Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Lockout

Something I posted on Facebook earlier. To quote myself:

Gahhhh…the players DON’T want more, they’re the side that’s made all the concessions thus far in the negotiations. The players were at 57% BRI, but they were willing to reduce that to 53%. The owners low-balled them with a guarantee of 47% of BRI, and then they argued they’d given the players something when they said they were willing to offer 50%. No, Owners, you DID NOT offer anything. A fair offer would be 51%, then meet at 52%, that would be a fair deal. We pay to see the players, I don’t wanna here all this rubbish about that the owners should be able to guarantee they profit on their NBA investment – there should be NO SUCH GUARANTEE! Anyone that goes into business assumes that risk of losing money on the investment and that’s just business. These players are the top 400 people in the world in their field and should be compensated thusly. Yes, they are paid a lot, but that’s what the market demands. NBA-level talent is low in supply and high in demand. Simple economics therefore suggests that they be compensated fairly. The players ARE NOT being greedy in these negotiations. The owners are.

Yep.

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So who’s an All-Star?

With All-Star weekend rapidly approaching, and plenty of debate over who should make the midseason showcase, here are my thoughts as to who should be there.

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For the East, the starting line-up (based on the final balloting update) is going to be LeBron, Amar’e, Wade, Rose and Dwight – these are all the right guys and pretty easy choices really.

But who should the coaches pick to be the reserves? In no particular order:

Kevin Garnett: The Celtics have the best record in the East, the second best defence in the league and KG is the main reason for that. Looks to be on his way to the DPOTY award;

Paul Pierce: The best scorer on the top team in the East;

Chris Bosh: Despite his averages dropping from last season’s 24/11 to just 18/8 this season, Bosh has bounced back from a disappointing start to the season to settle in as the third guy for Miami. Miami, incidentally, are second in the East with a 30-13 record despite dropping 4 straight. Bosh did miss their last game with a sprained ankle though;

Al Horford: His numbers don’t overwhelm, 16 points and just under 10 boards per, but he’s 11th in the league in Efficiency and his Hawks are fifth in the East;

Rajon Rondo: Plays for the best team in the East and averages 13 assists per game, by far the best mark in the league;

Raymond Felton: Amar’e gets plenty of credit for making the Knicks relevant, but some of the credit should also go to Felton, who has developed some wicked pick-n-roll chemistry with Stoudemire and has averages of 18/9, which are by far career bests;

Ray Allen: So, in case you missed it, the Celtics are playing pretty good and Ray continues to age gracefully, scoring 17 points per and hitting on 46% of his threes.

***

Out West, the starting line-up looks like it’ll be Durant, ‘Melo, Kobe, CP and Gasol (Gasol being the most logical injury replacement for Yao, who some people [read: who live in China] are still voting for). Yeah, Yao has played 5 games this year, while Pau is the second option on a 32-13 Lakers team, and he’s also third in the league in Efficiency. So he’d better start.

Anyway, here’s who I think should be selected as reserves, again, in no particular order:

Dirk Nowitzki: His Mavericks were playing as well as the Spurs before he hurt his knee and had to sit out, and they then went 2-7 with him on the sidelines. They are just 1-3 since his return, and he still seems to be favouring the knee, but hopefully he rounds back into form in the next few days;

Blake Griffin: 22.6 points, 12.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game – and he’s a rookie!

Kevin Love: 21.3 points, 15.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. He’s rebounding the ball at a rate we haven’t seen since Dennis Rodman was in the league. I know that All-Star participants are generally from winning teams, and that Griffin and Love are a combined 26-59 on the season thus far, but they should not – nay, CANNOT – be penalised for playing on a sub-.500 team. The numbers they are producing are just too great;

Tim Duncan: His numbers (14/10) are nothing compared to some of the big guys in the West, but his Spurs sitting atop the Western Conference with a 37-6 record and he’s still capable of putting up big numbers (21 points, 16 rebounds, 8 assists and 5 blocks in the Spurs win over the Knicks today). Also, he’s been an All-Star every year he’s been in the league, and this year should make it 13/13 (It will actually be his 14th year, but there was no All-Star in 1999 due to the lockout-shortened season);

Russell Westbrook: Played some unbelievable basketball earlier in the season while KD stuggled, putting up 43/8/8 in a win at Indy, 38/15/9 in a win at New Jersey, 23/10/10 in a victory over the Hawks and 32/10/13 in a win over Orlando. 23/5/8 for the season and has had some ridiculous dunks;

Deron Williams: Averaging 22/9 while his Utah Jazz sits a half-game outside of third in the West;

Monta Ellis: A lot of people are going to want Manu Ginobili in the All-Star game, and he’ll probably make it – his team is the best in the league and he’s been their best player. But this is how deep the West is: Monta Ellis is the third-leading scorer in the NBA with 26 points per contest. I know I’ve selected a bunch of guys from losing teams but seriously, these are top-5 guys statistically. I just couldn’t look past Monta’s scoring ability, plus it probably doesn’t hurt that he’s hit a couple of clutch buckets recently.

The West is so deep this season though, and here are some of the other guys I considered: Ginobili, Eric Gordon (averaging 24/3/5, eighth in the league in scoring, but there’s NO WAY two Clippers are making it if I couldn’t even get two Spurs in), Zach Randolph (one of the toughest to leave out, third in the league in rebounding, eighth in Efficiency and his Grizz have a better record that Blake’s Clips or Love’s Wolves), LaMarcus Aldridge (started the season slowly but has really picked up since Brandon Roy went down, the Blazers are still in the playoff hunt at 24-20 and Aldridge has averaged 27/10 so far in January) and Lamar Odom (averaging just under 16/10, his Lakers are second in the West).

And here are some guys I haven’t even considered: Tony Parker, David West, Paul Millsap, Nene, Steve Nash, Rudy Gay, Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Marcus Camby and Tyson Chandler. Wow. Imagine if we could have some of the West guys make up the reserves for the Eastern starters.

Or, even better, we get a combined fan/coach vote for the starters, then elect a captain for both the East and West starting 5, and then they take turns at picking from a pool of guys to determine the reserves. Go back to the old days of just wearing the home white or away uniform of your current team and make it just like an ordinary pick-up game.

I dunno.

Anyway, there are my thoughts on who could/should make the All-Star squad. Thanks for reading.

I’m back! It’s been a while…

Hey all.

It’s been a while, I know…but I had some stuff going on and work’s been busy. Doesn’t mean I haven’t stopped paying attention all-together, so here’s my take on some of the things that’ve been going on, and some of the articles that I’ve read, since I last posted.

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Well, for starters, the Orlando Magic blew up their roster, sending ‘Shard to Washington for Gil, then flipping VC, Pietrus, Gortat and a future-first rounder for J-Rich, Turkoglu and Earl Clark. Personally, I liked the deal for the Magic, and the early results have been positive. After dropping the first two games after the deal, the Magic have won 5 straight. And as John Schuhmann of NBA.com notes, the Magic can still get better. All the figures are in the article, but the Magic are better both offensively and defensively since the trade.

It was definitely a brave move by general manager Otis Smith, but Rashard Lewis was not helping the Magic at all this season, while if there’s any chance that Gilbert can recapture his form of a couple seasons ago, then this Orlando team is extremely dangerous. That’s without even mentioning the swap of VC for J-Rich, which is a major, major upgrade at the 2. VC was really showing his age this season, while Richardson is fresh off leading the Suns in scoring as they faced the Lakers in the conference finals just 7 months ago. And Turkoglu has looked completely rejuvenated slotting right back into the Magic offense that earned him his big payday in the first place. Also, getting Earl Clark is a proper bonus; he’s definitely got first-round talent and perhaps just needed a change of scenery. I’m sure the Magic are very comfortable sending that first-rounder for Earl.

