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A critical assessment of the Rockets (from the top down) [Apr. 25th, 2011|05:46 pm]
One thing has become crystal clear in the past few weeks - the dreaded Texas Triangle is a thing of the past. The Rockets are coming to terms with this fact and have been acting accordingly. The Spurs have cleverly positioned themselves to unload essentially their whole roster by the time Tim Duncan's current contract expires. It allows them the flexibilty to re-evaluate their roster and the current economic climate and plan accordingly. The Mavericks are confusing themselves as a team with the ability to contend with their current roster (see: the Mav's inexplicable lack of movement in an active trade deadline) and a team with young talent (Roddy Beaubois has not shown "untouchable" talent nor is he a unique commodity worth remaining stagnant over).

The Rockets have shown neither the serenity of the Spurs nor the obstinance of the Mavs and have sadly come to the appropriate conclusion sooner than most of their fans - we are not contenders nor will we ever become more than fringe players in the current climate. A large part is due to the climate of the league itself, in which the power belongs to a select few large markets (L.A., Boston, NYC, Miami, Chicago) and unless you have a steady ship with a solid foundation (see: San Antonio) or happen to make all the moves at just the right time (2006 Miami, 2004 Detroit Pistons), it is very difficult to achieve that next step. Ask Jerry Sloan and his two contending iterations of the Jazz - even with two Hall of Famers (Karl Malone/John Stockton) and something resembling that star talent (Carlos Boozer/Deron Williams) and all the right role players, they came up woefully short against the late 90's Bulls and this decade's Lakers.

The Rockets' response to this realization has been haphazard at best. Obviously the news that hits closest to home is the fact that Rick Adelman will no longer be part of the organization. He has taken this jumbled mess of a roster and turned it into something serviceable, a job that something many coaches of his caliber would have either left behind, and under whose pressure many lesser coaches would have withered away. It's hard to overstate what a job he has done with this roster. The friction between him and Les Alexander is difficult to understand from an outsider's perspective, and it remains puzzling that we let him go when his intention was to stay. Part of this stems from Daryl Morey's desire to constantly tinker and reconfigure, when Adelman wants to add a piece or two and win now. Both parties have their merits. Daryl Morey wants to win big at the cost of stability and immediate gratification. Rick Adelman thinks that he has most of the necessary pieces to win now, sans one gaping 7'6" hole in the middle. For better or worse, Les agreed with Morey and we are where we are now. Thank you Rick Adelman for 4 great years. It's not clear who will come next, but they have big shoes to fill. Dwayne Casey and Mike Budenholzer are two attractive names being thrown around; Casey has been considered for several head coaching vacancies in the past and did a fair job with a fading Minnesota team; Budenholzer has less experience but comes with strong credentials. Mike Brown and Mike Woodson have been named and both would be colossal mistakes. Mike Brown may be the most uncreative head coach in the past two decades who failed spectacularly to coach the league's single biggest talent, while the difference between Woodson and current Hawks' coach Larry Drew is obvious in its magnitude. And if we are considering Stan Van Gundy, why let Adelman leave in the first place? They share similar abrasive personalities and the philosophical difference between the two is in the details.

It's easy to see where Adelman could embrace this unlikely crew that nearly captured a playoff spot. Kyle Lowry has had a breakout season (though one could make the argument his per-minute numbers are actually worse than prior) and Kevin Martin has been the paragon of efficiency. Even the bit players flourished under the Motion offense; offensively-challenged Chuck Hayes no longer became a liability under the basket, Chase Budinger developed into a legitimate offensive weapon, Patrick Patterson started to come into his own as a multi-faceted scorer, and even Goran Dragic started to settle in towards the end of the season. Adelman took this unlikely bunch and turned them into the league's top offense and a top-10 defense post All-Star Break. Now Morey's argument holds much less water - why break this promising nexus up in search of that ever-elusive superstar? The Sam Presti method worked in a large part because he got lucky to be able to draft Kevin Durant, and them Russell Westbrook. The Thunder were patient, true, but it takes a little help from the lottery gods to strike gold. Then Morey's philosophy must either be "lose now, win later," something no one would admit for obvious reasons, or make small alterations to a winning formula, something which he denies is possible (and is one of a few reasons for Adelman's departure).

So what now? Before, all questions began and ended with Yao Ming. Now, his presence or absence is a moot point. The big guy has worked as hard as anyone in the league and is by all accounts a gem of a human being, but the human body is not designed to be 7'6" and endure year-long stress. The NBA is littered with the bodies of giants before him whose legs and feet gave way long before their spirits. Many teams would take a chance on him (if for nothing, then for the huge marketing potential he provides), but he has stated adamantly he wants to be a Rocket. If so, the Rockets cannot afford to spend more than the veteran's minimum on someone who has missed the better half of several seasons in a row. His health dictates a limited role, and if we re-sign him, it should be under those circumstances.

Kevin Martin, Kyle Lowry, and Luis Scola are all under contract. The first two should be the core of any future roster the front office decides to put together. Kyle Lowry performed at a near-elite level, and Kevin Martin has quietly solidified his position as a deadly scorer, though he has made very little progress on the defensive end. Luis Scola, however, is beginning to look expendable. He remains an ever crafty scorer and tough rebounder, but he is little better than a traffic cone on defense and given that we have no real center, we need someone who can contest the rim and take some of the pressure off Chuck Hayes. Patterson could grow into that role. At $8 million a year, I'm not sure Scola is worth his price tag, and he is expendable should a deal come along.

The young talent on the team is a mixed bag. Budinger has improved defensively but still remains a liability; however, he has all the makings of a 6th man catalyst and after a rocky start, has found a consistent stroke which resulted in big-time minutes (oh, and the fact that we traded away Shane T_T). Courtney Lee has been a steal at his price tag and has been a top-notch defender and quietly been a key contributor in the latter half of the season. Patrick Patterson has been a success story for all the above reasons. Jordan Hill, however, has failed to show any real progress this season and remains an enigma. Goran Dragic is enticing as a backup point guard; he can be coached to play good defense (unlike Brooks) and has the potential to be a significant part of the franchise in the coming years.

Chuck Hayes lies in his own category. He is a one-dimensional player (elite defender, great motor) who has been steady as a rock all year long. He has worked hard to correct his offensive deficiencies and as a result has been the workhorse of an undermanned Rockets team on a nightly basis. But he will likely command a higher salary than the paltry one he is currently earning, and we will have to think hard whether he merits this, or whether we need to realize that he is someone who needs to be used situationally and not relied on continually as an undersized crutch. This will be as difficult a decision as the Yao decision this offseason.

Part of the friction between Morey and Adelman lies in the lack of playing time that Terrence William and Hasheem Thabeet received. Terrence Williams had enough potential to earn a lottery selection, and since then has shown flashes of talent (some have naively compared him to McGrady), though this has not shown itself on the floor. Essentially, we gave away a 1st round pick for someone who is uncoachable, is a poor shooter (and has horrible shot selection), and gives away the ball as often as he makes a spectacular pass. I suppose his salary is small enough, but a 1st round pick (even lottery-protected) is not a commodity to be thrown away. And Thabeet... wow. You can't make chicken casserole out of chicken shit. He has all the athletic ability of Dikembe Mutombo and the basketball IQ of a gerbil. Adelman didn't know what to do with him, and I doubt the next coach will either. Both players were gambles, and you have to gamble a bit to win in a smaller market. But would RC Buford and the Spurs have taken a chance on those two? What about Sam Presti? Didn't we get rid of Trevor Ariza and Aaron Brooks in a large part because of their detrimental effect on team chemistry? What makes Williams any different?

The rest of the players on the roster are irrelevant. Brad Miller is long past his prime, and the bit players we have signed on have made little impact on the professional level. I don't know what Morey sees in them, and with the Summer League cancelled, we may not know til the start of the season.

We have a few draft picks to work with - our own and Orlando's in 2011, our own and New York's in 2012 (no longer so attractive), our own and Memphis's in 2013, and a smattering of extra 2nd round picks. I have a hard time foreseeing how Morey will be able to turn our current assets into a superstar on the level of Durant, CP3, etc... but he has surprised us before. I am unfortunately running out of patience for Daryl Morey to make that big move. He has taken minor gambles, some of which have paid off tremendously (i.e. Lowry for Alston, Hill/Martin for McGrady's expiring), some of which have been abject failures (Williams/Thabeet), but none which have put us in a position to become a contender. Adelman is gone, much to the dismay of most Rockets fans, and that's something no longer in the cards. Now Daryl Morey is on the clock to take his unique approach to basketball and strike big. I'm sure Morey has read Moneyball several times over, but let's not forget that the analytic approach is designed to make small market teams competitive by finding undervalued talent (isn't that what we've been doing??), not to create or attract superstars. What our front office does in the next few years will be very telling as to the utility of the analytic approach as a primary means of building teams, and if this approach can take a semi-attractive sports market to the next level.
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Me and Radiohead Down by the Schoolyard [Feb. 17th, 2011|06:49 pm]
Well, I'm a little excited. The new Radiohead album "The King of Limbs" is coming out this weekend - this after little to no warning from the band except "coming soon." I thought I'd share my simpleton fanboy musings on what I find to be one of the most interesting bands of our generation.

I'm sure most people's introduction to Radiohead came with the heavy radio play of "Creep." That is, most Americans - their debut Pablo Honey was released to little fanfare in their native UK. The band had named themselves after a Talking Heads song, and it was hard to see the relation. Pablo Honey was generic grunge fare, and most of the singles are really worth a second listen these days. But "Creep" itself is a monster of a single. The lyrics are simple and a bit childish(but fun to belt out), but the song itself has an unignorable pull and the soaring vocals and dagger-sharp guitar lines were a clarion call at the time. At least, it seemed pretty important at the time. "Creep" was a distillation of the soft-loud-soft trope that The Pixies perfected and Nirvana popularized, and it was very much the right song to come out at the right time. But beyond that single, that album (deservedly) didn't make much of a splash, outside of the US. Pablo Honey is very much an album of its time, and it's hard to look back on it as more than a curio.

The Bends came shortly after and commercially did a touch better in the UK and internationally. "Street Spirit", "High and Dry", etc... all achieved a modicum of success in the US. This was the beginning of the increasing isolationism of the band - they shied from the popularity and sought to do something very different. The Bends began to show the musical experimentation and virtuosity that Radiohead would later ride to much greater success. But in truth, the album was essentially guitar rock at its goddamn finest without a ton of studio wizardry. Most of the songs are in simple keys with standard progressions and are easy enough for a beginner guitarist to pick up. Nigel Godrich, who has produced everything since OK Computer, only officially produced one song off the album (though you can hear his touches as studio engineer everywhere). But The Bends didn't rely on any tricks to be a great album. Thom's lyrics were incisive and insightful, the and the simplest songs off the album were often the most devastatingly beautiful ones, but despite this the band's songcraft had immensely improved in a very short time. A lot of people look pretty fondly on The Bends, as do I - it was really the only pure guitar rock album Radiohead ever made, and it is magnificent.

(As an aside, I think its fun to listen to The Beatles' catalog from front to back and then realize that they produced that body of work and achieved that degree of musical maturity in less than a decade.)

