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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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NBA Game Rankings: 12/30/10

It wasn’t a great night for the Boston Celtics in Detroit, as not only did they fall to the Pistons 104-92, but they also saw Kevin Garnett go down with a leg injury. Things have been setting up nicely for the Celtics so far this season, but there’s no doubt that the injury bug is going to play a big factor in this team’s success this season. On the other side of things, the Pistons might not be as bad as we thought they were. In fact, Tracy McGrady is starting to make some shots like the McGrady of old, and given the struggles by some of the other players on the team, he might become the primary scoring option for that team if he keeps playing well. Continue Reading

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NBA Game Rankings: 12/27/10

There were some very intriguing games around the Association last night, with some rather interesting finishes. The Pistons forced overtime against the Bulls after some big shots by Tracy McGrady, but lost 95-92. The Clippers almost pulled a Clipper against the Suns, but Eric Gordon‘s steal late let them hang on for a five-point win. And the Sixers somehow came back to beat the Nuggets in Denver, which was undoubtedly one of the worst losses of the team for a Nuggets’ team that seems to be heading in the wrong direction. Continue Reading

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NBA Game Rankings: 12/27/10

There were some very intriguing games around the Association last night, with some rather interesting finishes. The Pistons forced overtime against the Bulls after some big shots by Tracy McGrady, but lost 95-92. The Clippers almost pulled a Clipper against the Suns, but Eric Gordon‘s steal late let them hang on for a five-point win. And the Sixers somehow came back to beat the Nuggets in Denver, which was undoubtedly one of the worst losses of the team for a Nuggets’ team that seems to be heading in the wrong direction. Continue Reading

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Would Bulls Regret Signing T-Mac?

Mar. 06, 2010 - New York - (100307) -- NEW YORK, Mar. 7, 2010 (Xinhua) -- Tracy McGrady (R) of New York Knicks controls the ball during the NBA game against New Jersey Nets in New York, the United State, Mar. 6, 2010. Nets won 113-93. (Xinhua/Shen Hong.

Source: Yardbarker.com

Well, it looks like Tracy McGrady will be back in the NBA for another year. After a summer of minimal interest in T-Mac (with the exception of the Clippers’ decision to let him work out), the Chicago Bulls seem prepared to make the 31-year-old guard-forward a deal for the upcoming season — at least.

The Bulls are in the midst of a reconstruction of their own, attempting (as best they can) to keep up with the fast pace that the Miami Heat have set during this year’s free agency. They got their big fish in Carlos Boozer, a scoring and rebounding power forward that gives them a post presence that they have sorely lacked in years past. Then they went after Kyle Korver of the Utah Jazz, who simply lights it up from long range; he hit something like 53 percent of his three-point attempts in 2009-2010. They weren’t done yet, though. They also nabbed Ronnie Brewer, an underrated shooting guard who plays admirable defense and can score the basketball, too. To put on the finishing touches, the Bulls brought aboard Kurt Thomas as a veteran presence in the frontcourt and acquired C.J. Watson via sign-and-trade from the Golden State Warriors. He’s a solid backup for Derrick Rose.

But that’s not enough for Chicago, apparently hellbent on challenging Miami in the now-prestigious Eastern Conference. Its next move is to add the once-superstar Tracy McGrady to their rotation as a scoring option. There are, however, some stipulations for the deal. First of all, he’ll need to prove he’s healthy in a workout with the team. The Bulls don’t want to throw their money down the toilet if he’s just going to ride the pine in a boot all year. Second of all, he must agree that he’ll accept a bench role in the rotation.

In theory, adding T-Mac could pay substantial dividends. He showed for many years that he can score with the best of them. But aren’t there drawbacks to this? The most important one concerns whether he’ll be able to play good ball. While I said that he showed that he could score, he hasn’t exactly lived up to his reputation over the last couple seasons. In 2008-2009 with Houston, his scoring average dropped to 15.6 points. In 2009-2010 with the New York Knicks, who were willing to give him a chance with that attractive expiring contract, he was a complete dud, scoring only 9.4 points per game on 39 percent shooting.

