The General’s NBA Shakedown…December 23, 2009
I want to break the NBA into a few categories that I think best describes where all the teams are. This is the best way to get similar teams into similar groups even if they don’t have similar records. For example, just because the Celtics are 21-5 doesn’t mean they belong in the same group as the Lakers (and so on.) You’ll see….let’s start at the bottom:
The Eternal Pit of Suck
Alone in the Eternal Pit of Suck are the lowly New Jersey Nyets. They haven’t been any good in quite a while and it’s quite painful to even know someone who is a Nets fan. I’m at a Christmas party the other day and a kid (19 to be exact) tells me he’s a Nets fan and I immediately apologized (and he immediately accepted)…yep that’s how bad it is.
Really, what are the Nets working with right now? Kiki Vandeweghe is their Head Coach (just because you’re a Hall of Famer doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good coach, but he’s a safe bet.) They also have 3 players from Orlando’s Finals team from last season (Tony Battie, Courtney Lee, and Rafer Alston.) Tony Battie plays garbage minutes (so that doesn’t really count), Rafer Alston had attitude problems in Orlando (so imagine what it’s like in New Jersey), and Courtney Lee missed the gimme layup to end all gimme layups in last season’s Finals. This doesn’t really = crappy to me. You take 3 guys who SHOULD play pretty well together, add Brook Lopez (who is supposed to be good) and have Kiki coach them and you should get better than 2-26. If you want to go a step further (if you already aren’t hurting from the knowledge that they have plenty of legitimate talent on their team) they also have CDR (Chris Douglas-Roberts)…you know, 1st team All-American who almost took Memphis to a title(who also took the SAT himself)?Yeah, they’ve got him too.Yep, they’re still 2-26.
I don’t’ get it either, but they made a coaching change to get a new approach…is Kiki’s approach working? I don’t think so. THIS is the kind of team that could benefit immensely from someone like Mike Woodson (down here in Atlanta) who meets players where they’re at, preaches defense, and can field a team with no superstars and play progressively better from season to season. Sorry Kiki, but you need to go back to the front office so they can find someone more like Mike Woodson.
Hanging on the Edge of the Pit
Minnesota, Philly, Washington, Golden State and Indiana are all hanging right on the edge of the “Eternal Pit of Suck” with records that are better than the Nyets, but not by much.The all-white crew of the Pacers isn’t working out the way they wanted it to because (big surprise) Tyler Hansbrough is averaging 9 points and 4.5 rebounds a game.I don’t think this is what the Pacers signed up for but they certainly can’t act surprised that he can’t really get it done in the NBA.
Minnesota suffers from a severe lack of brainpower in their front office and that pretty much accounts for all of their problems. Only KG could’ve gotten them to the 60 wins they had a few years ago and it’ll never happen again. Don Nelson doesn’t coach defense, but I think he’s starting to forget that his team has to score in order to counteract their lack of defense (I mean, I suppose senility is a possibility at this point.) Washington has a conceited superstar (Gilbert Arenas, who I REFUSE to refer to as “Agent Zero”) who writes his blog better than he plays basketball and Philly can only lean on AI9 for so long because the emotional return of the original AI was nice, but it wasn’t enough to win them any games. I mean, AI9 hit a shot at the buzzer the other night that just barely didn’t count…they can’t even buy one right now (so, they’re hanging onto the edge of the pit.)
Peering over the Edge of the Pit in a Scrum
Toronto, the Knicks, Detroit, Chicago, Miami, Charlotte, Milwaukee, OKC, the Clippers, the Kings, the Spurs, the Hornets, and Memphis are all peering over the edge of the Pit of Eternal Suck and wondering how long before they end up in there. The Raptors signed Hedo thinking he could do something for them, but when his only option is Chris Bosh that isn’t enough for him to be a “Point Forward” and be effective. The Knicks just handle their organization badly. As much as I detest Stephon Marbury I have to think that he was the one in the right in his little tussle with the Knicks because now Nate Robinson’s agent has asked for his client to be traded. Basically, New York is the Oakland of Basketball…NO ONE wants to be there and they run the organization so badly that I have to wonder if Donnie Walsh talks to people who aren’t there just like Al Davis.
Detroit is suffering because Joe Dumars thinks he’s the second-coming (literally) and Miami is still dealing with the baby-like behavior (that he no doubt had refined under Shaq.)Charlotte is actually doing pretty well to be where they’re at so I guess I should (holding back the pre-vomit) applaud Larry Brown for doing a pretty good job with a sub-standard team.OKC is in the same boat…for where they were they’re doing pretty well.I can’t be mad at them for being at .500.The Clippers SHOULD be 2-26 because they’re the Clippers and their owner doesn’t care, but somehow they’re not TOO horrible…go figure (and all that without Blake Griffin.)The Kings need to move to Vegas, the Spurs are still shocked that they didn’t win the NBA title the last two seasons (yes, their egos are THAT big), the Hornets need to get CP3 some help before he bails, and Memphis is actually pretty good.
The idea of Memphis being pretty good is the thing that gets me the most.I even heard Hubie Brown (yes I know he coached Memphis, but he doesn’t B.S. with anybody) talking about how “right on track” the Grizzlies are.There’s something about having Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo on the floor that works.Add to that a VERY raw Hasheem Thabeet (size), Marko Jaric (a.k.a. – the luckiest bastard on the planet [he’s married to Adriana Lima]), Zach Randolph (power), and Sam Young (previously well-taught) and you’ve got something going on.You could read through the rosters of these teams that are “not so good” and see TONS of talent on each team and wonder how these teams can be this bad.Well, I think it’s pretty obvious…there’s finally enough talent to fill all the rosters in the league.This means we have some parity and that’s good.I like reading a roster of a team that is 2-26 and seeing good player after good player.It makes you realize how CRUCIAL front office work is because those front office people have to “formulate” a team that can win.You can’t just load up on talent like you do in the NCAA and win.