The Wizards would surely be happy with the deal too, as they’d been trying desperately to move Gil ever since being lucky enough to select John Wall first overall in the draft. Additionally, ‘Shard’s deal runs for one less season than Gil’s, so there’s the monetary savings as well.

For Phoenix, I initially like it for them too, as Gortat gives them a legit big that can split time with Lopez and really help this team defensively. Carter slots straight into Richardson’s spot, and benefits from Steve Nash’s passing (and really, who doesn’t?). So far, the results have been fairly inconsistent, and guys have gotten frustrated – Steve Nash vented against the referees, while Gortat got stuck into his own team-mates, wondering just how the Suns could be so bad on the defensive end. We’ll see how this shakes out, because the Suns definitely have the talent to make it to the playoffs.

***

After the trade, and the much smaller deal a couple of days before (where Terrence Williams was shipped to Houston), I couldn’t help but notice that both the Louisville guys that were selected in the 2009 NBA draft (and at pick 11 for Williams, and 14 for Earl Clark, lottery selections) had been traded. It’s pretty rare that teams give up on lottery picks, but for two separate teams to deal their lottery guys, within 4 days, that played together on the same college team…well, I doubt that’ll happen very often. Both these guys have immense talent though, and I’m optimistic that they’ll both benefit from the change in scenery.

***

I read this article about a week ago, and while I most definitely encourage advanced statistics, this look at Adjusted +/- is ridiculous. The author started to lose me with his first insight, where he suggests that Mike Bibby is more responsible for the Hawks success this season than Al Horford. Yeah, sure. He goes on to suggest that Dorell Wright could be blamed for the Warriors slump through late-November/early-December. Um, ok then. Not Steph Curry’s injured ankles; David Lee’s messed up elbow or Andris Biedrins’ absence, or anything like that could be blamed. Whatever. But where the author really lost me completely, to the point where I got angry, was when he brushed off the sheer statistical dominance of both A’mare and Blake Griffin and suggested that the Knicks’ MVP and the league’s ROY is Landry Fields. Pfffft. No. Just…no. Let’s move on before I rage completely.

***

Here’s another article I came across, and it’s hilarious. Check the link, watch the video, and laugh. Trust me.

***

Tyreke Evans’ half-court game-winner, if you haven’t already seen it. Shot of the season.

***

I was watching the Orlando-New York game the other night, and I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between Brandon Bass and Paul Millsap. I know I heard about it last season, from a couple of the guys, for saying I wouldn’t vote SVG Coach of the Year, based on the fact that he didn’t play Bass enough – but he definitely should have been playing Brandon Bass. And this season, Bass is actually getting the opportunity to show everyone what I knew he was capable of.

But back to the Millsap-Bass similarities, I decided to jump on Basketball Reference and do a player comparison. And here’s what I came up with. Turns out, these guys are even more alike than I thought. Cool.

***

Of all the high-scoring performances this season, DeMar DeRozan’s 37 against Houston surprised me the most. I really like DeRozan, he has awesome athleticism and probably the coolest name in the NBA, but I wasn’t sure he was capable of that kind of scoring. But as my mate, a Rockets fan, pointed out, Houston struggles to stop guards. And it turns out yes, yes they do. Check it. Monta with a couple of 40-point efforts, D-Wade with 45, a couple of 30-point games from D-Rose, and DeRozan’s 37, which is a lot of points.

***

So, I headed over to Blake Griffin’s player page on Yahoo! Sports, as you do, and as I read ‘Born: Mar 16, 1989 – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; College: Oklahoma’, I started to wonder just how good the Oklahoma City Thunder would be if they’d won the top pick in the 2009 draft and been able to select Blake Griffin. I mean, Westbrook-Sefolosha-Durant-Griffin-Krstic with Jeff Green excelling in a do-it-all bench role, leading a second unit that includes Maynor, Daequan Cook, Serge Iblocka and Nick Collison? With Serge becoming the starting center once Nenad’s contract expires? That is a phenomenal team. Like, there’s ridiculous potential there. I don’t think you’d need to worry about egos either, with Durant, Westbrook and Griffin being some of the most humble and down-to-earth stars ever to step on the court. It’d also be a stupidly athletic team; imagine the dunks you would see nightly with Russell and Blake on the same team…

***

As I was watching the Milwaukee-Chicago game a few nights ago, I got a reminder about how good a player Luc Mbah a Moute is. Picked in the second-round, he’s really carved out a role as a tenacious defender and opportunistic rebounder, keeping the Bucks in the game early with a series of offensive rebounds and put-backs to make up for Milwaukee’s awful shooting. I was pretty sure he went to UCLA with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love, and sure enough, he did. I can’t help but think what an outstanding rebounding team that must have been, and that UCLA really does an excellent job getting these guys reading for the pros. I mean, even in this small sample of guys from the same team, Westbrook and Love have become genuine stars this season, while it’s not often that second-round guys become valuable role-players like Mbah a Moute. Milwaukee ended up losing that game, 77-90, but Mbah a Moute ended up with a double-double.

***

Ok guys, here’s a question to finish things up: Do you trade Jonny Flynn?

There are definitely a couple of reasons why Minny may want to part with the second-year playmaker out of Syracuse. First of all, Luke Ridnour has played pretty damn well in Flynn’s absence as he recovered from a hip injury, averaging 11 points and 5 assists while giving the young Wolves a steady veteran presence. Secondly, Flynn never really found his place in Kurt Rambis’ up-tempo quasi-triangle mish-mash offense in his rookie campaign, averaging just 13 points and 4 assists as the Timberwolves won just 15 games. Lastly, the time is quickly approaching for when Ricky Rubio can opt out of his European (Barcelona) deal and become a member of the Timberwolves, the option becoming available after this season with a buyout of just $1.4 million, much more reasonable than the $6 million-plus buyout in his old contract (Joventut).

Minnesota will do everything they possibly can to get Rubio to the NBA, with his outstanding passing and unselfishness being major positives for a team already having guys like Love and Beasley who can score and need their shots. With a lock-out looming, it will certainly be a big challenge for David Kahn and the rest of the T-Wolves management to convince Rubio that a move to the U.S. is best, but Ricky Rubio in Minnesota would really give the Wolves fan-base energy and excitement, and make the team much more marketable. The Rubio-Johnson-Beasley-Love core could really develop into something special, too.

So what would it take to get a deal done? I narrowed it down to a couple of teams that may be interested in Flynn, namely Sacramento and Detroit. Both teams are rebuilding, and both teams could use a young, legitimate point guard; enabling them to move their own talented ‘point’ guards to their true 2-guard spot – those guys being Tyreke Evans and Rodney Stuckey, respectively.

Here are the deals I came up with. Both times, I had the Wolves moving Flynn and Brewer for an expiring contract, Samuel Dalembert in the Kings trade, Tayshaun Prince in the Pistons deal. The Wolves have the cap room available to absorb either of the deals, while both Sacramento and Detroit get solid value for their expiring, acquiring two lottery guys. The post-trade line-up for Minny after a Kings deal would be Ridnour-Johnson-Beasley-Love-Milicic with Telfair-Webster-Dalembert of the pine, while if a deal with the Pistons were to go ahead, it would look something like Ridnour-Johnson-Beasley-Love-Milicic with Telfair-Webster-Prince off the bench. While neither deal makes the Wolves significantly better in the short-term, Minnesota management would be looking ahead to the possibility of luring Rubio. Furthermore, like OKC, Minnesota would be wise to keep some room under the cap so that they can extend Love and Beasley, just like the Thunder have the money they need to keep Durant and Westbrook around.

So, do you?

***

Ok, that was fun. If you stayed with it, then thanks for reading. Until next time.