OK Computer came shortly after that and Radiohead had officially arrived. I didn't hear the whole album until a few years later and it remains one of my favorites. For a while, it was just the CD that "Karma Police" was on, and that's how most people knew it at the time. But quietly, the album garnered all sorts of critical acclaim for its groundbreaking sound and vision. Ironically, they wrote some of these songs while touring with Alanis Morisette (WTF?). "Airbag" started the album off with a quiet roar that didn't let up until the closing microwave ding of "The Tourist." "Karma Police" is of course a stellar song, but the band's concepts of texture and space had become immensely more sophisticated and are probably best on display in "Let Down." I still get goosebumps when I hear Thom's mini-choir of voices stack on each other behind a swell of guitars and soft bleeps and bloops. "Paranoid Android" was a testament to the band's drive to experiment with their sound - it's essentially three songs mashed together into one (a trick they learned from The Beatles - listen to "Happiness is a Warm Gun." I think its a better comparison than "Bohemian Rhapsody"). It would, for better or worse, be the last time that Radiohead released an album that you could really define as a rock album.

Kid A and Amnesiac came a few years later, when I was in college. It baffled me at the time. It was a studio heavy album that was a drastic departure from anything they had released in the past. In effect, it reflected the increasing isolationism and hermeticism of the band itself. The sounds and textures were foreign and alien, discomforting yet alluring. I grew to enjoy it more and more as it's idiosyncracies became familiarities but it's funny that this was Radiohead's first US number one album, as it probably lost as many fans of the band as it gained in the short term. It was a dense album of textures and sounds and built on their concepts and understanding of space that they really displayed on OK Computer. "Everything in Its Right Place" is a microcosm of the album itself with its unsettling synths, Thom's modified voice, dub-influenced formless basslines, and its unconventional structure. Kid A was way ahead of its time - its only in the past two or three years that artists like Flying Lotus and James Blake have really experimented with the voice as an electronic instrument - I'm ignoring Auto-Tune because it's not really the same thing, and I'm jealous that I can't Auto-Tune my life. Amnesiac took most of the rest of the songs recorded in those sessions and as a result, the album itself is disjointed and disorganized. "Knives Out" and "Like Spinning Plates" are great songs in their own right and would do just fine side by side with the best songs on Kid A. But songs like "Push/Pulk Revolving Doors" were unnecessary experiments in a genre (IDM) that had essentially lost all its momentum by that time. And it wasn't a very good experiment either. It's a good album on its own right but was a pretty big disappointment after their string of hits. Probably the best song recorded in the latter half of these sessions is "True Love Waits," a simple and affecting song a la "Fake Plastic Trees." It's still one of my favorite songs that they've recorded.



As another aside, I find it interesting that Radiohead would bother emulating IDM other than the fact that it, too, was an isolationist genre. At its best (early Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, early Autechre) it encompassed beautiful alien soundscapes. At its quirkiest (Squarepusher, Amon Tobin), it recontextualized existing genres (hip hop, jazz) on its own terms. At its worst, it was noisy and unlistenable.

At any rate, they had backed themselves into a corner. Thom had become increasingly isolationist himself and had really distanced himself from the band with his instinct to control their sound to its most minute detail. The band took a step back and vowed to deliver to return to their routs and record a guitar rock album. What followed, the ridiculously titled Hail to the Thief, only partially cashed in on that promise. "2+2=5" rocks out with their best songs, and "Go to Sleep" is an amazing acoustic rocker, but it felt like the album was divided neatly into "electronic" and "rock" songs and their attempts at mixing the two were, well, mixed. The most notable exception to this was "There, There" which is one of the most unique songs in their catalog. "There, There" is one of the most hauntingly beautiful songs that I have heard recorded by anyone and was a testament to the fact that Radiohead might be confused, but they hadn't lost their gift. Like Amnesiac, Hail to the Thief is a good album on its own terms, but it lacked the singular vision of their earlier work. Thom's politically charged lyrics are sometimes incisive but sometimes cringe-worthy and it seemed like the band hadn't figured out how to reconcile their past with their recent work.

And then the band took a break and disappeared from the spotlight amidst claims from Thom himself that they would never record another LP again, but would consider recording singles and EPs. They soon revealed that they were in the studio, but few other details emerged. They recorded a few awesome covers (Joy Division's "Ceremony," for starters, which is pretty freaking awesome) and toured sparingly, playing new songs live that would eventually appear on their next album in some form or other (usually very different from their early live counterparts).



In Rainbows was announced in much the same way that their new album was announced - without any prior fanfare, and to a thunderous response by their growing fanbase. The album was relaxed, natural, and mature. It seemed like Thom and crew had settled down, both with their own lives and musically. This was the work of a band that had gelled, that had built on experience and had learned that they could not force their sound to confirm to their vision. It seemed like they were finally comfortable again with each other as musicians. The songs flowed smoothly and without pretense. In Rainbows made a statement without ever trying to make a statement. It was a big middle finger to the record industry and it opened new avenues for artists to release their music without selling their souls to a giant corporation. And it was a huge financial success. They conned me out of my $80 or whatever to buy their fancy little box set... and I regret nothing! Its hard to find a standout from this album - "Reckoner" remains one of my favorite songs that they've recorded, but this is an excellent album from back to front.

By the way, if Radiohead recording Joy Division was pretty much the greatest thing ever... this comes in as a close second. Cee Lo doing his best Thom Yorke singing "Reckoner."



It's interesting looking back at their catalog in retrospect. Perspective is more than a snapshot; it's evaluation and re-evaluation by the inquiring mind, and Radiohead's music is really reflective of the story of the band itself and, excepting Pablo Honey, consistently innovative and iconoclastic.

Anyway, I can't wait for The King of Limbs. I have no idea what it will sound like, and in some sense I don't mind. The questions are sometimes more interesting than the answers.

...

Who the hell am I kidding I want it now :)
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EMERGENCY ROCKETS ARE TERRIBLE GRAMMAR BE DAMNED POSTING [Nov. 26th, 2010|11:10 pm]
The Rockets are officially terrible. It's obvious that the Yao Ming era has come to end in the most mediocre fashion possible. Even healthy, he is no longer the (sometimes) dominant force in the paint that we could rely on both ends of the floor. Not to mention that he's already missed a good chunk of the young season. Daryl Morey has the unenviable job of building around a one-of-a-kind talent in Yao that had limitless potential that will unfortunately go unfulfilled. The good news is that the Rockets have a huge amount of flexibility next year.

The bad news is that no one knows if the NBA is going to even be playing this time next year because of the lockout. Why is this a big deal for the Rockets? Firstly, it looks as if we are bound to be a lottery team in the West, which is strong as ever. Given the lockout, many young talents may opt out of the NBA for an additional year of college ball to develop their skill sets. Next year's draft may be one of the thinnest in years.

The other major issue with the lockout is that no one knows how far financial flexibility will take them. If the owners have their way, salary caps will be hard (i.e. none of this trickery that goes into building a contender now where the "cap" is routinely exceeded) and it will be very difficult to build a star-studded team the way current player contracts are going, the major reason most stars are trying to re-up this year under the old collective bargaining rules. Anyway, the free agent pickings may be extremely slim next year.

None of this is good news.

The Rockets, as they stand now, are a team in limbo. They built their team from an inside-out philosophy centered around Yao Ming, and now they are stuck with his giant expiring contract that can't be utilized to its fullest extent ($17.7 million) because no team is willing to commit to having a roster at the current luxury tax limit without knowing where the collective bargaining talks will end up. In addition to another $14 million or so in expirings with Battier and Jeffries, the Rockets have a lot of flexibility but few realistic options to rope in a superstar and maintaing enough flexibility to build a real contender of a team around him. If anyone can do it, its Morey. But who is realistically available? Carmelo is as temperamental a star as T-Mac as ever was, minus the health problems. CP3 is leading the Hornets to higher heights than ever, so I doubt he leaves. Tim Duncan will never leave the Spurs. And most available "superstar" players either have a lot of contractual baggage or any of a litany of other caveats.

If any team has a model of success to replicate, its the Oklahoma Thunder with Sam Presti. They hit gold with Westbrook and Durant and built their young team together with excellent draft picks and masterful cap management. Morey has had similar levels of success if you account for the franchise's misplaced trust in Yao as the cornerstone. The problem is that like Yao, KD is a once-in-a-decade talent and it took OKC a few years in the gutter to be the team they are now. The Rockets have drafted well for the most part, especially considering their draft position. But they are a superstar and a reliable big man short of making the playoffs, much less being contenders at this point.

In addition (and this is Adelman's fault as much as anyone's), the focus of defense from the JVG era has been totally lost. We are near dead last in the league, and while some of this is personnel issues and the lack of a big man, a lot of this may be from the more lackadaisical approach to defense that we saw in the Adelman-coached Sacramento Kings. This has improved somewhat over the past few games but we can't be taken seriously when allowing over 100 ppg.

The Rockets aren't nearly as much of a disaster as say, Minnesota or Philly, and a few smart moves and this franchise will be headed in the right direction again. But this is going to require a gut check on the part of Les Anderson - its time to start over, use our draft picks and cap space to start building around what we have. I'll rank our players by their value to our team and their long term potential as Rockets.

Keepers - self explanatory

Kevin Martin - at his salary ($12 million) Martin is a bargain as an elite scorer. You won't find many scorers at that salary that can explode for 30 any given game. However, there are a few major problems with K-Mart. First, he relies on getting to the line to maintain scoring efficiency. At the end of games, he is all to content to shoot jumpers and rarely makes it to the line. He is also a defensive liability but is smart enough of a player to learn to be a solid team defender, provided that he has some defensive help from his backcourt partner (i.e. Lowry). He is a great second fiddle but is not the kind of player to lead a team to any real playoff success. Still, he is a rare scoring talent and at that salary, he is still a great find.

Kyle Lowry - Unfortunately this is partly due to the fact that we overpaid him this offseason. Still, at $6 million a year, his contract isn't terrible, but with his current average production he is tough to move. He is a tough defensive point guard that overcomes his lack of height with speed and strength. He is an elite defender and plays extremely hard. But like Rajon Rondo or Tyreke Evans, defenders are all too content to let him shoot jumpers rather than let him make plays. And he cannot create plays at anywhere near the level of those two. For him to become truly successful, he will need to develop a jumper and become a more versatile scorer. Still, he is a hard worker and for his size, a good rebounding guard as well. He is young and he has shown improvement so I think he can realistically become a valuable starter.

Luis Scola - There is no player on our roster who is more consistent or who plays harder. He is one of the most underrated power forwards in the league right now. He doesn't need the ball to score and he has an incredible nose for rebounds and hustling down the loose ball. He is a tenacious defender and can play at this level for several more years.

Chuck Hayes - OK, he is as offensively stultifying as any player in the league, but at his bargain salary of $2 million you cannot find a more elite position defender. He has become a better passer and is more aware of positioning and like Scola, is a tenacious rebounder and hustle player. Hopefully we can keep him out of any package deals that we make before the deadline. I sort of have a man crush on Chuck Hayes, sorry.

Bubble Players - These players have the potential to be solid rotation players

Chase Budinger - he has been pretty much as advertised. Solid shooter, crafty scorer, defensive liability. Still, he is a great spark off the bench and has been an offensive dynamo when no one else has been productive. He has an attractive salary (less than $1 million) and should be a valuable rotation player if the rest of the pieces fall together. Still, he can sweeten the deal for any potential trades that may happen and isn't a vital player at this point.

