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Blurbs on Ball (June 4, ’11)

The NBA is a business, it moves fast, s*** happens and things change. Here in my segment, ‘Blurbs on Ball’, I’ll touch on weekly stories that are quality news, but I’d rather not write a full post on. No slouching here, just quick, thoughtful opinions.

Continue Reading

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Blurbs on Ball (June 4, ’11)

The NBA is a business, it moves fast, s*** happens and things change. Here in my segment, ‘Blurbs on Ball’, I’ll touch on weekly stories that are quality news, but I’d rather not write a full post on. No slouching here, just quick, thoughtful opinions.

Continue Reading

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10 Things To Watch For In The 2011 NBA Playoffs


The 2011 are right around the corner, and are sure to be the most competitive NBA Playoffs we’ve seen in years.  While the 2nd round and beyond, are the rounds everyone’s anticipating, there are a few things we need to be on the look-out for.  Here are 10 of them…

1st Round Upsets

1.  The New York Knicks vs. The Boston Celtics

How can this happen, you ask?  Simply put, Youth and Hunger.  The Knicks are considerably younger, and faster than their Boston Counterparts.  The running style that they live by, is the exact opposite type of game that the C’s want to get in to.  Yes the Knicks have had their struggles versus the Celtics this season, but have also had their moments.  When their backs were against the wall, their closer showed up. Carmelo Anthony put the team on his back on multiple occasions, and performed like the star that he is.  These are the leadership qualities that I spoke of before, that are there, just inconsistent.  If Melo can maintain that drive, and killer instinct throughout the series; The Celtics are in Trouble.  Now the likelihood of an upset isn’t in the Knicks’ favor.  However, the Celtics haven’t been the same team since the Perkins trade, and are injured across the board.  The funny thing about this series is that the Knicks lack that “Inside Toughness,” but then again, so do the Celtics.  Yes of course KG is still the backbone of the team, but then what?  You have an old and injured Shaq, who’s paired with another old and injured Jermaine O’neal.  Either way, the Knicks will make a series vs. ANYONE they play this year; you can put money on that! Continue Reading

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Shaq to Ball in Europe?

According to Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Shaquille O’Neal is now weighing the possibility of taking his talents eastward, to play basketball in Europe next season.

Sources have indicated he’s even tested the market in Europe trying to land one last $10 million payday. But all of that is unlikely. Indeed, the Cavs may consider re-signing Shaq to a short deal that would pay him $5 million-$7 million and wait for a contender to get desperate to match up with the Lakers or Magic.

The thing is, Shaq would have to be OK with taking a lesser role on a rebuilding team and be a good citizen while biding his time. If he’s as motivated to get the money as he seems to be, he might, but it might be a gamble with chemistry for the Cavs.

To be honest, this might be Shaq’s best move. No team over here is even close to awarding him the money and playing time he wants for one last go-’round. Over in Europe, the NBA products of which are traditionally known as softees, Shaq would be a rare physical specimen, and many teams would be happy to have him at center. Heck, he might put up some decent numbers, too.

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Diesel Fuel: Would Shaq Work in Boston?

It’s the end of July, and the league’s oldest player, Shaquille O’Neal remains unsigned. Teams like Atlanta, San Antonio, and Miami have all been mentioned as potential suitors, but there’s still no offer on the table. Now, coming toward the end of the offseason, rumors are now starting to pick up that the Diesel might make his way to Beantown for one more ride with the Boston Celtics.

The first obstacle to signing Shaq, of course, is overcoming his demand for a high salary. After signing Jermaine O’Neal and others, the Celtics don’t have the cap room to offer him anything more than the veteran’s minimum in a straight-up deal. So either Ainge needs to work his magic to convince Shaq to take the money in exchange for a very good shot at another championship or he needs to devise a sign-and-trade deal with Cleveland. The issue with that? Any player signed and traded must have a contract of three or more years, which is a very long commitment to make to O’Neal. That said, the team has the cooperation of the retiring Rasheed Wallace to use his midlevel deal as a trade chip if they so choose.

Let’s say they overcome the issues and the Big Cactus joins the Green for one more campaign. Would the experiment work? Despite Shaq’s dwindling numbers compared to those of his prime, he has still been very effective on the court over the past few seasons in limited minutes. In fact, last year in Cleveland, Shaq’s per-40-minute averages were: 20.5 points, 11.3 boards, 2 blocks — and he still shot 57 percent. Furthermore, he’s still a force on defense who can match up with the Dwight Howards of the league. And his deficiencies guarding the pick and roll can be covered up by Jermaine, Kevin Garnett, and, when he comes back, Kendrick Perkins.

And Perk’s injury is another key factor for the Shaq signing. In Games 6 and 7 of the NBA Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers showed how crucial Perkins is to the Celtics, and he’ll still be out for quite some time. They did bring on Jermaine O’Neal, but after his addition (which effectively fills ‘Sheed’s void), they’re still down one rotation big man from the four they had last year so long as Perkins is out. Shaq completes that frontcourt with a skillset that’s pretty similar to Perkins, but Shaq is better on offense.