3-Ball, Corner Pocket: 7 December

3-Ball, Corner Pocket is your weekly look at the league’s leading MVP candidates, most outstanding rookies and best and worst performing teams.

MVP Watch

Deron Williams, 21.8ppg, 4.2rpg, 10apg: Not much has changed since last week; D-Will still looks like the best point guard in the business and his Jazz continue to make sweet music, winning 8 of their past 9 games. He’s just one of five players (Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love) averaging 20/10.

Russell Westbrook, 23.7ppg, 5.5rpg, 8.6apg: Received the Player of the Week honour and led the Durant-less Thunder to a triple-overtime victory with 38 points, 15 rebounds, 9 assists, scoring all 13 of OKC’s points in the third OT. Oh, and he did this as well.

Dirk Nowitzki, 24.9ppg, 7.7rpg, 2.2apg: With his Mavericks playing so well, I simply could not keep him out any longer. He’s shooting 55% from the floor for the season so far, and is averaging just 2.3 turnovers a game; while that’s a superb figure for someone that uses nearly a third (29.3%) of their team’s possessions, if the season ended today it would be a career-high turnover average. Amazing.

Amar’e Stoudemire, 25.3ppg, 8.9rpg, 2.3apg: He’s averaging 34.2 points and 11 rebounds per game as the Knicks have won 5 straight. He’s not only developed into a locker room leader, but he’s also developed the chemistry with Ray Felton that allows for a devastating pick and roll game. His efforts were rewarded with a well-deserved Player of the Week honour.

LeBron James, 23.7ppg, 5.7rpg, 7.3apg: Took to the stage of the most anticipated game of the still-young NBA season, his return to Cleveland, and was booed mercilessly every time he touched the ball. Did it affect him? I’m not sure, but he torched his former team for 38 points, 24 in the third quarter, as his Miami Heat went on to win 118-90. Looks to be more comfortable on the floor with Wade, and the Heat have won 5 in a row.

On the bubble: Chris Paul, Dwight Howard

Eye on ROY

Blake Griffin, 20.2ppg, 11.8rpg, 2.9apg: It’s looking more and more likely the Rookie of the Year award is Blake’s to lose, but there are still those out there that like to remind us that the Clippers still aren’t winning many ball games. True, but historically, most of the NBA’s best rookies have come from terrible teams. Furthermore, BG led the Clippers to a 2-2 week, including a win over the Spurs, while averaging 20.5 points and 12.8 rebounds. He even has room for improvement, which is just ridiculous considering how good he is already.

Landry Fields, 10.4ppg, 7.5rpg, 1.8apg: OK, since the second week of the season, I’ve focused on Blake Griffin and John Wall in this space, and no-one else. Well, I’ve decided it’s about time I show Fields a bit of love. He won’t win ROY, but to go from second-round draft pick, to opening night starter, to being a key part of the Knicks 13-9 start to the season, Fields will likely get a few votes provided he can stay consistent on the boards over the course of the season. It will definitely help his case if the Knicks make the playoffs.

Power Rankings – who’s hot

Dallas, 17-4: They haven’t lost in the past week, so there’s no reason to drop them from the top of the rankings. They didn’t have the toughest week, with wins over Minnesota, Sacramento and Golden State, although there was the victory over Utah that ended their 7-game winning streak. The Mavericks, statistically, have played one of the toughest schedules so far and emerged with the West’s top point differential, so their record may be for real.

Boston, 16-4: Like the Mavs, the Cs have had a pretty easy week, defeating Cleveland, Portland, Chicago and New Jersey, but they’re tops in the East and have won 7 straight, so they return to the top-5 after dropping out in the past couple of weeks. Despite Rajon Rondo missing games here and there, Nate Robinson continues to step in and play well as a starter, and it would seem the veterans are happy with how the team’s going right now.

New York, 13-9: I don’t know how many times we’re going to see the Knicks this high for the rest of the season, but they’ve won five straight, Amar’e Stoudemire is looking every bit of an MVP candidate and the folks at Madison Square Garden finally have a reason to be optimistic again. One thing worth mentioning: they’ve played one of the league’s easiest schedules so far, and 7 of their next ten games are against above-.500 teams (Denver, Boston, Miami (twice), Oklahoma City, Chicago and Orlando). We’ll have a much better idea of what NYK are by January.

San Antonio, 17-3: The Spurs are still winning, and despite dropping a couple to the Mavericks, then the Clippers, they have the league’s best record. Here’s a look at the Spurs’ new offence this season.

Utah, 16-6: The Jazz are receiving solid contributions from everyone, 5 guys are averaging double-figures, and with D-Will playing at an MVP-level, this team has the potential to be a true contender. They’ve won 8 of their last 9, their only loss coming at the hands of one of the only teams in the league that’s hotter right now, Dallas.

Power Rankings – who’s not

Sacramento, 4-15: Another week gone and the Kings are still the worst of the worst. They had a chance to tie/go up one on the Mavericks the other day, but rookie DeMarcus Cousins struggled to execute the play. Here’s a good look at the play and why it was the right call. These kids are going to learn, and they’ll get better. There is reason to be optimistic about the Kings, especially if Tyreke can get healthy.

Cleveland, 7-14: The Cavs have been pretty dreadful lately, dropping their last 5 by an average of 22.2 points per game. They didn’t put up much of a fight in LeBron’s return to Cleveland, dropping that game 90-118 (which you can read more about here, here, here or here). Unlike Sacto, though, there’s not much to look forward to, unless you think Hickson’s going to blossom into a superstar.

New Jersey, 6-16: New Jersey suffered through a couple of tough losses while Harris sat a couple of games with a strained knee, coming up empty against OKC in triple-overtime, then falling to the Bobcats in overtime once again. With Harris back against Boston, however, things didn’t exactly go any better, losing the contest 75-100. There’s some good news, though, with Terrence Williams averaging 28/11/11 in his D-League stint and being recalled to the big league. He said all the right things; now maybe they’ll look for him to spark them out of the slump.

Golden State, 8-13: They have a pretty solid record, considering that they’re pretty much rebuilding (yet again), but that record is thanks to their strong start, as they’ve only won one of their past 10 games. And that win was against Minnesota. And Dorell Wright hit 9 threes. And they shot 67% from distance. While there are some nice pieces, this team’s not quite ready to compete every night, and they’re just not very good right now.

Minnesota, 5-16: Can we just mention that Kevin Love has bumped his season averages to 20 points and 15 rebounds, and move on? Cool.

The brand-new Awards Mini-watch:

MIP

I was thinking that Roy Hibbert, Kevin Love/Michael Beasley and Paul Millsap would have to be the leading candidates for Most Improved at this stage, and then I found this article, which mentions not only them, but a bunch of other guys that could be considered also. Go check it out.

Sixth Man

This one is pretty tricky to predict, as a guy can go from the bench to starting at any time, but to win the award you only have to come off the bench in more games than you actually started. So far I think the leading candidates are Jason Terry, C.J. Miles and Ben Gordon/Charlie Villanueva.

Terry started out the season as a starter, but since being moved to the bench after 5 games, Dallas has gone 14-2, while Terry chips in 16 points per game;

Miles candidacy is certainly helped by the fact that Utah are winning, as he’s come off the bench every game this season and is scoring 11 per game;

Finally, BG/Charlie-V – while Detroit may not be winning so much these days, these guys are a part of Detroit’s best 5-man combination according to +/-, and Villanueva especially is putting up some nice numbers per-36. BG’s always been good off the bench, winning sixth-man in 2005.

DPOTY

There aren’t many stats that can show you how good a defender actually is. Sure, you have your usual blocks/steals per game, but a guy can rack up a ton of either and still be a poor defender, be it gambling for the steal in the passing lane, or coming across for the weak-side block. Both instances need you to leave your guy, and if you gamble and lose, your team and the defensive rotations suffer.