Jordan Hill - he has yet to live up to his potential; at best he is a Joakim Noah level talent. At worst, he is more of a Ronny Turiaf. He has the strength and athleticism to be an elite defender and rebounder, and at times has shown flashes of a post game, but is still incredibly raw. A lot of teams would take a pass at him given his potential, and if the right deal comes along we could live without him.

Courtney Lee - he has been decent as a backup to Kevin Martin, but our needs right now are less at SG than at PG given Budinger's emergence as a scorer. What Lee offers that Budinger can't is the ability to be a position defender and still be a scorer. While not as versatile a scorer as Budinger, he is also not a defensive liability. We may see all we are going to see from Lee as far as future growth, but he is a talented rotation player and since Morey gave up Ariza to get him, he likely will be on our roster for the foreseeable future (which is fine by me)

Brad Miller - we need his size and veteran presence, but big fella can barely move. No team will take his current salary ($5 million a year for the next 3 years), but as a backup and locker room presence he still has some value. No team would take him in a trade currently, and his utility as a backup center was somewhat contingent on Yao being able to play at least 24 minutes a game (which is hard for Yao to do while sitting on the bench). We're stuck with the big fella, for better or worse.

Expendable - This list may be tough to swallow, but its unfortunately a reality

Yao Ming - starting with the big fella. There is no guarantee that he will ever approach the heights of his production a few years ago. His conditioning is still suspect and he isn't quite at game shape yet, but he is clearly missing a step from his prime. And he should still be in his prime but like any number of centers in his height range (Rik Smits comes immediately to mind), his shelf life is much shorter than the average big. His value as a marketing piece or expiring contract is much higher than his value as a player at his current salary. At a veteran's minimum or even a mid-level exception he is a justifiable risk but he is no longer a marquee player. Never forget :(

Aaron Brooks - Brooks has been a surprise the past few years, but this season has been educational. Now that he is a known commodity at PG, teams have been able to contain him more effectively. He was out of shape coming into the season and has been creating drama over the lack of an extension offered to him, especially considering the contract that Lowry and other PGs (Mike Conley specifically) have been offered. The problem is that he is tiny and a defensive liability, and together with Martin he makes for one of the most porous backcourts in the NBA. He is enticing to teams as a scorer and shooter and would likely be part of any major upcoming trade. Lowry has achieved a modicum of success in Brooks' absence and this unfortunately solidifies the theory that Brooks is an expendable resource.

Shane Battier - Battier has finally lost a step defensively and like many other defensive specialists (Raja Bell, Bruce Bowen), his lack of a good offensive skill set is a huge liability. His ability to hit the corner 3 has been declining on an annual basis. He may still be of value to a bubble contender but his value to a lottery team is minimal, other than as an expiring.

Jared Jeffries - Same as above, except Jeffries is of limited value to anybody other than as an expiring contract. He is a mediocre player with limited utility that was overpaid in hilarious fashion by the Knicks after posting mediocre numbers in Washington. Worst case scenario is he and his bloated contract walk this offseason, best case is we can turn his expiring into a useful player.

Patrick Patterson - he is a young guy who may develop into a decent forward but we don't really need him and he has been unimpressive outside of a couple of summer league games. He may develop into a decent rotation player and the Rockets will be invested in him given he was a lottery pick. He does have a lot of potential offensively; he is a good jump shooter and an incredibly athletic player. He will need to learn how to create off the ball. He needs to play tougher to be a decent interior defender and will really need to work on his rebounding. He may see some playing time later this year (especially given how fragile our team historically has been), so maybe he will come around in Landry-like fashion later this year. I guess a good big to compare his upside to would be David West, and if that's the case he is worth holding on to over Jordan Hill.

Ishmeal Smith - he has been a surprise and has fit in well, given the lack of depth at PG, but he's a non-essential player

Jermaine Taylor - hasn't managed to make much of an impact and the Rockets have plenty of wing players. If Battier gets traded he may see some more time but currently it's hard to see where he fits in.

Anyway, the good news is that we have about $31 million in expiring contracts, a $6 million trade exception from the Ariza trade, a few extra draft picks (courtesy of NY), and a couple of interesting international players (especially Sergio Llul). Hopefully Llul can actually join our team next year, as we do need more depth at PG. Any trade we make will likely involve one of the expirings (Battier, I suspect), Brooks, and a combination of Jordan Hill, Patrick Patterson, and a draft pick. Its an attractive package but I'm not sure which team would spring for that and what kind of value we can get in return. It will be interesting to see who shakes out as available closer to February.

As usual, we are left to trust in Morey's judgment, and he is as painfully aware of the coming sea change as any Rockets fan. It will be an interesting February come trade deadline time.
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Rise of the Red Dawn [Jul. 17th, 2010|11:22 pm]
Or so the rockets.com website tells me to expect.

Anyway we signed Brad Miller and with that goes the last bit of our cap space.

Overall our roster is looking good. We don't have the talent of the Lakers, but we match up well against most any other team, assuming we stay healthy (always a big if). We kept our old players and added a real backup C to Yao. And, given the talent of our second unit, we can do what Phoenix did last year and rest the starters and bring out a whole 2nd unit. Phoenix did as well as they did because of the amazing chemistry that those players had with each other - they certainly fared better than what would be expected just by looking at the names on that roster. I think Houston's second unit is as talented and our starters are as talented and have the size to match up with the Lakers. Plus Adelman will be working his magic. For my money he's the best coach in the league and if it weren't for the fact that the NBA is a crooked league with crooked refs and hidden agendas, he should have had one with the Kings.

Anyway, our starting lineup looks like:

PG Aaron Brooks - he was last year's Most Improved, and I doubt he will miss a beat this year. I don't see him getting much better (or putting up last years scoring numbers) but his speed is enough to create mismatches for most point guards and he is becoming a very smart player. Big question for next year is how much do we pay to keep him, or do we trade him in a package deal with another expiring (Battier), let Lowry take the reins, and get some value/picks instead of losing him to someone who will overpay? He is making a third of the salary of Kyle Lowry. Regardless, he will be the starter at Day 1 and monetary issues aside, he is going to be a blast to watch.

SG Kevin Martin - Martin will thrive at having Yao to feed off of. He is a creative and talented scorer, and it will be interesting to watch what kind of magic Adelman can create between him and Yao. Yao is a gifted passer as well and so watching the two feed of each other will be a sight to see. It will take some time for that chemistry to develop (and Martin will have to figure out how to pass the ball to Yao to keep him from fumbling it), but our starting backcourt is as good as any in the league. And at $11 million/year ($10 million less than T-Back), he is a great value from a salary cap standpoint. I am hoping for big things.

SF Trevor Ariza - I suspect Ariza will get the lion's share of the minutes, since he is the better scorer between he and Battier. He looked much more comfortable once Martin was relegated to the bench. He simply cannot create for himself, but as a spot up shooter and situational slasher he will be a valuable addition. He is not the lockdown position defender Battier is, but that is proving to be less and less a necessity in this era. He sees the passing lanes well and knows how to attack them efficiently, and he certainly isn't a defensive slouch, so I think he will fit in well in Adelman's defensive schemes. I expect him to make a much bigger impact this year.

PF Luis Scola - we really got him at a bargain, compared to the deal we offered Lowry. He is a relentless worker and crafty scorer around the rim. He really refined his mid range shot last year and was one of our most reliable scorers in the 2nd half of the season. His rebounding, especially at the offensive end, should result in several 2nd chance buckets since he won't be the primary scorer on the majority of plays. He doesn't need to be - he is the selfless kind of player that any championship team would love to have. And we got him at a relative bargain at about $8 million a year.

C Yao Ming - This is going to be the biggest question mark of the year. Yao's injury is a chronic one and, if he's lucky, he may enjoy an All-Star career like Ilgauskas, but he won't be able to carry a team on his own like Hakeem did. Its unfortunate given what a hard worker and good guy he is, but that's the downside of being freakishly tall. He will have to do much less on this team than he did previously. The Rockets' defensive numbers took a huge hit last year, and they should return to the 2008-2009 totals simply by virtue of having Yao in the middle in key stretches. He isn't a great individual defender but he is the cornerstone of Adelman's defensive schemes and his ability to clog the lanes and contest (if not block) shots were really evident in his absence when Chuck Hayes started. Not that Hayes is a defensive slouch, but he's 6' 4.5"... It will be good having a real center again. And, he's still the most offensively gifted center in the league. I missed you buddy <3 Please forgive me for wanting to trade you.

Bench:

PG Kyle Lowry - this is going to be the most controversial move of the offseason, but in a way it was a necessity. We are going to pay Lowry roughly 6 million a year through 3 or 4 years (4th year being a team option with $1 million guaranteed). This is actually the market price for a guard of his caliber. If he learned how to shoot, he could start for most teams. He is a premier defender despite the height he may give up to Deron Williams or Rondo. He is a great passer and attacks the rim well. He is a poor shooter and really needs to develop that part of his game if he wants to be an effective starter. But the Brooks/Lowry tandem has been a tremendous success with Adelman overseeing and the Rockets really didn't have any other options on the free agent market with his youth or talent. The fact that the Cavs threw that much money at him is a testament to his potential as a floor general.

SG Chase Budinger - Budinger really proved how efficient a scorer he could be. His extra year at Arizona was a hidden blessing; he slipped to the 2nd round but ended up being one of the more polished scorers of that rookie class. He is a great spot up shooter but lacks the ability to create like Martin does. He runs the floor well but has trouble with change of direction plays. Defensively, he will need to put in work to gain a little size and improve his lateral quickness. This is his major deficit; he is going to get burned by any above-average SG unless he gets help. If he works like Redick did, he could at least be a non-liability. He is an excellent shooter coming off screens and should help to space the floor out. And he's making only $750,000 ("only"... that's 15 times what I make T_T)

SF Shane Battier - Everybody from the NY Times to John Hollinger have wet their pants writing about how awesome Shane is despite his numbers, so I'll sidestep that this year. He's starting to lose a step, sort of like Bowen and Bell did in their later years, and he has always been offensively limited. His biggest value is that he can contribute right now to a team looking to do some damage in the playoffs, and he has an expiring contract. He will be a great situational defender and potential starter depending on the matchup, and he is a versatile defender and the consummate teammate, but at his age and with his salary, he is probably more valuable as a bargaining chip around the trade deadline - unless the Rockets look like they are going to make a real run at the title.

PF - Jordan Hill/Patrick Patterson - we have two excellent bigs here to give Scola a breather. Hill really blossommed under Adelman, and Patterson is basically a younger Landry. Hill is a beast but really started to show some creativity in the post toward the end of the year, though he still has a LOT of room for improvement based on his summer league CV. He should grow into an excellent defender and rebounder, but his big weakness is the lack of a jump shot and his . Patterson, however, is a great jumpshooter and a more versatile scorer. He doesn't have the size of Hill but is still athletic and should be able to develop into a capable rebounder and defender under Adelman. He will need to learn restraint in shooting the 3 ball so much, as he has been doing in the summer league; that being said, he could really create some mismatches with his range. Both are young and have a lot of room to grow, but it will be fun to watch them grow up.