Accordingly, the Bulls risk bringing him on and letting him use too many possessions to shoot way too inefficiently when there are better options on the team. He might be able to accept a bench role, but that doesn’t mean he’ll play like a bench player.

Then there is the potential problem that he won’t live up to his deal with the team. Sure, he might look good in a short workout with the team and pledge that he’ll be happy in the second unit, but it doesn’t mean he’ll stay true to that all year. After he gets his deal, he might stop worrying about his game shape and find himself injured anyway. More problematically, he might recant on his satisfaction to come off the bench and start trouble in the locker room like he did in Houston. It’s the last thing the Bulls could want while trying to compete at the highest level.

There’s no doubt that T-Mac still has the talent to play a viable role in the NBA. But it seems to me that the risks in signing him to deal vastly outweigh the possible rewards that could result.

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Would Bulls Regret Signing T-Mac?

Mar. 06, 2010 - New York - (100307) -- NEW YORK, Mar. 7, 2010 (Xinhua) -- Tracy McGrady (R) of New York Knicks controls the ball during the NBA game against New Jersey Nets in New York, the United State, Mar. 6, 2010. Nets won 113-93. (Xinhua/Shen Hong.

Source: Yardbarker.com

Well, it looks like Tracy McGrady will be back in the NBA for another year. After a summer of minimal interest in T-Mac (with the exception of the Clippers’ decision to let him work out), the Chicago Bulls seem prepared to make the 31-year-old guard-forward a deal for the upcoming season — at least.

The Bulls are in the midst of a reconstruction of their own, attempting (as best they can) to keep up with the fast pace that the Miami Heat have set during this year’s free agency. They got their big fish in Carlos Boozer, a scoring and rebounding power forward that gives them a post presence that they have sorely lacked in years past. Then they went after Kyle Korver of the Utah Jazz, who simply lights it up from long range; he hit something like 53 percent of his three-point attempts in 2009-2010. They weren’t done yet, though. They also nabbed Ronnie Brewer, an underrated shooting guard who plays admirable defense and can score the basketball, too. To put on the finishing touches, the Bulls brought aboard Kurt Thomas as a veteran presence in the frontcourt and acquired C.J. Watson via sign-and-trade from the Golden State Warriors. He’s a solid backup for Derrick Rose.

But that’s not enough for Chicago, apparently hellbent on challenging Miami in the now-prestigious Eastern Conference. Its next move is to add the once-superstar Tracy McGrady to their rotation as a scoring option. There are, however, some stipulations for the deal. First of all, he’ll need to prove he’s healthy in a workout with the team. The Bulls don’t want to throw their money down the toilet if he’s just going to ride the pine in a boot all year. Second of all, he must agree that he’ll accept a bench role in the rotation.

In theory, adding T-Mac could pay substantial dividends. He showed for many years that he can score with the best of them. But aren’t there drawbacks to this? The most important one concerns whether he’ll be able to play good ball. While I said that he showed that he could score, he hasn’t exactly lived up to his reputation over the last couple seasons. In 2008-2009 with Houston, his scoring average dropped to 15.6 points. In 2009-2010 with the New York Knicks, who were willing to give him a chance with that attractive expiring contract, he was a complete dud, scoring only 9.4 points per game on 39 percent shooting.

Accordingly, the Bulls risk bringing him on and letting him use too many possessions to shoot way too inefficiently when there are better options on the team. He might be able to accept a bench role, but that doesn’t mean he’ll play like a bench player.

Then there is the potential problem that he won’t live up to his deal with the team. Sure, he might look good in a short workout with the team and pledge that he’ll be happy in the second unit, but it doesn’t mean he’ll stay true to that all year. After he gets his deal, he might stop worrying about his game shape and find himself injured anyway. More problematically, he might recant on his satisfaction to come off the bench and start trouble in the locker room like he did in Houston. It’s the last thing the Bulls could want while trying to compete at the highest level.