Advanced stats help somewhat, with a players individual Defensive Rating (an estimate of how many points allowed by a team per 100 possessions when that player is on the floor) now available. Also, it helps that Dwight Howard’s such a good defender that we have a clear candidate year in, year out. The early candidates for Defensive Player should include Dwight, Kevin Garnett, Chris Paul and Andrew Bogut.

Dwight and Bogut are among the league leaders in blocks per game, CP leads the league in steals per game, and KG is second only to Dwight in Defensive Rating. Furthermore, Orlando, Boston, New Orleans and Milwaukee are among the leagues top-6 defences.

Actually, I should make a mention of Tyson Chandler; his Mavericks are 5th in the league defensively, while he sits third in the league in Defensive Rating, behind Dwight and KG, and ahead of CP and Bogut.

Now to some news:

The NBA has recently purchased the New Orleans Hornets, after owner George Shinn could not find anyone to buy the team. Shinn did have a deal with minority owner Gary Chouest, but the deal has since fallen apart;

Nuggets coach George Karl had the chance to win his 1000th game today, but Denver came up short in Charlotte 98-100;

Joe Johnson will be out for four-to-six weeks after having surgery on his right elbow;

Finally, the Wolves say that backup forward Anthony Tolliver will be out between 6-8 weeks with a sprained knee, but have cleared Martell Webster for action following pre-season back surgery.

Finally, links:

A while ago, waaaay back at the start of November, the Memphis Grizzlies offered point-man Mike Conley a 5-year, $45 million extension. Now, I didn’t have a problem with the deal; plenty of people wanted to go on about how the Grizz bid against themselves to keep Conley around, while I wanted to point out that this has been happening for a few years.

Well, it seems that Matt Moore of CBS Sports, who had the most scathing take on the situation, has come out and admitted that he may have overreacted, and that he may have been wrong about some things. So, does this mean that I was right? That it is in fact a reasonable deal? Yeah, pretty much.

The other day, Sporting News’ top-50 NBA players list appeared; this pretty much sums up my feelings about what’s wrong with it. Oh, that and Russell Westbrook at 30?

Speaking of Westbrook, this article has an interesting, if entirely ridiculous, take on whether Kevin Durant and Westbrook are too good for one-another, a la Shaq and Kobe. I don’t think so, simply because KD has such a good head on his shoulders. He knows that it takes multiple stars to win championships. Further, he’s such a good guy that I’m sure he’s happy for Russ, that he’s been able to take his game to the next level.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this – Earl Barron, this is unacceptable.

Thanks for reading.

3-Ball, Corner Pocket: 30 November + scores and thoughts. Neat.

3-Ball, Corner Pocket is your weekly look at the league’s leading MVP candidates, most outstanding rookies and best and worst performing teams.

MVP Watch

1. Deron Williams, 21.9ppg, 4.2rpg, 9.9apg: Apparently Williams is the best point-guard in the NBA; may as well have him atop the MVP watch too.

2. Chris Paul, 16.5ppg, 4.7rpg, 10.3apg: Still, if I had to vote for MVP tomorrow, CP would get my first-place vote. Just can’t justify keeping him at number 1 after the Hornets came back to earth a little bit last week, going 1-3.

3. Russell Westbrook, 23.8ppg, 5.1rpg, 8.6apg: While KD continues to struggle with his stroke, and guys continue to miss games here and there, Westbrook continues to pick up the slack. Despite his vastly improved shooting, he continues to attack the rim relentlessly; he’s being rewarded, with 9.2 FTA per game, and he’s making them at 88.6%.

4. Dwight Howard, 22.6ppg, 11.9rpg, 1.2apg: Grabbed the Player of the Week award, and I can’t argue with that. However, I just can’t look past all those missed free-throws – he went just 29-54 in the past three games (Orlando still won all three).

5. Derrick Rose, 26.6ppg, 4.6rpg, 8.2apg: OK, I’m not Rose’s biggest fan, y’all know that. Still, it’s hard to keep him out of the top-5, especially seeing as Chicago went 2-1 for the week, and the loss came with Rose sitting with a sore neck. The games he played? 65 points, 19 rebounds, 14 assists and a brutal crossover on Tyreke Evans.

On the bubble: Pau Gasol, unlucky to drop out as the Lakers went 1-2 for the week; Dirk Nowitzki, very unlucky to miss out, his Mavs have won 6 straight while he averages 26/8; Rajon Rondo, he only played one game for the week, but the Celtics work better when he’s running things.

Eye on ROY

Do we need to do this, really? Blake Griffin’s averages are 20/11, and those numbers are good enough for him to be included in the MVP watch. Seriously. The only other players with those averages are Dwight and Pau. Yeah, that Dwight and that Pau. Now let’s just enjoy another BG special, a nasty two-handed throwdown v. the Jazz.

Power Rankings – who’s hot

Dallas, 13-4: Now where the heck did you come from, Dallas? 6 straight, tough win over the Thunder, ended the Spurs winning streak, then followed that up by sending Miami to their 7th loss of the season and a players-only meeting. Dirk’s playing like an MVP, Tyson Chandler’s looking fantastic and Caron Butler seems to have settled in. Just like the Spurs’ hot start, who saw this coming?

Utah, 14-5: They’ve also won 6 in a row, and with wins over New Orleans and the Lakers, things are looking good in SLC.

San Antonio, 14-2: Dropped one to the Mavs, but bounced back nicely to score a win at New Orleans, outscoring the Bugs 65-34 after intermission.

Orlando, 12-4: Miami who? The Magic are out to prove that they are the best team in Florida, and it’s hard to argue. SVG is one of the best at playing the ‘Us-against-the-world’ card.

Oklahoma City, 12-6: Kevin Durant’s shot drops in Houston and we’re looking at a 3-1 week with a close loss to the suddenly white-hot Dallas Mavericks.

Power Rankings – who’s not

Sacramento, 4-11: Blew a big lead in the loss to Chicago, and lost to the Clippers. The worst team in ball right now, especially with Tyreke struggling.

Washington, 5-11: The losses continue to pile up while John Wall continues to sit. Interestingly, however, the Wizards are statistically better when John Wall’s off the floor. What? From JS’ Power Rankings:

Wizards have been a much better offensive team in five games without John Wall (107 points per 100 possessions) than they’ve been in 10 games with him (97.4).

Minnesota, 4-13: Their only win in the last 7 games was a 113-111 game against the Clippers. Ugh. Let’s move to more positive things, shall we? In our Beasley watch, we’ll note that after scoring just 15, then 11, after his 6-game, 31.3ppg stretch, he bounced back with 28/9 against the Dubs (but didn’t do too much to stop former team-mate Dorell Wright going 9-12 from three-land). Let’s move on to Kevin Love, and note that he’s averaging 19 points and 15 rebounds for the season. Last week? Those averages jump to 26.5/22. Wow.

Philadelphia, 4-13: Will Andre Iguodala be traded soon?

L.A. Clippers, 3-15: It’s nice that BG’s sheer awesomeness can distract from the fact that the Clippers are the league’s worst team. To their credit, they do have victories over NOH and OKC thus far. I mean, I don’t know how they did it, but they did. That’s something, right?

Now, let’s take a look at the Things I’ve Noticed:

Check out Monday and Tuesday’s scores, and then consider some random thoughts:

– Definitely didn’t think these would be the headlines Terrence Williams would be making this season. I was thinking more along the lines of ‘Key rotation piece, nightly triple-double threat’.

– Quick, which two players are the Utah Jazz’s best two-man combination according to the +/- statistic? Surprised?

– How the heck did Rudy Fernandez get into the dunk contest ahead of Russell Westbrook a couple years back?

– Yeah, Josh Smith had a triple-double against Toronto, but he went 0-2 from distance.