This is the same reason why I’ve already crapped on Danny Ferry this season because he’s got talent on his team in Cleveland but it doesn’t gel so they aren’t cruising like they should be. Many of that team’s faults are due to his poor management of the roster. I could sit here all day and talk about the GM’s in the league and who sucks and who doesn’t, but let me say this from “up-front” experience. The Hawks hired Rick Sund, he made some deals, they won a playoff series last season and now they are NOT ONLY the “token 4 seed” but they are fighting Cleveland and Orlando for #2 or #3. THAT’S the difference it makes…
How The Hell Did They Get Here?
Phoenix and Houston sit alone in this little teacup just off the edge of the put where they get to sit back, spin around and frolic like little pixies and wonder how they’re not standing over the edge of the pit like “the scrum” is. Houston just brought Tracy McGrady back and they have no Yao. They traded Ron Artest for Trevor Ariza, Avery Brooks is a good little player and they just have a bunch of “stuff” (also known as marginal players) that equals a team that works. It’s not Yao’s fault that he’s just too tall and too frail, but they can live without him.
Steve Nash is back in form and he’s making Alvin Gentry look really good. Now we all have to wonder (as others have) if Steve Nash made Mike D’Antoni instead of Mike D’Antoni making Steve Nash…hmm….. I can tell you this…they were so freaking happy to get rid of Shaq in Phoenix that the weight that was lifted from their shoulders alone was probably worth 5 wins at the beginning of the season and probably worth 20 for the balance of the season.
I don’t trust these people…so let’s put them over here
Utah, Portland, Cleveland, Denver, and Dallas sit alone in this room that’s kind of quarantined from the rest of the league. These teams embody good stats that never amount to anything. Remember last season when Portland was “so dangerous” and everybody should be afraid of them? Yeah, that didn’t work out. Dallas had Miami 0-2 in the 2006 Finals and they STILL haven’t recovered. Utah can’t beat the Lakers in the playoffs and they’re STILL smarting from losing the Finals twice to the Bulls in the 90’s. Denver can’t be trusted because George Karl is their coach and they’re Denver. Then there’s Cleveland…
I’ve already mentioned how ineffective they are offensively when Shaq is on the floor and how I think LeBron is the Atlanta Braves/Buffalo Bills of Basketball so that isn’t going to change. If the league ran only on mojo no one would want to shake LeBron’s hand (then again, he doesn’t like shaking hands either) because they’d be afraid he would give them cooties. (Yeah, I just said cooties1)
The True Contenders
The Lakers, Celtics, Magic and Hawks are the true contenders as of December in the NBA. Yes, the Hawks are in this group. They play like a different team (like the Pistons teams that went to the East Finals 4 gillion times in a row) and they win games they’re supposed to win (which is very un-Hawk-like.) The Magic are slightly better in percentages than the Hawks but these two teams are equal because as the Hawks took a step up the Magic took a step back by letting Hedo go, bringing in Vince Carter, moving Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston, and Tony Battie and relying too much on Jameer Nelson. That means they are in the same position as the Hawks right now. This is the same team that went to the Finals last year and now I have them on the same playing field as the Hawks? Yep. The Magic are slightly broken in the front office and we can all see it. (That’s why I harped so hard on front office work.)
That leaves the Celtics and the Lakers. The Celtics are OLD. I mean O.L.D.!!!!!! I know they have an incredible record right now, but I STILL saw Paul Pierce NOT being able to get around a pick at the beginning of the season. I know the Celtics are playing well, but they are led by old, old, and old. Rajon Rondo is stirring the drink, but when he only has water to stir at the end of the season because Ray Allen can barely move, KG can’t walk, and Paul Pierce can’t push it to the rim it’ll still taste like water. How long before the syrup in the machine goes dry and all he’s getting is that nasty carbonated-water taste?
Then there’s the Lakers…They sit alone in the:
No one can beat them 4 times pool
Here’s the difference between the Lakers and the Celtics. Kobe gave up the offense to everyone and he’s officially branded himself the “enforcer” who gets the ball when the game is on the line, but otherwise this whole team can win games on any given night. He can still make it to the basket and Paul Pierce cannot. Right now (and I know they’re my team, but can you disagree with this?) they are the only team I can see lasting all the way through the Finals to win a Championship. The Celtics might get there by luck like they did in ’07 by beating the Hawks in the 1st Round, and last year by beating the Bulls in the 1st Round) but how gassed will the Celtics be when they get there?
I called this category “No one can beat them 4 times” because Alvin Gentry played all the good teams in the league in a short stretch and when asked about the Lakers he said “I don’t see anyone beating them 4 times.” You think he’d know!
The Shakedown is pretty clear. We have 4 really good contenders, but only one team, I trust to win a title. Now, there is some Christmas Basketball to be played that includes the Lakers taking on the Cavs. The Cavs can prove a lot by:
- Sitting Shaq a lot
- Letting someone other than LeBron score
- Beating the Lakers
I don’t think they’ll do any of these things, but if they wanted to make a statement there is no better day and no better opponent to make the statement on or against than the Lakers on Christmas Day.
We’ll have to see if the Yuletide Spirit hits LeBron on Friday…if so, we might have to rewrite these rankings…