarantee either of those guys will join Stoudemire in MSG next season.

And if one of them doesn’t come? Then there are some problems. Considering Stoudemire’s size, strength, and athleticism, he’s really a mediocre rebounder, as he struggles to haul in eight a game. Moreover, he’s virtually absent on the defensive end, tending to avoid midair contests altogether and blocking fewer shots than he should. Hmm … Good offense and bad defense?

Sounds like a guy who played power forward for New York last season — a Mr. David Lee! While Lee might give up a few points to Stoudemire on a nightly basis, he’s just as much of a “defender,” and he’ll rebound the pants off of Amar’e any night out of the year. Wouldn’t it have been better to pursue re-signing Lee and his comparable production at a fraction of Stoudemire’s price?

And who knows? Stoudemire’s offensive production might not even be what it was in Phoenix. It’s quite clear his best moments came zooming off picks on the receiving end of incomprehensible passes from Steve Nash. But Nash isn’t around anymore, and Stoudemire is yet unproven away from the wizard’s side. Who’s going to make those passes in New York? Chris Duhon? I don’t think so. The Knicks better hope Stoudemire can create some more offense on his own, or he could end up being even worse than Lee on the offensive end.

Then there’s the largest problem of all — the injury concerns. Amar’e has possibly the most questionable health history of any of the major players in free agency this July. Two micro-fracture knees and a worrisome retina. An unfortunate poke, an awkward landing, or just too much tread on the tires could confine the $100 million player to an Armani suit sitting in the first row behind the bench.

Now, I started by saying that this deal put the Knicks in the middle ground of free-agency results, and despite my fierce protestation of the decision, I stick by that. First of all, a sidelining injury could happen to anyone. Just because the problems are more noteworthy for Stoudemire doesn’t mean he’s going to ride the pine the whole season.

More importantly, it’s just that the Knicks can’t do any worse. Signing Amar’e instantly propels them to a high-30-win team, and that’s before their subsequent adjustments this summer. With some careful additions from here on in, they might be in sniffing distance of the playoffs, and that’s enough to pique the city’s interest again.

Lastly, should this not work out, the team has a potential security blanket. Layered deep beneath the three-way deal that brought Tracy McGrady to the Knicks was a stipulation that the Rockets have the option to swap picks with the Knicks in the 2011 draft … so long as the pick isn’t No. 1. Highlighting next year’s draft class is UNC freshman phenom Harrison Barnes, who has already drawn comparisons to Kobe Bryant himself. So if the Knicks flop this year and end up with the top pick in the draft, that’ll be another major building block to lay for the years to come.

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Leaving Dallas (maybe): Dirk’s possible destinations

That injury looks almost as painful as Dallas's first-round exit Thursday night.

For this whole year, it was written off as a sure thing that Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki would opt in for the final year of his contract with the team. Now that the Spurs bounced the Mavs out of this year’s playoffs in the first round, Dirk is changing his tune: he is considering a change of scenery.

It’s hard to imagine Dirk’s playing in any other color than that dark blue (and green, sometimes), but in such a big free-agent market, he would be wise to get out now.

Nowitzki’s certainly a great player, although he’s a little older (31) than most of the other stars going on the market. He also doesn’t play defense, but neither does Amar’e. It’s questionable whether he’ll command a max. contract, but some teams will definitely consider it. Remember that he has been in the league longer than many of the other elite players, so he can get a bigger deal.

With that said, let’s take a look at some of the teams (other than Dallas — even if he opts out, Dallas can still pursue him) that might make a play for Dirk come July.

(1) Miami Heat

It’s nearly a forgone conclusion that Dwyane Wade is going to stay in Miami. With that in mind, the Heat management team is looking to bring another star in to ball alongside Wade in some sort of Robin-to-Batman capacity. Nowitzki would fill a need for a talented big-man presence, but he is not the banger they would like in South Beach. Nevertheless, a tandem of Wade and Nowitzki would be incredible in the scoring department.

(2) New York Knicks

The Knicks will take anyone they can get. Sure, LeBron is priority No. 1, but that’s the case for all the cap space–laden teams. If New York can bring him in along with another top-tier player, they’ll be very well off.

(3) New Jersey Nets

Dirk isn’t an ideal fit for the Nets for three reasons: first, his age isn’t really consistent with the rebuilding plan; second, he doesn’t play defense (and the Nets are trying to push that next year); third, he’s more of an isolation player — John Wall may be coming in next year, and they’ll want to be working a true offense with Wall at the helm.

That said, pairing Nowitzki with Brook Lopez down low would give them a solid interior-exterior duality from the power forward and center slots. The Nets’ perimeter shooting was dreadful this season.

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