– Good to see Amar’e’s getting more comfortable in New York, 37/15/7 in the 2OT win over Detroit; he’s quietly averaging 23.4/8.6/2.5 for the season.

– Blake Griffin, are you effing serious? 35 points, 14 rebounds and 7 assists against Utah on Monday, pushing his season averages to 20.2/11.6/2.6; what can you say, that I haven’t said already? The kid’s a freak.

– Kevin Durant’s leading the league in scoring at 27 per, which is impressive, sure, but moreso when you consider he’s shooting just 42% from the floor.

Whoa. That’s a lotta points. Also, putting up 138 with ‘Melo playing just 3 minutes is pretty impressive.

– First Miami, now the Lakers? Nice job Indy. Here’s a look at how they’re getting the job done.

– That’d be the law of averages kicking in for Serge Ibaka. 58% shooting on the season, yesterday he’s a perfect 7-7, today he’s ofer-five; 7-12 is right in line with his shooting for the season.

– In the same way the Richard Jefferson is comfortable in San Antonio and helping them pile up wins, Caron Butler has settled into Dallas nicely, don’t you think?

That’ll do it from me, ‘til next time. Cheers.

Things I’ve Noticed, like that BG should be an All-Star

As it’s been the weekend and there’s been 22 games since I last posted, I’m gunna go with an abbreviated What I Saw tonight. Here’s the link to Saturday’s schedule:

Scores and Schedule, November 26

And here are Sunday’s scores:

Scores and Schedule, November 27

Thoughts:

– Dwight Howard still needs to make more free-throws. I mentioned it the other day, but he went 13-24 from the line against Cleveland and 8-14 against Washington. Sure, he scored 23 and 32 points in those games, but still. I don’t think that his form is terrible; you can tell he’s put work into his free-throw shooting over the years. I think that it’s probably mental, and as a mate said to me today, it can’t be easy listening to everyone (TV guys, writers and even fans) mention how poorly you perform at the foul line.

– What’s up with Milwaukee? Losing to Detroit’s generally not a good sign. They bounced back nicely to grab a win over the Bobcats, sans Bogut, with Jennings dropping 32 points, 6-13 from deep.

– What do you call a power forward that averages 7 rebounds a game? A small forward. Ok, then, what do you call a center that averages 5 rebounds a game?

– Amir Johnson could be a beast if he could just stay on the damn court. His per-36 minute averages: 16 points, 10 boards and 2 blocks, which are nice. Not-so-nice? His 6.5 fouls per-36. He’s averaging nearly 4 fouls per game this season.

– Russell Westbrook, you are ridiculous. 43/8/8, 3 steals, 13-24 from the floor, 17-18 from the line. Stop being so good. Actually, don’t. It’s too much fun to watch you.

– C.J. Watson had 33 of the 95 points he’s scored this season on Saturday, filling in for Derrick Rose; he’s definitely capable of putting points on the board, scoring 40 a couple times since he’s been in the league, but he crazy streaky.

– Blake Griffin should be an All-Star this season. I don’t care that he’s (technically) a rookie, I don’t care that his team is rubbish, he’s tailor-made for it. Oh, and he’s averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds, with only Dwight, Pau and Love managing those numbers.

– Brandon Roy scored 27 on Saturday, which is great to see. I’d heard that his left knee was bone-on-bone, and I’ve also heard some people mentioning the word ‘retirement’, which would be horrible for Roy, the Blazers and fans of the NBA alike. Fortunately, he’s back and contributing. Unfortunately, the Hornets happen to be really really good this season.

– Throwback game from Agent 0 (or Agent 9 now, I guess), 31/5/5, 9-23, 1-6 and 12-14 FT in Washington’s loss to Orlando Sunday. How quickly people forget, but Arenas is pretty good, when he doesn’t have wrecked knees, or isn’t fooling around with guns.

– Golden State at Minnesota, the game of the night for me; former Heat-men Dorell Wright and Michael Beasley were facing one-another with their new clubs. The match-up didn’t disappoint, Beasley with 28 points, 9 rebounds and this block; Wright responding with 30 points, 9 threes (a Warriors record, no less) and the win. Kevin Love continued his incredible season with 21 points and 22 rebounds, his fourth 20-20 game this season (everyone else, combined, have 5), taking his season averages to 19 and 15. That’s just silly.

– Dallas defeated Miami in Sunday; they improve to 12-4 while the Heat falls to 9-8 for the season. The Super-Friends scored 67, with the rest of the team contributing 28, while the Mavericks had 6 guys score in double-digits, along with Tyson Chandler beating up on the Heat’s non-existent big-man brigade to the tune of 17 rebounds. And yes, that was a 39-word sentence. After the game, the Heat players stayed back to hold a players-only meeting to sort out some frustrations. I wonder what LeBron had to say about Coach Spoelstra?

– Wow, Sacramento really collapsed in the fourth quarter; they were outscored by the Bulls 27-9 as Chicago went on to win it 96-85. D-Rose went for 30/7/7, and was also really mean to Tyreke Evans. Why you gotta be like that, Derrick? He bad-mouth your moms or something?

Love the YouTube comment, though. I quote: ‘And People say Wall will be better. Come On Son.

D-Rose is the quickest und most Athletic Point Guard Ever. Straight Monster!’

Um, Wall is already better than Rose, and he’s only played 10 games. He already passes the ball way better, averaging 9 assists; Rose, in his third season, is averaging a career-best 8. Furthermore, Wall can actually shoot the 3-ball without it being absolutely detrimental to his team. Also, I believe some guy named Russell Westbrook might have something to say about quickness and athleticism from the point guard position. He even does it efficiently!

That’s all from me guys, thanks for reading.

What I Saw, where the Heat are on a 3-game losing streak

11 games today, let’s get at it:

New York 99, Charlotte 95: Raymond Felton seemed to have a great time playing against his former team, going for 23 points and 13 assists, after having 16/9 on the front end of the home-and-home series against Charlotte. Wilson Chandler was effective off the bench for New York, 21 points (8-12, 4-5 and 1-2 FT) to go with 8 rebounds and a block, while Stoudemire had 20 points and sent back 6 shots in the win.

Tyrus Thomas got his first start of the season, at center, and responded with 26 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 blocks, while D.J. Augustin again had a good game against his former team-mate with 14/8/7.

Milwaukee 81, Cleveland 83: Not too much to say about this game. The teams combined for 40% shooting and it was fairly close throughout. Milwaukee played without Andrew Bogut, who sat out; Mo Williams hit a 20-foot jumper as time ran out to lift the Cavs to the win. 25/4/5 for Mo on 11-22, 2-6 and 1-1 FT.

Philadelphia 90, Toronto 106: The 6ers fall to 3-12 on the season, and that’s nearly Clippers bad. It’s really tough to look for any positives for Philly; number 2 overall draft pick Evan Turner is still struggling, just 9ppg on 43% from the field; Iguodala is at just 14ppg on 42%; and Jrue Holiday, while improved, certainly hasn’t taken the step some (read: me) thought he might have, he’s at 14 points and 7 assists per game but he’s at just 42% shooting also.

There were positives for Toronto, however. Reggie Evans hauled in 22 rebounds to go with his 12 points, he’s averaging 12.6 for the season; while Jerryd Bayless (13 points, 4-7, 3-3, 2-2 FT) and Peja (7 points, 2-3, 1-2, 2-2 FT) were effective in their debuts with Toronto. Andrea Bargnani had 24, right around his 22ppg average on the season.

New Jersey 83, Boston 89: The Nets scrapped and fought to stay in this one, but Boston just had too much, especially with Shaq winding back the clock to toss in 25 points and grab 11 rebounds, shooting 9-10 from the floor and 7-13 from the foul line. Ray-Ray helped out for the Cs with 15, including 3-5 from the great beyond.