What about when Perkins comes back, though? Will Doc Rivers be able to get all of these guys minutes with Glen Davis in the picture, too? That remains to be seen. You know Garnett won’t mind giving up a few minutes here or there if it means the team will win, but the same can’t necessarily be said for the O’Neal pair. Shaq comes with plenty of baggage on the side, and his ego could be a problem. Even in Cleveland he started, so he’ll have to learn to give that up if he wants to play in Boston. Also, he likely won’t get as many touches as he did with LeBron — which was probably too many anyway. But considering the age of KG and the O’Neals, having an insurance policy in case of injury isn’t a bad idea.

This signing could be a difference-maker for the Celtics. They’ve just got to get the money straightened out with the Diesel, and he might be playing ball in New England come October.

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Get Off LeBron’s Back, Cleveland

July 09, 2010 - Miami, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - epa02243319 LeBron James (R) joins with Miami Heat Dwayne Wade (C) and Chris Bosh (L) greet fans during NBA basketball team Miami Heat

Source: Yardbarker.com

The reactions to LeBron James’ decision to join the Miami Heat have, well, varied. Sure, there are all those lounging on the beach in Florida enthralled with the choice, hopeful for the onslaught that James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh are likely to provide, but for each one of those, there’s a fan in Cleveland contemplating his or her suicide. And for those who fall into the second category, you’ve got to lay off the guy.

The man who is seen as representative of the city’s collective disgust is Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who hasn’t exactly kept quite about his feelings for the “self-proclaimed former king.” In what has been a most childish display of a misguided sense of superiority, Gilbert has exposed himself with a lengthy letter to fans that chided LeBron’s choice and foolishly declared that his team would win an NBA title before LeBron — a note that screamed immaturity in every way, down to the Comic Sans typeface that he chose to use.

But Gilbert didn’t stop there. In a move he must’ve thought was incredibly clever on his part (or, more likely, one of his brown-nosing assistants suggested it to him), the owner of the Fathead company reduced the price of the remaining LeBron cutouts from $99.99 to $17.41, symbolic of the birth year of Benedict Arnold — the most notable traitor in the history of this country. That’ll show LeBron, right?

But this massive about-face with regard to LeBron’s standing in the city is entirely unwarranted and a tad bit nauseating. The collective opinion is that LeBron, by “defecting” to Miami, stabbed a stake through the heart of “his” city, crippling the basketball team for years to come — and that he was wrong to do that. I ask you, however, why is that wrong?

The whole nature of free agency — the reason we have it — is to benefit the players. There’s a reason the Player’s Association grapples tooth and nail with the league and its owners every few years to squeeze everything possible out of a new collective bargaining agreement under the threat of lockout. The players need to have their freedoms. There was a time when players were unconditionally bound to their teams for their entire careers (barring trade) with no power at all. Is that what you’d rather have? Puppets playing with no true free will? I really doubt it. And I’m sure Cleveland fans will agree that not having LeBron is better than not having any basketball at all — which is what would happen if the league and owners stood pat on abolishing or limiting free agency next year.

So the following holds true: LeBron’s decision was completely legitimate. He exercised his freedom to change teams to try and win a championship.

Cleveland fans will argue the details, though. For one, “Gilbert and the team did everything they could to put together a championship-caliber team to help LeBron.” As much as everyone would like that to be true, Mo Williams is not a difference-maker. 38-year-old Shaquille O’Neal is not a difference-maker. And Antawn Jamison is not a difference-maker. Cleveland could have done many more things (including using Wally Szczerbiak’s massive expiring contract for talent) to try for the Larry O’Brien trophy in lieu of signing washed-up big men.

Next, Cleveland will argue: “Ohio is his home. He’s destined to win his championship here. We drafted him, so he should repay us.” The most obvious quibble with this argument is that players hardly win for their home teams. Was Kobe Bryant destined to win titles for the 76ers? Was Larry Bird destined to win titles for the Pacers? Was Magic Johnson destined to win titles for the Pistons? The answer is no. As for his being drafted to the Cavaliers, the only reason this is so is because the team sucked enough to get good lottery odds the year before and got lucky with four ping-pong balls. It’s not like they knew some secret about the kid that would have made any other team pass on him. He was one of the biggest players to ever enter the league. He doesn’t owe the city anything. The fans may very well have supported him, but support isn’t everything. Brian Scalabrine might be overwhelmingly supported in Boston, but it doesn’t mean he’s getting everything he wants out of his career.

The one argument that has any worth with regard to LeBron’s decision was the suggestion that his choice to announce the team on live television was a massive slap to the face. While this holds some degree of merit, the fact remains that the proceeds of the telecast went to charity and gave the Boys and Girls Clubs of America a heck of a lot of publicity as the host for the announcement. Is it so wrong that he thought of a way to leverage his incredible fame into a charitable cause? I think not. As for the analogies that this was like having your girlfriend dump you in front of the whole school, it’s not really the same thing. This moment was hyped for literally two years before it actually came to fruition. It’s not like no one would have known about it if he hadn’t announced it on TV. It would have stung just as much to read the news in print in the local newspaper or on ESPN’s BottomLine or to hear it coming out of Stan Verrett or Scott Van Pelt’s mouth. In fact, at least the guy had the guts to confront the audience himself.

In the end, LeBron took less money to go have fun, play with his friends, and situate himself to win a championship. He wasn’t consciously thinking, “How can I screw over the city that got me started in this league?,” he was making a basketball, business, and life decision. And the fact that you loathe him for it now, Cleveland, makes it much more obvious that  his talent was being wasted on a city that can’t appreciate the impending success of one of its own.