Quick aside, let me just remind you guys how stupid the Knicks are. They traded a great prospect in Hill (who they drafted too high), and their draft picks the next two years (not likely to be lower than the mid teens), for T-Mac aka cap space that they turned into an injury-prone temperamental star in Amare... and Raymond Felton. Wow. Certainly not what they had in mind. They better hope that next year treats them kinder when Melo and Paul hit the free agent market. At least they got Anthony Randolph for David Lee.

C Brad Miller - I think some people will balk at the length of the contract we gave him because at 34 he is on the downside of his career, and his best years are long past. His numbers have been on the decline for 4 years in a row. That being said, he is a solid backup and if he can buy Yao a breather for 15-20 minutes a game, he will have done both Yao and Houston fans a great service. He, Adelman, and Kevin Martin have all worked together and the chemistry will be a big plus. He is slow and lumbering but remains a good mid-range jumpshooter, forcing the defense to play out on him. He won't wow anyone, but he shouldn't make any big mistakes. And he is a tough bastard and a big body to bruise up the likes of Bynum and Howard. Excellent move by Houston, despite the $5 million price tag. And his veteran toughness should be a real addition in the locker room. Moreover, he may really aid in Hill and Patterson's development (esp. Hill - he's like Joakim Noah in a lot of ways).

F Jared Jeffries - another example of how the Knicks are one of the worst managed teams in the league, right up there with the Timberwolves and Warriors. He is due to make $7 million next year, and he is a limited scorer and rebounder at best. He's not a horrible player, if his pricetag was 1/8 of what it is right now. His best value will be as a trading chip to someone trying to unload. Between him and Battier, thats about $14 million in expiring money and who knows what magic Morey may work with that come February??

F/C Chuck Hayes - Still an elite defender and just an incredibly strong body. He clearly isn't starter material, as he is offensively retarded, but his defense in the post is inspiring. He could be a situational chess piece, and he is a tough, selfless player so he won't get in the way in offense (even though he won't contribute). His hustle and rebounding could be a real spark when the offense starts to sag.

The others:

C David Andersen - failed experiment. He was a non-presence on defense and didn't really create the mismatches he was expected to on offense. Also he's a goofy looking bastard. We're stuck with him for a couple of years, at least he didn't come expensive. I guess he's another body in case we have an injury.

G Jermaine Taylor - really struggled last year, especially compared to Budinger. Shot poorly (38%), struggled on defense, looked lost on offense. Has a lot of potential but is still extremely raw. Could be a decent scorer off the bench (in the 5-6 ppg stratum) but he still needs some time in the D League. That being said, he is looking much better in the summer league and Adelman really likes this guy. And he knows a thing or two more than I do about basketball. He has been a prolific scorer in the summer league but when facing any semblance of a real defense he breaks down.

SF Mike Harris - I'm partial since he's from my alma mater. He's a decent jump shooter and does well with his limited skill set. He certainly is a high IQ player. But if there's any proof of how big the gap between the NBDL and NBA is, this is it. He was the NBDL MVP in 09-10 but hasn't made a significant contribution to an NBA team yet. Could be called up if the injury bug bites.

The other others:

SG/SF Alexander Johnson - made the team at the end of last year after injuries devastated our injury-devastated team. Not much to write home about, but a hard worker.

PG Sergio Llul - making a big splash in Europe. Could be our backup PG in the near future. Putting up good numbers in Spain. Should be on our roster next year. Amazing shooter, much improved ball handler, but an average defender by European standards... Keep him on your radar.

PG Blake Ahearn - on our summer league team, supposedly a great shooter but haven't seen much of him.

PF Marty Leunen - you may or may not remember him from our draft two years ago. He's playing in Europe and putting up decent numbers. He's basically another Steve Novak, a one trick pony with a deadly 3 point shot. Doubt he makes the team.

Anyway, we are one impact player from being a serious contender (isn't this always the same damn story?). The most logical move would be to package Battier and Jeffries to a team looking to unload a wing who could replace Ariza as our starter. Danny Granger is on the trading block, and for a team looking to unload (to what end? who knows...) he could be a great pickup and another scoring threat. He is another injury prone player though... Iguodala's name always comes up but his contract is unbearable for a player of his caliber (borderline All-Star). Stephen Jackson would be a possibility of Charlotte bites, except for the fact that he is a head case. I don't really know who else is availabe that could come in right away and contribute without ruining chemistry. The other possibility is to trade Jeffries for a role player to a team that needs cap space and get more picks out of it. Daryl Morey has been a genius come draft time. Either way, between the two large expiring contracts (Battier, Jeffries) and the abundance of young talent and assets (Brooks, Hill, Patterson, Llul's rights - this kid is going to be great, Taylor, Budinger) the Rockets should be able to package something to one of the fading teams out there for a start player. Imagine if we got Steve Nash - Phoenix is almost ready to give Dragic the keys, and Nash deserves to play for a contender. Come on down Steve!

The offseason has been, by and large, a tremendous success. We kept our impact players, our young players have a lot of potential (and will have a chance to grow into it with the Rio Grande Vipers, our NBDL team), and we have a ton of assets to make a real move come trade deadline, depending on which teams are still moving forward and which are going to try to implode and rebuild. The Miami Heat, despite their trio, are going to struggle mightily towards the end of the year as the three stars endure the wear and tear of having to shoulder 42+ minutes/game on that paper thin roster. The only really scary team out there is the Lakers, who Adelman has had some success against. I still believe!
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NBA Deadline Deals [Feb. 18th, 2010|06:15 pm]
So the deadline wasn't as crazy as expected but there were some major deals that really shake up the NBA landscape. The Lakers remain the team to beat but damn if the Cavs aren't pushing hard to keep Lebron by winning one this year.

Let me start with the Cleveland - Washington - LA Clippers trade

So Cleveland gets:
Antawn Jamison
Sebastian Telfair (forgot he was alive)

Washington gets:
Zydrunas Ilgauskas (aka 11 million in cap relief)
Al Thornton
2010 Draft pick from Cleveland (likely worthless)
Rights to Cleveland's 2nd round pick from last year (Emir Preldzic)

LA Clippers get:
Drew Gooden (WTF)

So let me start with the Cavaliers. This allows Shaq to play at center with someone who is the ultimate chameleon. Jamison is the consumate professional and he can fit any role. He will give them the shooting that Ilgauskas gave plus consistent defense and rebounding. And he is going to be a leader in the locker room for a relatively young team. The biggest coup is that the Cavaliers keep young forward JJ Hickson, who will give them some energy off the bench, and when Shaq needs a rest they can go smaller with Jamison and Hickson on the floor. This is a coup for the Cavs, who basically got tons better overnight. They better win this year though because Jamison has 2 years and $28 million left on his contract. Their 2010 pick and 2nd round pick from last year are essentially garbage.

Washington continues their firesale and essentially got rid of Jamison for cap relief, and upgraded Drew Gooden to the athletic Al Thornton. Given Washington's desire to rebuild, Thornton is a nice piece to have either to build with or to trade for other pieces. Not a bad trade in the post-Arenas era.

LA just traded one of their more promising younger players for Drew Gooden. This is a team that shipped off Camby to Portland for Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw. I supposed Outlaw and Thornton are somewhat redundant but you can play them both at the same time. This is a boneheaded move for a boneheaded franchise that is going nowhere fast.

Might as well bring that trade up:

Portland gets:
Marcus Camby

LA Clippers get:
Steve Blake
Travis Outlaw

So Portland is the big winner here. Camby is on the last year of his contract. Blake serves a redundant role in a team with Andre Miller and a rising Jeryd Bayless. And Roy dominates the ball many plays anyway. Finally, Outlaw is somewhat redundant with Martell Webster healthy. THe real story is that they needed a big man in a bad way. And Oden is about as injury prone as they get. This is an excellent move for Portland. They were barely in the playoff hunt and this brings them the talent they needed to push forward into the middle of the pack and do some damage in the playoffs.

For LA? This makes less sense. Granted, all 3 players have expiring contracts, so they can make a big push for a superstar in the coming summer. But if they don't get who they want, this is a sinking ship. Plus they get to waive Ricky Davis, which is a plus no matter how you cut it.

Might as well get the other blockbusters out. Next is the Dallas-Washington deal

So Dallas gets:
Caron Butler (wow)
Brendan Haywood
DeShawn Stevenson

Washington gets:
Josh Howard (ugh)
Drew Gooden (traded for Al Thornton)
James Singleton
Quinton Ross

So Dallas desperately needed this. Howard was worthless as a 2nd fiddle to Nowitzki and now they get a bonafide leader, defender, and a proven veteran scorer in Butler as well as some big man help in Brendan Haywood. This shoots the Mavs into second in the West purely on a talent basis. They get some help in the middle, since Ericka Dampier is hurt again, and they get an average SG out of the deal in DeShawn Stevenson. Overall, this is a huge win for Dallas as they get a major upgrade in their starting 5 and shore up the middle spot.

For Washington... Howard becomes the best active player on a team that went from 3 superstars to none over the course of a couple months. Sucks to be a Wizard fan right now. This team is dumping contracts as fast as possible. The Gilbert Arenas era is officially over.

And finally, the most IMPORTANT trade! Rockets-Kings-Knicks

So Rockets get:
Kevin Martin (wow)
Hilton Armstrong
Jordan Hill
Jared Jeffries
Swap picks with NY in 2011, and rights to pick in 2012 (lottery protection TBD)

Kings get:
Carl Landry (T_T)
Joey Dorsey
Larry Hughes

Knicks get:
Tracy McGrady (whew)
Sergio Rodriguez

So let me start with the Rockets. It is becoming increasingly clear that the superstars don't necessarily want to come to Houston despite an excellent waiting supporting cast so letting T-Mac go without any proven compensation is dangerous. Trading him became a priority. Kevin Martin is a top flight SG but he has injury problems as well, and so given our past history with injuries I have to remain skeptical. But he instantly becomes a go-to scorer and playmaker, something Ariza struggled to do. This creates a bit of a logjam with our talent at SF (now Ariza and Battier will have far fewer minutes) but Martin is a huge talent. Ariza is much better for it too because he no longer has to be a playmaker and he moves so well without the ball that he can go back to being a spot up shooter and slasher, something he excels at. But all three guards are starting caliber; Ariza may be the odd one out and come off the bench. This does make us thin in the frontcourt though. Losing Landry is huge; he has All-Star potential, but who knows what Adelman can make of Jordan Hill. Jared Jeffries is worthless so I won't mention him. Scola is the better fit and more reliable player in the system anyway. Hilton Armstrong provides a warm body to play at center but he is nothing special either. Losing Landry is tough to swallow but it was becoming clear that scrappy play no longer meant a winning tradition and the Rockets had to mix things up. This year is still a wash without Yao; our odds of making the playoffs with Camby going to the Blazers and a rising Thunder team are low.

For the Kings, this allows them Tyreke Evans to dominate the ball. Evans and Martin never really shared much time together so it wasn't clear that the two couldn't work together; they would have been arguably the most talented backcourt in the league. Landry is a good pickup for a team with no frontcourt talent. And it moves salary as well. Dorsey and Hughes are warm bodies and little more. How far Larry Hughes has fallen.