Miami 95, Orlando 104: Dwight was a beast in the game, 24 points and 18 rebounds while just taking full advantage of the Heat’s small frontline; 8-13 from the floor and 8-16 at the line. 22 points and 12 rebounds per game on the season for Superman II, but I couldn’t help thinking that if Dwight makes just 70% of his free throws, up from the current 54%, his scoring would be 24ppg, good for 7th in the league. Currently his 22 points per are good for 14th. Still, he’s 5th in the league in blocks and I don’t think there’s anyone in the league that can match his work defensively (a healthy Andrew Bogut, maybe).

Back to the game at hand, and Orlando pretty much dominated the Heat, shooting 51% from the floor while holding Miami to 42%. J.J. Redick got the start for the injured Vince Carter and had easily his best game of the season, 20/4/5 on 5-12, 3-8 and 7-7 FT, while Jameer Nelson had 17 points and 14 assists (Jameer also had some words to say to Eddie House and the Miami bench with 38 seconds remaining and earned himself two techs and an ejection, not the smartest move).

Chris Bosh struggled with back spasms throughout but ended up with 21 points and 6 rebounds, while LeBron added 25.

Dallas 111, Oklahoma City 103: This one was the KD-Dirk show, with Tyson Chandler the supporting act. 32 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists for KD, 12-20, 2-7 and 6-6 FT; but it was Dirk coming out on top with 34/4/4 on 9-15, 2-5 and 14-15 FT, along with the W. Tyson Chandler had a huge game for the Mavs also, 17 points and 18 rebounds along with a block.

Detroit 84, Memphis 105: The Pistons are a mess, at this point. Their top-6 scorers play at shooting guard or small forward, Tayshaun’s not happy with the coaching, Rip’s been ejected from two of their last four games and Austin Daye went from opening night starter to DNP-CD in just 11 games. Meanwhile, the 2 guys that are playing the most positive ball are the two guys that Joe D gets all the criticism for signing – BG and Charlie-V.

Just 40% shooting for the Pistons, as the Grizzlies rack up 9 steals and all sorts of transition buckets on their way to 52% shooting; Z-Bo led the way with 21/14 with a nice soft touch inside on those hook shots, while the Memphis bench contributed 39 of their 105 points, which is a decent return.

San Antonio 113, Minnesota 109 OT: Wow, can anyone stop Kevin Love? 32 points and 22 rebounds on the game, but it wasn’t enough – the Spurs come back from a 21-point deficit to win their 12th straight game. Darko Milicic continued his surprising play with 22/8/4 with 5 blocks, while Beasley managed just 11 on this night. Team effort by the Spurs to grab the victory, Manu had 26 while RJ added 19. Timmy added 9 points and 13 rebounds as he continues what may become his worst season ever, statistically at least.

Golden State 101, Houston 111: The Rockets snap a 4-game losing streak and improve to 4-10 on the game, with Kevin Martin and Luis Scola leading the way. Martin had 25 on just 4-12 from the floor, but 3-6 from deep and 14-15 free throws were nice. Scola had 24 to go along with 12 rebounds, and there’re probably not too many people that realise that he’s averaging 22 points, nearly 10 rebounds and 2 assists per contest.

Dorell Wright led the Dubs with 24 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists, and that’s a decent night out. Steph Curry added 21 and Monta 18, but he shot just 7-21 from the field.

New Orleans 87, Utah 105: With the win, Deron Williams’ Jazz improve to 15-4 against Chris Paul’s Hornets since both entered the league back in 2005. While Williams was superb in this game, 26 points, 11 assists, 5 steals, 9-18, 4-5 and 4-4 FT, Paul was no slouch either, 17 points, 9 assists, 5 steals, 4-8, 1-3 and 8-8 FT. However, D-Will had ample support from his frontline (Jefferson had 23/10) while West and Okafor struggled. Hot shooting from the Jazz too, 49-43-100 in the victory.

Chicago 123, Phoenix 115 2OT: Oh my, the Suns really should have won this game. If not just because they were holders of 23-point lead in the first half, or because Jason Richardson missed the second of two free-throws with 5 seconds to go that would have put them up 112-109 and the Bulls needing a 3 to force a second overtime; it was costly turnovers in the second OT, like Nash having his pass picked off by Noah with under a minute remaining.

Derrick Rose dominated the highlights, which is course will lead fans to conclude that ‘OmGzzz Rose is lyke da bestest’, but he needed 33 shots for his 35 points, shot just 1-5 from range and dropped only 7 dimes; meanwhile, on the other end Nash had 16 assists with his 14 points (to be fair, he needed 15 shots and went 0-5 from deep, so maybe it was just not a good shooting night for either point man).

Pretty much a fair few guys had big numbers in the game, so you may as well check out the box-score. I don’t even know whether it’s worth pointing out that the Suns were out-rebounded, it happens every game anyway.

***

I was thinking earlier whether we might see a big trade happen at some point, and who the particulars may be, when this idea came to me:

Memphis receives: Josh Smith, Jamaal Crawford

Atlanta receives: Zach Randolph, O.J. Mayo

The way I see it, Memphis gets a young, athletic forward that fits in well with their young core (Gay, Conley, Gasol and Henry), while seeing what Jamaal can give them as an experienced sixth man off the bench. If he excels, cool, offer him the contract extension he’s been seeking. If not, it’s an $11 million expiring, freeing up a bit more cap space to ensure Gasol Jnr. sticks around.

The deal for Atlanta, they get two very talented players. Provided Randolph keeps up the team-first attitude he’s had in Memphis, he could form a pretty nice high-low combo with Horford in the frontcourt. The real prize in the deal for the Hawks, however, is O.J. Mayo. You can start him next to JJ and either free him up to score while Joe handles the ball, or trust in his playmaking and try him as a PG. Atlanta is going to need some sort of replacement for Bibby at some point, and Jeff Teague hasn’t exactly made a splash yet this season. Additionally, it appears that the Hawks have already drafted a ‘gunner off the bench’ guy to replace J. Crawford, and it’s another J. Crawford.

So yeah, another deal that I think could be pretty interesting for both teams. Of course, both Memphis and Atlanta insist that neither is available, but you never know. What would you guys do?

***

Thanks for reading.

What I Saw, where Philly blew it

Maybe better late then never, here’s your quick look at yesterday’s 6 games:

Cleveland 89, Indiana 100: Maybe we ought to pay more attention to Danny Granger as one of the guys stepping up after being a part of the World Championship team? We’ve already seen Westbrook, Love and Gordon playing at a superb level, and being recognised for that, but here’s Granger averaging 21.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists as his Pacers sit at 7-6 for the season.

As for the game, the Pacers went to halftime up big, 62-37, and held on for the victory. Nice back-to-back wins over LeBron’s current and former teams.

Philadelphia 114, Washington 116 OT: The 6ers really blew this game; they had plenty of chances to win but Evan Turner’s missed free-throws (0-2 at the line, with Philly up 106-103), then just a careless foul on John Wall’s three-point attempt, sending the rookie to the line where he made all three – just poor basketball from Philadelphia. Even with 3 seconds left in the overtime period, Iguodala got a real nice look, getting rid of Nick Young with the crossover and then trying a step-through 14-foot jump shot, but that wouldn’t go either. Just poor execution from the 6ers, and a nice win for the Wiz.

Also, Elton Brand shoved JaVale McGee to the floor late in the fourth and earned himself a ‘Flagrant 2’ foul and automatic ejection, and today was suspended by the NBA for one game.

And also, that same JaVale McGee had 24 points and 18 rebounds on the night, while not only did John Wall hit the three clutch free-throws late, he scored all of his 25 points in the second half. It’s almost as if he and Blake Griffin are playing a game of ‘Whatever you can do, I can do better’.