There’s no doubt that T-Mac still has the talent to play a viable role in the NBA. But it seems to me that the risks in signing him to deal vastly outweigh the possible rewards that could result.

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Grading Offseasons: Pacific Division

Sure, the NBA offseason isn’t over yet, but with the passing of Summer League and most of the key free agents signed, let’s grade each of the NBA teams’ progress this summer. Next up is the Pacific Division.

Los Angeles Lakers (57-25, Won NBA Finals): B

The Lakers are one of the most complete teams in the NBA, notwithstanding a somewhat weak bench. Their roster was designed to compete last year, and they won again, so they’ve embraced the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” strategy this summer — not that they have any cap room to make any significant additions. Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar, and Josh Powell are gone, but we all know they were fairly extraneous anyway. More importantly, GM Mitch Kupchak convinced Derek Fisher to stay on as the starting point guard instead of letting him slide to the Heat, and he brought on Steve Blake to back him up. They succeeded in the draft, too. Both Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter looked impressive in Summer League play, and they should get second-unit minutes next year.

Phoenix Suns (54-28, Lost Western Conference Finals): D+

Steve Nash is still around, but he’s another year older. Who knows how long he’ll continue his graceful aging? Obviously the big blow this summer was losing Amar’e Stoudemire, an offensive force who was the team’s only true threat in the post. His scoring will be sorely missed, and acquisition Hakim Warrick won’t be able to reproduce it. They did fetch Hedo Turkoglu and Josh Childress, who should fit well in Alvin Gentry’s up-tempo system, but this will truly be a team that lives and dies by the trey — and Leandro Barbosa, one of their finest shooters, was shipped off in the Turk deal.

Los Angeles Clippers (29-53, Missed Playoffs): A-

The most important item on the agenda for the Clippers this summer was to get 2009 No. 1 overall pick Blake Griffin in game shape for his first NBA regular-season game, and they’ve done that: Griffin has been at 100 percent for awhile, and he’ll be ready to go by late October. With Griffin, the lineup is virtually set at four positions, with small forward the notable void. While the Clippers didn’t get a top-tier 3 like Rudy Gay or, dare I say, LeBron James in free agency, they drafted Al-Farouq Aminu, who has the potential to be an impact player a few years down the road. His performance in Summer League showed he’s still very raw, but the team also acquired Ryan Gomes from Minnesota, a hard-nosed 3-4 swinger who can play meaningful starting minutes in the meantime. They also drafted Eric Bledsoe, who will back up Baron Davis at the point, and Willie Warren, who can play both backcourt positions. Moreover, they signed Randy Foye, who can further anchor the backcourt and make spot starts. Signees Brian Cook and Craig Smith fill out the frontcourt and give the team a greater veteran presence among so many youngsters. And there’s still the possibility that Tracy McGrady might hop on board. The bottom line is that the Clippers could end up surprising a lot of people this year.

Golden State Warriors (26-56, Missed Playoffs): B

The biggest error for the Warriors this season was keeping Don Nelson, who is apparently incapable of properly handling and developing young players. That said, Corey Maggette is gone, creating more time for those young players to crack the rotation. They also brought on board David Lee, who, alongside Andris Biedrins, forms one of the finest rebounding tandems in the league. They lost Anthony Morrow to the Nets, but they have so many shooters that that shouldn’t matter too much anyway. Ekpe Udoh would have been a factor in their rotation, so it’s unfortunate that he’ll miss the first six months after injuring himself.

Sacramento Kings (25-57, Missed Playoffs): B-

The Kings snagged DeMarcus Cousins with the fifth pick in the draft, and he looks like he could be a dominant center in the NBA if he checks his ego at the door of the Arco Arena. His floortime in Summer League demonstrated the polarity that everyone suspected prior to the draft. But if he stays level-headed, he’ll make a great frontcourt with Carl Landry. Veteran Samuel Dalembert can start until Cousins is ready and give them plenty of defense and rebounding. Don’t forget Jason Thompson, who also figures to take his share of minutes.