Knicks get a washed up T-Mac, aka cap relief, to allow them to pursue one of the coveted 2010 free agent superstars. They lose very little in the deal in terms of talent (Jordan Hill, Larry Hughes, Jared Jeffries) but do lose two picks which may be worth less than advertised if the Knicks make big pickups and do well enough to make the playoffs. This is a big win for the Knicks as well in terms of preparing for the summer. Get this, this is the first time they will have been under the cap in a decade.

So lesser trades:

Probably the most important is the Knicks sending Nate Robinson for Eddie House, JR Giddens, and Bill Walker. Essentially from a talent standpoint the Celtics win by getting a feisty scorer in Robinson who can attack the basket much better than House and is still a fair 3 point shooter (though House is the deadlier outside scorer). Gives them a talented piece to counter the Cavs getting Jamison. Probably not enough to catapult them as title favorites, but definitely an improvement. For the Knicks... cap relief, and sending a player out that had fallen out of favor with the coach. This I never understood - he's an atypical player but he is very talented when used appropriately. What can you do? At least we know KryptoNate looks good in green.

Bulls send John Salmons to Bucks for Hakim Warrick and Joe Alexander. This gives the Bucks a decent scorer (but nowhere near what a healthy Redd could do), and it gives the Bulls, uh... cap room. Does nothing for Chicago now, but allows them to make a splash in the summer. Could push the Bucks into the playoffs.

Knicks trade Darko for Brian Cardinal and promptly waive him. Gives the Knicks cap room, doesn't do much for either team otherwise. Maybe Milicic will make some impact on the Wolves. Probably not.

Bulls send Ty Thomas to the Bobcats for Flip Murray, Acie Law, and a pick. Gives Bulls cap room and a pick. Ty Thomas could benefit from a new coach and new system. Bobcats had pushed hard to get Brandon Rush and TJ Ford for Augustin, Gerald Henderson, and a couple others. This gives them a little talent to work with for minimal cost other than contract length.

Jazz trade Ronnie Brewer to the Grizz for a pick. Jazz starting to unload talent in preparation for Booze's departure. The Grizz stock up more talent for a potential playoff run (in which they will do little damage). Brewer could be a quality player on an off year and the Grizz may be perennial lowbie playoff contenders so the pick may be worthless, so this is a win for the Grizz. People thought Brewer could be an All-Star; he may have fallen out of favor with Sloan, so maybe this is what he needed to rejuvenate himself.

Bucks trade Jodie Meeks and Francisco Elson to the Sixers for Primoz Brezec, Royal Ivey, and a 2nd rounder. Nobody cares. Not sure how this affects anybody. Doesn't necessarily make the Bucks any better.

I love the trade deadline. Its like a gigantic chess match. The Cavs and Mavs got better. The Knicks and Bulls are clearing cap room. The Wizards are starting from square one. And the Rockets get a very talented player, but unfortunately one with injury problems. This summer should be very intriguing!
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NBA Predicts 2009-2010 [Oct. 28th, 2009|11:43 pm]
I missed the boat since the season started so here's my predictions a little late! By the way, the East is officially better than the West; the West only has two legitimate contenders this year.

West

1) LA Lakers - deepest team in the West, its criminal. Artest for Ariza is not an improvement and may even be worse for the Lakers. Artest is a better individual player but doesn't really mesh in the Lakers system; he is a slowing defender whose offensive numbers have gotten worse on a yearly basis. Ariza offered quickness, was improving as a defender and offensive player, and was becoming a deadly spot 3 point shooter. Still, the Lakers' have unmatched depths and should be the favorites to win it all

2) San Antonio Spurs - The Spurs quietly traded an aging Bruce Bowen for a dynamic scorer in Jefferson, drafted DaJuan Blair in what could be the steal of the draft, and got McDyess and Ratliff to shore up their frontcourt and add toughness behind Duncan. Add this to an already strong core of role players and the ever entertaining Tony Parker and you don't even need Manu, who is over the hill, to do much of anything.

3) Portland Blazers - Brandon Roy will finally get his recognition as a superstar this year. He has a great group of young players around him. They still have problems at center since Oden is slow and 40 and Pryzbilla is mediocre, and Aldridge (who just got massively overpaid) is a softy who is worthless on the defensive end and too eager to shoot fadeaway jumpers. Still though they have an enviable amount of talent and Andre Miller is a great pickup to add depth at PG.

4) Denver Nuggets - A lot of people are picking these guys to fall victim to the George Karl phenomenon, where a great season is followed by a mediocre one. Still, the Nuggets have put together a great team and have an improving Nene to count on. Losing Dahntay Jones will hurt them if they face the Lakers in the playoffs.

5) Dallas Mavericks - its time to dump Dampier on his ass. Hollins is an energetic center who, while not as a sizeable as Damp, provides athleticism, hustle, and isn't a headcase. Use that expiring contract to work some magic. Marion is over the hill; I don't see him being an impact player, though he is solid. Kidd is defying age but starting to show cracks. Dirk will have his work cut out for him; this is a far cry from the Mavs of the early decade.

6) Utah Jazz - Millsap is expected to become the PF of the future, though they will give up a lot on the offensive end if they trade Boozer away. Korver is already hurt, Deron Williams has a lot to prove if he's going to be mentioned in the same sentence as Chris Paul, and they need to learn to play defense. Hard to imagine why we Rockets fans are so frightened of these jokers, at least on first glance on paper!

7) NO Hornets - not much to say; CP3 is being done a major disservice. This team has no depth, though Okafor at center gives them a more reliable (if less dynamic) presence in the frontcourt. West is injury prone and they are saddled with bad contracts. Can't imagine CP3 wanting to stick around if this is the way they continue to manage the franchise.

8) LA Clippers - can't believe I'm picking them to make the playoffs... but on paper (again) they did all the right things. Griffin hurting himself this early is unfortunate but they still have Gordon, an emerging center in DeAndre Jordan, and a solid young player in Thornton in addition to a spry Baron Davis and the addition of Rasual Butler. If Camby and Kaman can stay healthy they have a shot. Have to give them props for dumping Z-Bo. And you can't count out Steve Novak!!!

9) Phoenix Suns - Looks like Seven Seconds or Less take 2... I would have bolted if I were Nash but he is a stand-up guy. Channing Frye is a good addition and will be fun to watch jacking up 3's from the C spot. Hard to imagine Amar'e as a franchise player anymore given his attitude, lack of effort, and injuries. Sort of an odd mix of aging veterans and unproven young kids but I can see them putting up ridiculous point totals again. If you look over the past few years since the Nash pickup, this may be the worst managed franchise as far as trades/draft picks as you will find in the West. Except for the Grizz of course!

10) Houston Rockets - will be a tough year; this is a great supporting cast without a star. Aaron Brooks should have a breakout year, and T-Mac will try to salvage his derailed career, but without Yao this season is a wash. Should be interesting to watch the new pieces (Budinger, David Anderson) fit together in the Adelman system. Ariza is a good pickup, though we certainly didn't get him at value price and we won't see his impact until Yao comes back next year. We will be .500 simply by virtue of playing great defense and by Adelman being an amazing coach.

11) OKC Thunder - Call this a sleeper pick but Durant is going to put up MONSTER numbers this year and look for Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook to come into their own. James Harden should be a factor later in the year as he grows accustomed to NBA life. Still, not much to say beyond those kids so I doubt they make the playoffs just yet...

12) Golden State - Anthony Randolph (if Nelson plays him) should have a monster year (19 and 11 at least). But who knows with Nellie? Another disaster of a franchise; Stephen Jackson has destroyed any chemistry before the season even starts. Hoping Curry will be as good as advertised! Anthony Morrow is a player to watch as well.

13) Minnesota T-Wolves - Without Rubio and with an injured Love, this team has only one vet (Al Jefferson) and one rook (Jonny Flynn) worth even mentioning. Randy Foye looks like he is going to do OK in DC, so the post-McHale era doesn't look much better than the last decade. A disaster of a franchise, hope they have fun trying to find playing time for their 6 PGs (though Ramon Sessions is a good pickup).

14) Sacramento Kings - Seems like a different lifetime that these guys almost toppled the Lakers (stopped only by Webber's gimp knee and the most flagrantly biased officiating in NBA history). Kevin Martin has yet to emerge as a superstar and Tyreke Evans has to prove he can run the point. Jason Thompson may improve some but doubt he will ever be an impact player. Beyond that, there's not much talent to even bother mentioning.

15) Memphis Grizzlies - put these guys on the bottom for getting Z-Bo (and actively pursuing him for the past two years at least), Allen Iverson, and expecting them to co-exist with rising stars Rudy Gay and OJ Mayo. Already disgruntled before the season starts (and AI even plays). Its going to be a mess with AI trying to prove himself, Z-Bo being his pathologically stupid self, and I doubt Mike Conley is going to grow at all as a PG with all this nonsense around him. Disaster.

East

1) Orlando Magic - Carter is looking good so far, though we have yet to see how well he will fit with Rashard (I imagine he will have no problems). With the pressure off his shoulders, I imagine he will be even more productive per minute (and maybe play some D?). Brandon Bass is a good pickup (as is Matt Barnes) but they will miss Lee's energy and D off the bench. Losing Hedo looks like it was the right move, unless you buy the theory that it was his mismatches that took Orlando to the finals last year. They are still thin at PG after having traded Rafer. If they don't win in the next two years, they will really feel the bloat of Gortat's inflated contract.

2) Boston Celtics - not sure how long these Big 3 can hold out, but they keep surrounding them with new blood (Sheed, Marquis Daniels), and Rondo keeps getting better despite all the noise surrounding him. Sheed is actually fitting in well and seems to be OK playing sidekick to KG. He will cause mismatch nightmares from the arc and won't have to play 30-35 minutes to be effective. They have the depth in the front to weather injuries this year and are somehow as impressive as their championship team. Have to give it up to Danny Ainge for reviving this franchise.

3) Cleveland Cavaliers - The Cavs are showing some early signs of weakness. LBJ is clearly the best player in the league but Shaq is not the greatest fit (clogs the lane, slows the game even more), big Z looks horrible out there, and the complementary players they picked up (Anthony Parker, Leon Powe) aren't intuitive picks as much as they are stopgaps in a team that lacked the firepower to make it to the Finals last year. I don't think they really got better this year, and I don't think Cleveland is going to keep LBJ around much longer.

4) Washington Wizards - big drop off from the above 3 but with Gil Arenas healthy (big if) and looking like his old self out there, and with Jamison (eventually), and the ever under-rated Caron Butler and great new pickups in Foye and Mike Miller (and emerging young big men)... you have to entertain the notion that these guys could do some damage in the playoffs... who am I kidding! These guys will find a way to ruin it.

5) Atlanta Hawks - Joe Johnson is in a contract year but has yet to prove himself to be THE guy. Bibby is getting older, Josh Smith has yet to be as good as advertised, and yet these guys have an impressive collection of kids. Horford should have a monster year. Getting Jamal Crawford was a good move but he is an enigma in that he can put up numbers without making any kind of impact on a game.

6) Chicago Bulls - Derrick Rose is going to be a monster this year. His only deficit is a decent long range shot, and if he gets that down... look out CP3. He is freakishly long and his D will only get better and he will continue to make better decisions after a year of experience (and a killer 1st round matchup vs. Boston). Too bad the rest of the team is a mess. Deng never really came close to his "star" potential, and there is a mess of players at the F/C positions that will vie for playing time but never make much of an impact. I bet Noah has a strong year this year and Miller will be the clear #2, but I'm not ready to jump on the Ty Thomas train yet. Will be interesting to see if Hinrich improves from last year at the SG, which is probably a more natural fit for him.