Atlanta 101, New Jersey 107 OT: Something’s not right with Atlanta right now, and Coach is not too happy about it. Going to New Jersey and coming away empty-handed is not the worst thing ever, I’ll tell anybody that’ll listen that I like NJ’s guys and that they’re much improved this year; still, if you have ambitions of being top-4 in the East, then you have to beat New Jersey. Harris was effective, 27 points while dominating the overtime, and Brook Lopez had the sort of game I’d been expecting him to have all year, with 32 points and 9 rebounds. Lastly, Josh Smith takes too many threes, but more on that later.

Charlotte 107, New York 110: So the Bobcats earned a heap of extra shots but getting on the offensive glass, 15 offensive boards to just 5 for New York, but the Knicks shot 50-40-90 as a team as they get the win. 6 guys went for double-figures, led by Toney Douglas’ 22 off the bench, including 5-7 from range. Douglas certainly has talent, but he needs to find ways to be effective when he’s not hot from distance. In his two best games of the season, the 30 against Chicago and these 22, he’s hit 5 threes in both. He must stop living and dying by the three ball.

It seems some of the Bobcats guys were absolutely thrilled to catch up with Raymond Felton, but his replacement in Charlotte D.J. Augustin did a fine job on the night, 24/5/7 with 4 steals on 10-18, 2-5 and 2-3 FT.

Detroit 84, Dallas 88: Dirk (42 points, 12 rebounds, 13-23, 3-3, 13-16 FT) is amazing. That is all.

Chicago 91, L.A. Lakers 98: Derrick Rose certainly does a lot of things that look really cool, but he still takes a lot of shots get his points. 30 points, but as Yahoo!’s KD said, he needed 25 shots. Jo Noah and Taj Gibson came through with really nice games for the Bulls, Noah with 19 points, 13 rebounds (and 3 assists, 4 steals and 3 blocks) while Taj had 16 points, 12 rebounds (with 3 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks). And that would be why people think Chicago can be a very good team; Gibson’s headed to the bench once Boozer’s healthy.

Although the Bulls tried hard, the Lakers still have too many weapons. Pau dropped off a bit on the night, just 12 points, but he still had 11 boards, 4 assists, 2 steals and 5 blocks; Kobe, Lamar and Shannon [Brown] all had 20 in the win.

***

I’ve talked about it before, but I think it’s something that bears repeating: Josh Smith is taking too many threes this season. Last season, he finally seemed to understand, that that’s not his range. He only attempted 7, in 81 games. It was a startling, and certainly welcome, drop from the sheer volume of attempts he’d had in years past.

In his rookie season, he played 74 games and made 4-23 threes, just 17.4%. However, it’s not a staggering amount, and rookies can sometimes struggle to adjust to the extended three-point line, so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. However, in the following season, his attempts jumped to 110, making just 34; next season, 38 of 152; then 25-99; and finally, 26-87, before last season just 7 attempts from range. Given his career average on threes is just 27%, I’m sure that just 7 attempts were welcomed by the Hawks and fans alike.

Then just when we think that he finally gets it, he comes out this season with 20 attempts in 15 games, 8 makes, for 40%. Now, I’m not going to believe that he continues to shoot 40% from three all season, it’s far more likely that this figure slides closer to the 27% we’re used to. This is why I don’t understand why someone so athletically talented would settle for jump shots rather than getting to the foul line.

***

Lastly, I want to talk about my favourite player right now, Mike Beasley. He’s always been one of my favourites, I followed him in college when it became obvious that Miami were going to ‘earn’ a high draft-pick, and he was always the guy I liked best on those Heat teams. Since I’m now totally sick of Miami and hearing about everything they do, it’s been a joy to watch Beasley blossom in Minnesota. Here are 5 reasons why I love B-Easy right now:

1. He has his confidence back: every time he shoots a jumper at the moment, it feels like it’s going in. I’m sure Mike feels that way too. It’s funny, but being told by team-mates that they need you for something can have a huge effect on your game. I feel like I’m playing at a real high level in my local league right now since I was told ‘We need you to get rebounds’; when I go out there, I feel like I can grab every rebounds. In the same way, on a much much higher level, I love seeing Beasley playing so well since his team-mates have told him that they need him to score; when he goes out there, he feels like he can’t miss;

2. He’s comfortable at small forward: a couple of years back, Beasley’s good friend Kevin Durant spent a fair amount of time at shooting guard, a position that former coach P.J. Carlesimo thought he was best suited to. However, once Carlesimo was fired after a 1-12 start to the 2008-2009 season, Scott Brooks stepped in and immediately shifted KD to the 3 spot, and he has become one of the league’s brightest stars. Similarly, the Heat had Beasley playing power forward for all of the two seasons he was in Miami, but the Wolves have shifted him to small forward and he looks comfortable out-muscling smaller 3s and out-quicking bigger 4s;

3. He’s validating my anger: well, not so much anger as…I’m not sure. Whatever it was, I knew I was unhappy with the Heat giving Beasley away, because I knew he had this kind of talent. Since then however, I’ve grown to massively dislike the Heat and the media’s obsession with everything they do, and I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me that enjoyed them being done by Memphis and then Indiana;

4. This story: partly because it pretty much sums up how I feel, and partly because it means that Beasley is being recognised by the media as being generally B-Eastly;

5. And finally, this photo.

***

That’s all from me for now, thanks for reading.

What I Saw, where there were a couple of surprises

8 games on the schedule today, and not everything went as expected, let’s take a look:

Boston 99, Atlanta 76: This one was over early, with Boston holding a 26-point advantage after the first quarter and cruising to the victory. The Hawks were flat-out dominated, held to just 35% shooting and out-rebounded 50-30. Boston needed this game in a pretty bad way, after dropping contests to the Durant-less Thunder and the anyone-less Raptors, as there are some folks wondering about the Cs effort recently.

Indiana 93, Miami 77: This is about the biggest surprise I’ve had all year; the Pacers go into Miami and take this one big time. Indy out-rebounded Miami 48-39 and forced 22 Heat turnovers, while Dwyane Wade struggled mightily; he had just 3 points on 1-13 from the floor, missed all 4 three-point attempts and scored just 1-5 at the line.

The Heat learned today that Udonis Haslem will be out for the foreseeable future with a torn ligament in his left foot that will require surgery, which is terrible news. Haslem was always my favourite Heatman when I supported Miami, and although I’ve since stopped supporting the Heat, it’s never good to hear that one of the leagues good guys, one that does all the dirty work, has to sit out. Here’s hoping for his sake that he recovers quickly after surgery and is able to get back on the floor as soon as possible (still probably months away). Reports suggest that Miami will be signing Erick Dampier, not too sure about that move, they already have plenty of centers on the roster (Ilgauskas, Anthony, Magloire and the rookie Pittman; none of those guys are the rebounders nor defenders Haslem was, and neither is Dampier).

Danny Granger led the Pacers with 20 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists, but he shot just 6-21 from the field. He did make 4-9 threes and 4-4 free-throws though.

Minnesota 107, Oklahoma City 117: The Thunder had this one well in hand halfway through the third, leading 82-65, but the Wolves made it a close one, going up 94-93 with 8 minutes remaining. However, the Thunder had enough guys to get it done, with Durant, Green and even Sefolosha calmly dropping in jumpers inside the final three minutes to hold off the Minnesota charge.

After all the hype I’ve been giving him, Beasley cooled off in this game, scoring just 15 while shooting 7-20, 0-3 and 1-3; Kevin Love had 24 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Wolves, however. Russell Westbrook did not disappoint, continuing his MVP-form with 20 points and 14 assists, while Durant had 28/8 and Green 24/6 in their returns to the line-up.

Phoenix 123, Houston 116: I still can’t believe the Rockets are this bad; they fall to 3-10 on the season after dropping this one to the Suns. Steve Nash returned and had 24 points and 9 assists, and it seems he was able to find Jason Richardson, who’d disappeared in Phoenix’s last three games, but was able to pour in 26 while shooting 7-11, 2-2 and 10-10 on the game. 54% shooting and 7 guys in double-figures for Phoenix, but they still can’t get any rebounds, tracking down just 33 to Houston’s 51. Kevin Martin once again led the Rockets, scoring 19 points.

Orlando 97, San Antonio 106: Dwight was huge for the Magic, 26 points and 18 rebounds, but the Spurs aging 3 were able to get it done, Ginobili led with 25, while TP added 24 and TD had himself 15 points. It seems no-one can stop the Spurs, who improve to 12-1 and are yet to receive any steady contribution from Tiago Splitter. Once they do, look out NBA.

Sacramento 83, Utah 94: The Kings are struggling mightily shooting the ball right now, I touched on it earlier, and they’re at just 36% for this game. The Jazz took care of business, enjoying a nice game off the bench from C.J. Miles, 20 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists while shooting 8-13 from the floor and making all 3 of his free-throws.

New Orleans 95, L.A. Clippers 99: This game, however, later became my biggest surprise of the year. My mate and I had this one down as a 50-point win for the Hornets, easy, but the Clippers managed somehow, someway to come out of this one victorious. Blake Griffin continued his phenomenal stretch with 24 points and 13 boards, while Eric Gordon continued his phenomenal season with 27/3/4. David West had 30 for the Bugs, but missed free-throws (Ariza) and bad passes (Chris Paul, if you can believe it) cost New Orleans dearly. With the W, the Clippers ‘improve’ to 2-13, while New Orleans falls to 11-2.

Denver 106, Golden State 89: Carmelo had a season-high 39, 10-24 from the floor, 2-4 from range and 17-17 at the line, while adding 9 rebounds and 5 assists; and when you’re hitting shots like this (click ‘Birdman is Back’), then it’s all good.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to everyone that’s given me feedback today, it’s all much appreciated.

3-Ball, Corner Pocket: 23 November

3-Ball, Corner Pocket is your weekly look at the league’s leading MVP candidates, most outstanding rookies and best and worst performing teams.

We’re just about a month into the NBA season at this point, and there’re a few things starting to get sorted out. Who’s established themselves as a legit MVP-level player, and which teams have shown that they’re the ones to beat? Let’s see:

MVP Watch

1. Chris Paul, 16.8ppg, 4.9rpg, 10.5apg: Just as I said last week, his stats don’t leap off the page, but how can I drop him down the list when he’s the guy that led his team to a 3-0 week, and a record of 11-1 for the season? He’s still flirting with 50-40-90 shooting numbers and is second in the league in PER, at 26.4.

2. Russell Westbrook, 23.5ppg, 5.2rpg, 7.8apg: With Kevin Durant injured, all Westbrook did was lead his Thunder to a victory against the Celtics, at Boston, with Jeff Green also missing the game. In fact, the Thunder haven’t lost since he snuck into the MVP watch last week, and he just continues to climb. He was rewarded for his tremendous efforts with Player of the Week honours.

3. Pau Gasol, 22.8ppg, 12.1rpg, 4.1apg: Fresh off his perfect 10-10, 8-8 28-point performance against Golden State, he’s playing fantastic and making folks wonder whether he’s the best player in basketball right now.

4. Dwight Howard, 21.4ppg, 11.1rpg, 1.3apg: Returns after dropping out of the rankings last week, his Magic went 2-0 last week while he averaged 22 points and 12 boards, along with 2 blocks. He’s looking much more comfortable on offence, showing off more than just dunking (even a 15-foot bank shot), but he must improve at the line (just 54% so far this season).

5. Deron Williams, 21.6ppg, 4.4rpg, 9.8apg: His Jazz cooled off a bit after their historic Eastern road trip, but they still went 2-1, dropping a game to the white-hot Spurs. He had consecutive 23-point efforts before shooting just 3-13 his last time out. Still, he’s done nothing that suggests he drops out of the top-5.

On the bubble: Al Horford, Michael Beasley, Serge Ibaka (Ok, maybe they’re some of my favourites right now…)

Eye on ROY

1. Blake Griffin, 18.5ppg, 10.9rpg, 2.1apg: There’s no rookie even close to BG right now, as he bounced back from a rough week (he averaged just 12.5 and 8.75 from November 9-15) to average 27.3 points, 13.3 rebounds and 3 assists in the week since the last post. Not only that, he erupted for 44 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists in the Clippers loss to New York, a game where he had a series of spirit-crushing dunks and had long-time Clippers play-by-play man gushing that it was the best performance ever by a Clipper. I’m trying not to get ahead of myself, especially after everyone said Brandon Jennings had ROY locked up after dropping 55 on the Warriors in November last season, but it’s hard not to get excited about Blake Griffin.

2. John Wall, 18.1ppg, 4rpg, 9.8apg: Wall hasn’t gotten on the court since last week’s post, so he loses the top spot to BG, but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s been phenomenal in the 8 NBA games he was able to participate in. It also doesn’t change the fact that there’re no rookies that are even close to John and Blake at this point.

Power Rankings – who’s hot

1. San Antonio, 12-1: They’ve won 11 straight, and have the best record in the NBA. Tim Duncan is averaging just 13.7 points and 9.6 rebounds, but Richard Jefferson is much improved this season, his scoring is up from 12.3 to 16.3 points per game.

2. New Orleans, 11-1: Still one of the class teams of the league, and one that nobody saw coming.

3. Oklahoma City, 10-4: The Thunder makes their debut in the Power Rankings top-5 for this season, thanks to winning games on the road without their superstar and leading scorer Kevin Durant.

4. L.A. Lakers, 12-2: Andrew Bynum still hasn’t returned to full practice, but is anyone really too worried about the Lakers right now? Pau is playing like the league’s standout big and Kobe doesn’t look too troubled by his myriad of injuries so far. They definitely look primed to three-peat, even early in the season.

5. Utah Jazz, 10-5: Wrapping up our all-West top-5, with the Utah Jazz, who just keep on keeping on, and despite a middling stretch where they lost to OKC and SAS, they’ve earned the right to remain top-5 with that ridiculous road trip and those comeback victories.

Power Rankings – who’s not

30. L.A. Clippers, 1-13: Not even BG’s career night can hide the fact that they’ve lost 9 straight (well, maybe a little).

29. Houston, 3-10: This is not where I expected to be ranking the Rockets just one month in, but without Yao and Brooks they’ve struggled, dropping their last 3 straight and are relying heavily on Kevin Martin (averaging around 23/3/3).

28. Philadelphia, 3-10: They’ve been without Andre Iguodala for the past week, but actually managed to snap a 5-game losing streak against Milwaukee their last time out. Thad Young has stepped up while ‘Dre has been out, he’s still coming off the bench but has averaged 17 points and 6 boards over the past week.

27. Sacramento, 4-8:  The Kings just completed a 2-1 week against the ‘New’ teams, dropping games to York and Orleans while managing a victory over Jersey. No King that’s averaging more than 10 minutes per game is shooting over 50% from the floor (Carl Landry is leading at 47.4%).

26. Minnesota, 4-10: The Wolves split a pair of games in a lean week of hoops, defeating the Clips before losing to the Lake Show. It’s not all doom and gloom for Minny though, as Beasley and Love have formed a potent forward combo that’s averaging 39.5 points, 20 boards and 4 assists. I love this story about Mike Beasley’s crazy scoring binge that stemmed from Jonny Flynn telling him ‘you got to be that Mike Beasley that I remember growing up’. It’s a good story, go check it out.

That’s all for this week, cheers for reading.