7) Toronto Raptors - Hedo is a bit of a slob and only "Turkish Jordan" by virtue of the fact that the rest of the country has no talent. They actually lose some depth here, and there are concerns about Bosh's durability. Bargnani should have a breakout year if the preseason is any indication, and Amir Johnson may offer some bench help, but these guys are spinning their wheels and wasting Bosh and Calderon's abundant talents. Maybe Belinelli will fit in their Euro system?

8) Philadelphia 76ers - Iggy and crew have their work cut out for them with the Big Three in the East, and Brand has a lot to prove after getting his monster contract. After last year's 1st round excitement and pretty decent finish, Philly fans have to be hopeful that with a year under Speights belt he will become a force in the paint that Dalembert never really turned out to be. Lou Williams will need to step up his game now that Miller is gone.

9) Miami Heat - Miami's mere presence in the playoff hunt is a testament to what an amazing player Dwayne Wade is (only second to LBJ). Beasley had a tumultuous offseason, and Jermaine O'Neal is another year older. This is a mess of a team, but they ARE better than than last year, especially getting Q Rich on the cheap.

10) Detroit Pistons - Joe Dumars has lost it. Not sure how you juggle the glut of wing players (Prince, Gordon, Hamilton, and really Charlie V) that they have accumulated. New coach John Kuester is going to have a heck of a time. Rodney Stuckey started to come into his own but I bet Detroit fans are really missing Mr. Big Shot right now.

11) Indiana Pacers - Granger proved himself to be the real deal last year, and their success hinges on his. TJ Ford played a surprising 75 games last year. Losing Marquis Daniels was an unfortunate hit to their depth, but maybe Mike Dunleavy can stay healthy. Doubt Troy Murphy can repeat last years freakish performance. Luther Head and Dahntay Jones won't be impact players in this system.

12) New York Knicks - Is it 2010 yet?

13) New Jersey Nets - Traded away their last bit of true star power with Vinsanity leaving for the Magic. Should let Devin Harris run even more wild. Courtney Lee is a legitimate starter but I don't see him ever being an All-Star. NJ won't be relevant for years.

14) Charlotte Bobcats - When Gerald Wallace is your best player, you know your franchise is in trouble. They haven't gotten better in five years. Good thing Chapel Hill is around the corner!

15) Milwaukee Bucks - after Michael Redd I had a hard time thinking of another player on this team. And since he only plays for 40 games out of the year, he really only counts as half.

Predictions:
East champs: Orlando Magic
West champs: San Antonio Spurs
NBA champs: San Antonio Spurs
MVP: Lebron James
Rook of the Year: Blake Griffin
Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard (again, not necessarily deserved, but people oogle over those blocks)
Most Improved: Aaron Brooks
Sixth Man: Rasheed Wallace
Coach of the Year: Gregg Popovich

Count it!
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Caravan's Lost (or How to Survive the Next Year as a Rockets Fan) [Sep. 12th, 2009|03:28 pm]
Dear friends, I write to you in a time of crisis, for our Rockets are crumbling in front of our very eyes. It is truly a sign of tough times when our best center is out for the year, our new starting center has never played NBA ball, and we are forced to sign Pops Mensah-Bonsu as our 2nd string center (youch).

This year is a wash.

The only saving grace is that Rick Adelman thrives in these tough situations. No one in their right mind should want the Rockets to tank. You can never build a culture of winning without a modicum of integrity.

Instead, its going to be a scrappier, leaner, (smaller), quicker Rockets team. And its going to be fun to watch. Gone are the days when Ron Artest shoots 4-20 as the rest of the team looks on in exasperation. Or when T-Mac tries to relive the glory days with one 20 foot brick after another. And, unfortunately, gone are the days when we could have faith that our premiere center was not injury prone and that he was just unlucky because he had angered some evil Chinese spirit.

Essentially the long term of the future boils down to the stock that we, and by extrapolation other free agents in the summer of 2010, place in Yao Ming's ability to lead.

It is almost a certainty that Yao, already faced with the looming threat of never having being able to play the game at all, much less at an All-Star level, will not exercise his 2010-2011 ETO (early termination option), deferring our decision on his long-term future for one year.

And it is almost a certainty that T-Mac, having lost the faith of most Houston fans, will leave next summer in an effort to win somewhere else. And that, like Allen Iverson, I suspect few teams will throw the kind of money he wants at him.

That leaves us a giant wad of cash to play with.

The big three names are of course, D-Wade, LeBron, and Chris Bosh. These are the young superstars of tomorrow. Now LeBron won't look twice at Houston, thats a fact. Bosh is a Texas kid and we may have a shot at landing him, though he would displace Scola and Battier, who are much more effective at the forward positions than their stats imply. That leaves D-Wade as the only truly marquee player out of that young bunch who would demand a max figure. And Houston, unfortunately, doesn't have the mass market appeal of an LA or NYC. I would be surprised (pleasantly) if he were to even consider it. However, what he would have already in place is an excellent supporting cast and an excellent #2 in Yao Ming.

Other superstar marquee players include Dirk (who will almost certainly remain in Dallas), Amar'e (who is a talent but an absolute cancer), and Paul Pierce (who almost certainly is on the decline). Steve Nash has taken himself out of the game with a two year, $22 million extension in Phoenix. Good for him, but unfortunately that team is going nowhere.

The next tier of players are the All-Stars, who will almost certainly demand max contracts or close to that figure from somewhere, and will not be worth a full max contract in this market. This group includes Michael Redd, Joe Johnson, Manu Ginobili, Carlos Boozer, and a few others. Manu is the most enticing but he is already on the decline and I doubt he will leave San Antonio. Redd is intriguing but he is injury prone and a non-factor on defense. And Boozer is a bad fit for the same reasons (and then some) that Bosh is. Ray Allen probably falls in this category as well but he, like Manu, is on the decline and a long term deal would hamstring our future. Not much love here. Rudy Gay, oddly enough, would be an interesting possibility and he falls in this category. He hasn't shown the poise to be a playoff caliber defender or to carry a team with his scoring. But his talent is unmistakeable, and unfortunately this is why some team will throw too much money at him.

The next tier are the time-tested starters, some with playoff championship experience, some with untapped potential. These include Marcus Camby, Brad Miller, T.J. Ford, Mike Miller, Jamal Crawford, Raja Bell, Josh Howard (if the Mavs don't exercise their team option), Travis Outlaw, Rajon Rondo, Roger Mason, and a few others. Mike Miller is coming off a bad year; of these, Roger Mason is probably one of the better options (and perhaps worth a mid-level type of deal). Rondo would be a bad move as Brooks is coming into his own as a dynamic player (and Rondo is a cancer). Tyrus Thomas falls in this category as well, but he is too erratic to be anything more than a gamble. There's a whole host of other people in this category.

The ideal situation is that we replace T-Mac with another 2, preferably a Wade, but this is for obvious reasons unlikely to happen. Bosh may be another signing that could help but we would have to trade Scola or Landry to clear the logjam. Remember that Ariza is really more of a 3 than a 2 and that when he and Battier share the court, we really are playing two 3's. Out of the rest, I would love to land Manu for a shorter deal or Rudy Gay for about half the max, but I doubt either would happen.

The rest of the free agents have their ups and downs and honestly, probably not even worth the space writing about them. What will probably happen is that with that cash, Morey will shore up positions with unlikely stars, use that cash to extend some of the existing players on rookie contracts, and try one more year around Yao. After all, you have to take a chance on Yao, he is a singular once-in-a-lifetime talent and to let him slip away or give up on him would be idiotic.

Going to spend a quick moment on our pickups this year and what they mean for the future.

Ariza was our most high profile pickup. He is more of a loss for the Lakers than he is a gain for us this next year. The Lakers will miss his hustle, lateral quickness, and accurate shooting from the corners. Instead, they get a wild man on defense who just as often as not will destroy the offensive game plan, Kobe/Phil or no. I just question whether this was the right time to go out and get him, when we don't know which players we will be building around in 2-3 years. If Yao is healthy, then Ariza is an excellent option; he will develop the mental discipline with time to stay on the hustle and not make dumb plays. If Yao is done, then we wasted a good chunk of change on someone who is entirely dependent on others to make a difference on offense (somewhat like Battier).

David Andersen is an intriguing option as he can play a more wide open game with his mid range jumper and his capability to play as a running big. He will be a great fit for our team next year and an intriguing backup for Yao.

Chase Budinger is a steal as a 2nd round pick; I expect him to be the most consistent and most available rookie next year. Expect him to score between 8-10 ppg if he gets the playing time. He is a strong scorer and a smart player and will be a valuable rotation player if he gains experience.

Pops is a likeable enough guy but this is a signing of desperation more than anything else.

Jermaine Taylor is intriguing; he appears to have the talent and potential to be a strong scorer but his summer league play was inconsistent and underwhelming. We will have to see how he pans out but hopefully he will develop into a solid backup SG.

And finally James White; I can't figure out why Morey keeps him around. He usually has a good reason; I just fail to see it.

Imagine if we kept V-Span, who has been killing it in Europe, and played him with a coach who would know how to use him instead of the offensively retarded (but very funny) JVG.

Anyway, Brooks came into his own in the playoffs and I am excited to see what he can do. Scola and Battier are tireless workers and I know they will give their best. Dorsey has been a fiend on the boards and I hope that he can be a valuable big off the bench at the 4 and 5. I think Landry may have hit his peak. I am REALLY intrigued by Lowry, who has been an excellent backup PG and a phenomenal defender. He just needs to develop his jumpshot.

Its going to be a year of transition, and its going to be a little painful, but if we can get this group of young'uns to grow around each other and come back in 2010 with a healthy Yao and a marquee free agent (or go early decade Blazers style and get 2 or 3 solid veterans to shore up our weak spots), this could be a good few years for us. I believe!
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EMERGENCY BLOG POST: YAO EDITION [Jun. 29th, 2009|07:35 pm]
I had been so busy with work that I had totally neglected this blog, since Rockets news had died down a bit and other teams had made big moves. But this is officially crisis mode. The Rockets are now facing a very frightening possibility of becoming a lottery team. Obviously there are much worse things going around in the world today, but lets ignore that for one second and panic together. Strength in numbers!

Lets start with the obvious - T-Mac will in all likelihood miss the first couple of months of the season. His salary is so astronomical that it was impossible to move him without taking crap in return. And the Rockets, unlike the late 90's under Carroll Dawson, have been very prudent in their moves to avoid bad contracts and bum talent.

And then the shocking news today, that Yao Ming may be done for the season... and then some. This certainly crossed any Rockets fan's mind when we all found out, in the middle of a near upset of the Lakers, that Yao had broken the same foot he broke last year. And my stomach hit my feet again for the second straight year. Then the optimist in me thought well, if we can get a decent backup center and limit his minutes, it will be fine because it's a stress related injury and we can limit his minutes. Now, his foot hasn't healed at all, and there is a low but non-zero possibility that it may be career threatening. This turns any hope the Rockets had of contending next year on its head.

More importantly in the short term, what does this mean for Ron Artest?? Houston had fallen in love with Artest's zaniness and intensity (not so much his shot selection), while he had fallen in love with his coach, teammates, and his many fans. It seemed like a certainty he would stay. But Artest is a competitor, and he is not going to sit around in a rebuilding situation like he did for years in Sacto. In all likelihood, this is the last we see of Ron Artest as a Rocket. I guess it saves me the $60 I was going to plop on an Artest jersey if he re-signed.

Now how does this affect our free agent situation??

So we already addressed Artest - if it becomes certain Yao/T-Mac are gonna be done for most of the season, no one can fault Artest for not walking.

The other big loss is Dikembe, but I think everyone has come to grips with that, at least partially. What an amazing human being - I will miss his Cookie Monster voice.

The big free agent decision now is Von Wafer, and it comes down to this. He is a headcase (which was known, bringing him in) but a tremendous talent and if he can put aside his ego to play, he would be a good pickup at 2-3 mill a year. I have a feeling that he is going to try to play the market (rightfully so), but I also have a feeling that he will find few takers in this economy. I think given the rest of our situation that we don't overspend on a player who has little shot of being a long-term starter. Perhaps a much better replacement would be Jermaine Taylor, who averaged 26.2 ppg this past season in college. If Von Wafer gives us any trouble, we can take solace in knowing we have a similar player in Taylor who can contribute right away.

Now the people that this hurts the most is our veteran leader Battier and our underappreciated workhorse Scola. These guys came to win, and they play day-in day-out with a ferocity and passion that more than offsets their near-total lack of athleticism. Battier is here with us for a couple of years, and I am A-OK with that. But if this news about Yao is true, it may be time to send him soon to a contender (for his sake) and get some picks/talent in return. Hard to justify keeping a glue guy around when there are no parts around him to stick. I love Battier, but if the worst case scenario about Yao is truth, then I think its important to face these realities.

The other X-factor is Scola, who has come pretty cheap so far but will command a much more beefy salary in 2010. He is an invaluable piece of the puzzle and he has earned the love of most Houston fans with his ugly-but-effective post game but again, at his age, he deserves a real shot at a title before he becomes an also-ran, having spent the time he did holed up with Tau Ceramica. But he is a 2010 free agent so we can defer that decision for a year with some more sure news about where the Yao/T-Mac situation is going. Still though, if the worst-case is true, it may be prudent to trade him as an expiring rental and get picks/young talent in return a-la Portland.

In 2010, we will face many more huge decisions. The smaller decisions, besides Scola, include Landry (who will likely not command much more of a salary given that we have probably seen his ceiling), Lowry (who knows?? Not much demand for a great defensive, poor shooting guard), and Chuck Hayes, who some crazy team may actually throw money at but otherwise would be great value at the 1-2 million he commands. Barry will likely retire.

So that leaves the two biggest decisions - Yao Ming, and Tracy McGrady. At this point, I think every Rockets fan would be content to let T-Mac walk, having seen the highs and lows of his game and his attitude (the lows being this past year, the highs being far in the past). But what to do about Yao? He is a singular talent, STILL the best center in the league (don't believe me? Look how worthless Howard was in the paint against the Lakers and how dominant Yao is one-on-one against any center in the league), but this injury leaves a lot up in the air. Is he still going to be a max-contract player? Is he going to be in the league at all? Will he be willing to take a pay cut? Is this even worth the gamble?

Remember this is the much-vaunted 2010 free agent class that people have been talking about for 3 years now. But the reality is no star would want to come into such a questionable situation in Houston where the footing is constantly uncertain, and honestly Lebron, Dirk, and most other marquee names are not going to even entertain Houston as a destination. What it comes down to is we need to think like Portland, accumulate draft picks, draft well, and build from the ground up. There will likely be no superstars waiting to be scooped up at a reasonable price.

What I'm saying is a dirty word to any rabid Rockets fan... this may be the time to rebuild.

We need to rebuild and find a situation in which we can be relatively certain which players take the court on a day-to-day basis. We need to rebuild with Adelman and Daryl Morey at the head and put together an athletic, running, defensively efficicent team. And a lot of the pieces are already here. Brooks has made huge strides and is a deadly shooter, fearless slasher, and is becoming good at directing traffic on offense. On defense, he has learned not to get stuck in one-on-one situations and to rely on the superb help defense. Lowry has always been an elite defender, and he is becoming more reliable as a floor general, though still a poor shooter. Landry has probably hit his ceiling but he will continue to gain confidence and is a valuable piece. Now we have Chase Budinger (this guy was supposed to be a LOTTERY pick last year!), who I am skeptical about but has the potential to be a Mike Miller, and Sergio Llull, a relative unknown but a very solid PG in Spain. It may be worth it to keep Hayes and Wafer around, and Joey Dorsey may end up being a valuable backup big man.

But that leaves a lot of big holes, the biggest being the spot previously occupied by Yao. It leaves us with a dearth of wings (certainly not the problem now) and with a dearth of real bigs (certainly is the problem right now, aside from Scolandry).

This may be too early to press the panic button, but it certainly may be time to start moving assets, think about the future, and trust in Morey to draft well and build from the ground up. The model for sucess is Portland, who are contenders built from the ground up without having to rely on making trades that leave you saddled with bad contracts or have you giving up valuable draft picks (and you wonder why the Seven Seconds or Less Suns faded so fast? It hurts my head to think how good they could have been.) It may be the time to make a move to get a Ricky Rubio, to get a young star to build around.

And, sadly enough, this may portend the end of the big man as we know it. Look how ineffective Howard was against the Lakers, a much smaller but more athletic team. And its clear that the genetic anomalies that are the Yao Mings, the Rik Smits, the Manute Bols, the Bill Waltons, the Greg Odens and Andrew Bynums... these guys are not built to last. Its not their fault, blame it on their freakish genes, but the era of the dominant center is coming to an end. Hasheem Thabeet won't change that. And as much as it hurts me to say it, the Pau Gasols of the world may be the new model for big men. Not necessarily physically imposing but talent and able to be effective from a variety of spots.

Its too early to give up on next season. We are stuck with T-Mac and Yao, injuries or not, so might as well make the best of it and hold out a little hope that we may be able to make one last run with this crew. Because our supporting cast is there. We are just waiting for our stars to take the court. Same old story, I suppose.
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A call for parity [May. 7th, 2009|11:34 am]
Game 2 was butt ugly. It was a group of pansies used to winning with ease finding themselves seriously challenged. Watching 3 yellow jerseys try to pick a fight with Scola and get a reaction? The smirk on Odom's face says it all. Derek Fisher had a nasty hit on Scola, which has no place in the game of basketball. He may be a great citizen off the court, but that kind of stuff has no place in basketball. Kobe is such a dirty player and we have video tape to prove it. Not only his wrestling hold on Battier in game one, but now clear elbows being thrown on video, and in all likelihood will not get suspended. By the rulebook, he SHOULD be suspended for an elbow above the shoulders. Lets see if the league can maintain a modicum of consistency. Kobe has been suspended before for inadvertent elbows, but this was clearly malicious in intent. Dwight got suspended for the same thing. The funniest part is that Artest gets thrown out instead of T'd up. I hate to bring up spectres of days past, but this reminded me of 2001, when the NBA would do anything to get Shaq/Kobe vs. AI. Kings-Lakers Game 6, Bucks-Sixers Game 7, this is the same thing. No consistency in calls, little ticky tack calls that add up fast and absorb all momentum. Don't forget that we had a tie ballgame at the half - Kobe didn't need any help from the refs in that 3rd quarter, but he got it. I swear man, I hate seeing that smug look on Kobe's face. What a dick - how do people cheer for this guy?

Still, there are things to be learned and things to be proud of. First and foremost, we have lost the soft tag officially. This is a group of winners and you can sense the Lakers' frustration at being forced to play to our game, especially in the 2nd quarter. We need to learn how to get Yao the ball (can it be that hard to lob it?), how to pass to the wings when the paint is clogged up, how to man up and keep the longer Lakers off the boards. Scola needs to have a better sense of when to pass out from the paint. Lowry will need to be much more aggressive and make better decisions if we are to have a chance. And Landry will need to continue the stellar play from Game 2 - pair that with solid performances from Yao and Ron Ron and you have a win in the makings. Most of all, we need to maintain composure. Pricks like Vujacic and Kobe are master inciters and we need to keep our cool. We lost this game, but it showed a lot about our toughness, and our resilience in the face of blatant favoritism.

I want to see Kobe vs. Lebron as much as anyone else, but not at the expense of my Rockets. Let me rephrase, I want to see Kobe lose vs. Lebron. I want to see Lebron prove that he has earned his place in the MJ stratosphere if he can win it all, while Kobe will always be 2nd rate in comparison. More than anything, I want Kobe to lose, because I hate when commercialized teams like the Lakers and Yankees win. Forget the Yankees for now; how many Celtics caps or Cavs caps do you see outside of those respective cities (Lebron jerseys aside?) You think anyone had a Pistons cap in '04 outside of Detroit? You can cheer for those teams, those cities have embraced those franchises and can call them their own. The Lakers have become this juggernaut of commercialized sports, breeding fans all over the world. I don't know how you can cheer for that. No one in their right mind cheers for the Yankees, who try to buy a championship year in and year out. The Lakers have the same appeal, albeit with a salary cap. Players will take a salary hit to play in the limelight. Just like I can't cheer for Malone/Payton joining Shaq/Kobe (I also hate Malone), I can't cheer for the Lakers swindling the Grizzlies and getting Pau, or Kobe becoming the NBA's darling after two years ago being a little bitch and threatening to leave his team despite having a max contract. Or ousting Shaq and Phil, ending a dynasty. Or his little incident in Eagle, CO. Kobe is not a stand-up citizen by any length of the imagination, but the NBA would like us to believe that is the case. Lets see if they deem that a little parity is in order when making their decisions today.
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Game 1 analysis - lets keep our cool Rockets fans! [May. 5th, 2009|12:49 pm]
Quick run down on my playoff predictions and what actually went down:

Lakers-Jazz
My prediction: 4-1 Lakers
Actual: 4-1 Lakers

Think I called it pretty well, went down as expected.

Nuggets-Hornets
My prediction: 4-1 Nuggets
Actual: 4-1 Nuggets

Again, not much surprise here

Spurs-Mavs
My prediction: 4-3 Spurs
Actual: 4-1 Mavs

Was very wrong here. Was surrpised by two things, one: how much Tony Parker would be the focal point of the team and would eventually tire out as the series went on and two: how big Josh Howard would step up for the Mavs. Terry was no surprise, and Dirk played OK, but Howard stepped up his game and the young guns off their bench ran circles around the aging Spurs.

Rockets-Blazers
My prediction: 4-3 Rockets
Actual: 4-2 Rockets

Was surprised by two things - 1st, how ready the Rockets were in game 1, and 2nd, their amazing resolve to pull out games in the clutch. They let a couple of 4th quarter leads slip but I am so proud of our gritty performance against an unconscious Brandon Roy.

Cavs-Pistons
My prediction: 4-0 Cavs
Actual: 4-0 Cavs

No surprise. This is the end for the Pistons as we know them.

Celtics-Bulls
My prediction: 4-2 Celtics
Actual: 4-3 Celtics

This was a series for the ages. I don't care what the pundits say, this has to be one of the 5 greatest playoff series ever, with each of the first 6 games an "ESPN Classic." Game 7 was a let down, but wow. Props to the Bulls, who have a bright future with Deng coming in, Rose stepping up to superstardom, and (hopefully if they're smart) 7 million to play around with when Gordon leaves.

Magic vs Sixers
My prediction: 4-0 Magic
Actual: 4-2 Magic

Was stunned by Iggy's solid performance and the Sixers resolve despite being the vastly overmatched team. I think it speaks more to the Magic's inexperience and lack of toughness rather than the Sixers' talent. Go ahead and put Iggy up there with Artest and Battier as elite wing defenders. After this series, there can be no doubt.

Hawks - Heat
My prediction: 4-3 Hawks
Actual: 4-3 Hawks

Went down as planned: Wade would carry his team to a few victories, but the depth and D of the Hawks would prevail. For a 7 game series, this was pretty damn boring.

OK, on to game 1 of Rockets-Lakers. Again, I was so impressed by the resolve of the Rockets, buckling down every time the Lakers made a run. Yao played very smart, passing out of the appropriate double teams and owning Gasol and Bynum when played 1 on 1. Brooks surprised them with some speedy cuts to the hoops setting up his own layups and assisting others. Battier played remarkable defense that won't show up on the stat sheet (Kobe shot just 35% when Battier was guarding him, and that's padded by a late game flurry). Artest played a phenomenally balanced game and passed when appropriate. Lowry played tough defense, Chuck Hayes came up HUGE against the much bigger Gasol and Bynum. And we had our own Rocky moment when Yao left with a sore knee (I went into the fetal position for about 2 minutes) and came back to score 8 points in the clutch. What a gritty performance. Look at this stat sheet I stole from ESPN showing Kobe's scoring with various defenders on him:

Shane Battier 8-for-22 17 points
Ron Artest 3-for-5 6 points
Chuck Hayes 1-for-1 2 points
Yao Ming 1-for-1 2 points
Brent Barry 0-for-1 0 points
Uncontested 1-for-1 2 points

This proves how good Battier is as a wing defender (better than Artest!?) We should continue to put Artest on Odom, who withers in the face of tough competition.

Before I get too excited, this much is a certainty.

The Lakers are going to come out big in Game 2.

Kobe won't stay down for long and we have to continue to fight through screens and disrupt the post passing that is so vital to the Lakers' offense. Even if Kobe gets his points, we have to make him a jump shooter and keep him out of the line. Yao needs to stay big and make Gasol a jump shooter and keep Bynum out of the paint - Bynum actually had a good game. And even though the Lakers missed a lot of open 3's, so did we. Battier missed a ton of wing 3's that are usually a high percentage shot for him. I think that stat adds up. As to the points left at the FT line... if Kobe doesn't get there, the rest of the Lakers are not a good FT shooting team. That speaks to the amazing defense on the wing the Rockets played.

And that will have to continue in game 2. Von Wafer will have to take smarter shots and be a scoring punch off the bench because defensively he is a shadow of Artest. Artest has matured so much and he will continue to have to be our team's emotional leader, just as Battier is our anchor in the locker room. We had too many TO in the 4th quarter that let the Lakers stay in the game. That can't happen. The Lakers will capitalize on mistakes. We need to take smarter shots and not let the Lakers' D force up shots because our shot clock is running out. And that being said, we can't be too unselfish and make too many passes (especially you, Battier) because we did pass up a couple of open shots that turned into TO's because of the extra pass. There is a lot of room for improvement if we are going to win Game 2 or have a shot at the series. But regardless of what happens, I know this:

I am proud of these Rockets.

Its hard not to be. This is a team that has stepped up to superior talent, looked them in the eye, and then suffocated them with their amazing team defense. This is as unselfish a group of role players as you will find in the league. And we have done this without our supposed superstar. To be a bonafide championship team now, we will need that late game closer. Yao won't always be that man. However, T-Mac has rarely been that man. Brings up an interesting question - what do we do with the 20 million we are saddled with? Teams will be reluctant to take a chance on him. That being said, we have to take into account the miles Yao has on him from years of playing on the Chinese national team. He does have a ticking clock and his age is deceiving in that sense. Trading T-Mac, we would certainly get some good role players but would almost certainly be saddled with a bad contract. But something like an AI for Billups trade? Where we trade T-Mac to a team that wants to rebuild and get a superstar that wants a run for the title? That would be phenomenal. Vince Carter wouldn't be that person. But what about the Pistons? A little Sheed and Tayshaun action giving us a backup for Yao and a 6th man in Prince or Battier that would continue our suffocating D while resting our starters? If the Pistons want to rebuild, I doubt they trade Prince, but its a possibility. But realistically speaking, most teams don't have the quality player we are looking for or are trying to shed cap for the mythical summer of 2010. In that sense, it may be more prudent to wait it out and let T-Mac's contract drop off. Regardless of what happens, this is a roster Daryl Morey can be proud of. On paper, this is a lottery team, but that speaks to our team chemistry and our team defense and the job Adelman has done with this rag-tag group. And regardless of what happens to T-Mac, I am proud of these guys for what they've done this year. I believe!
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NBA PLAYOFFS! Random musings and predictions [Apr. 16th, 2009|05:55 pm]
Would have posted this earlier but I was too depressed last night! Not really, but last night could have gone better. It was a worst case scenario for the Rockets with the Spurs AND Blazers winning and us losing to the hated Mavs. Also, the 28 pt turnaround in the 2nd half is nauseatingly familiar. It comes down to a couple of things 1) Yao cannot seem to dominate for more than 10-15 minutes at a time and 2) we don't have a reliable 2nd option when Artest is cold, but on the bright side, Lowry is a real stud.

Anyway, back to the crux of the matter...

PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

West first:

Lakers - Jazz
The Lakers are a formidable team and their only real weakness is at PG where Fisher is slowing down at an alarming rate and Farmar is still inconsistent. That may be the Jazz's only shot at stealing a game as Deron Williams is pretty safely the #2 PG in the league. He is a threat with the long ball or at the rim and a solid closer. Boozer and Okur are great offensive big men but defensively they are both lacking and Pau and Odom are extremely strong offensively against weaker defensive players. They will need Millsap and Kirilenko to come up big off the bench and make some defensive plays. And Ronnie Brewer is going to have his work cut out for him guarding Kobe. I doubt he put's a dent in Kobe's game, who is still the best closer in the league. Bynum, gimp knees and all, should put up inflated numbers as the Jazz don't have the strength to keep him from creating havoc in the paint. And Ariza may actually make an impact as he will be free to roam and get steals as the Jazz don't really have a good option at SF. Kobe will dominate this series, but the Jazz may sneak a win or two, if they are lucky. Thank goodness Houston doesn't play them. They may be scrubs but they have our number. They are not a very good team, but matchup wise they present a very unique problem for Houston. No time to get into that now!

Prediction: Lakers 4-1

Nuggets - Hornets
I think the Hornets showed that they still have something in the tank despite being throttled by injuries. Losing Mo Pete was bad but losing Ty Chandler (and then slapping him in the face with a near-trade) is devastating to a team with no inside presence. Peja is still hurt and the offseason acquisition of Posey, while a good move, is not nearly enough to make the Hornets a contender. As good as West is, he is a softy PF. Chris Paul will need to be on point (GET IT!?) and put up gaudy numbers to elevate the rest of this rag-tag group. They have several pieces but have too many holes to beat the suddenly resurgent nuggets. Chauncey is probably the best floor general in the game in terms of leadership. He is big enough to pose a problem for Paul on defense. The Nuggets have a huge advantage with their frontcourt. Look for Nene and Kenyon to score tons of offensive rebounds. This will allow Melo to roam and attack the rim a little more easily. J.R. Smith is an X-factor but the Nuggets don't really need his play for this series. The starters should be able to build early leads on a thin and ragged Hornets team. Hurts to see Paul struggle along with his motley crew of role players but he will have his day in the sun.

Prediction: Nuggets 4-1

Spurs - Mavs
What a circus of a last day. Anyway, the Mavs have somehow picked up enough steam late in the season to make a little noise and scare the injury-ravaged Spurs. Duncan had a good game vs. the Hornets but he has been slowed by injuries and this may be the last playoff series in which he is dominant enough to will this team forward. Parker is fantastic and a top 5 PG, and he will destroy Kidd. Kidd is a great passer and a fantastic all around PG but he is awful against speedy PG. Devin Harris (imagine the irony), Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul, Tony Parker, these guys have all torn Kidd apart this year. Howard has been slowed by injuries too. Plus I think he kinda sucks anyway. He isn't the amazing 2nd option Mavs fans wanted him to be. Should have traded him when you could have! Spurs don't have a good answer though without Ginobili. Roger Mason is good but he isn't spectacular either. It will come down to experience and the Spurs somehow having enough in the tank to move forward. Very hard to count out Duncan and Parker, even despite the Spurs' injuries and the Mavs' late season resurgence. I went this whole time without mentioning Dirk. Don't see the point, really. He will get his points because the Spurs don't have a real answer for him but he is like T-Mac; he doesn't have the killer instinct and drive to carry his team forward, not like the greats do. He will end up being another great player without the mental toughness to succeed when it counts. It will be a close series though, with each team winning the majority of their home games. The Mavs have steam, but the Spurs have the grit to tough them out. Don't forget: The Mavs actually lost to a Spurs team WITHOUT Duncan and Ginobili not too long ago.

Spurs 4-3

Blazers vs. Rockets
This is honestly, a tough matchup to analyze. On one hand, the Rockets beat the Blazers twice this year and nearly beat them on their home court, only losing to a Hail Mary miraculous shot by Brandon Roy that will be played for years to come. My heart sunk the moment the ball left his hands. And now, that one shot could cost the Rockets the 1st round as the Blazers are phenomenal on their home court and finished the season 9-1. That being said, the Rockets are a great home team too (more reason that they needed home court) and the Blazers have no answer for Yao. They may try single teaming him with Oden or Pryzbilla but Yao should overcome that pretty easily. Double teaming Yao with Outlaw may be a problem for us as the last game against the Mavs showed that when things are bad, they are REALLY bad and no one can seem to step up as a consistent 2nd option, even Artest, who can disappear at a moment's notice offensively. Still, Houston is a fearsome defensive team and that will be valuable in the playoffs against the young Blazers. Roy has emerged as a leader and great closer but the twin-headed beast that are Battier and Artest are as good defenders on the wing as anyone in the league and one or the other will always be on him and can hopefully bother him. Both teams are deep and both teams have a ton of X-factors (Landry/Lowry, Fernandez/Outlaw), and honestly its a very hard matchup to analyze. The safe bet is that both teams win out at home and the Rockets lose in 7. I am going to hope veterancy is a factor and that Battier and Yao can steel themselves for a long, hard series, expect to lose in Portland a few times and still bounce back to win out. Basically, it comes down to this. If the Rockets can steal one of the first two games in Portland, they will be in excellent shape. If they can't, they are going to have a tough road. We will see, I guess.

Rockets 4-3 (Please!)

East!!
Cavs vs. Pistons
The Pistons are terrible. They are a terrible team. That trade (Billups for AI) will be looked at as one of the most retarded trades in the past decade (Kidd for Harris will rank up there too). Not sure what to write here. All these sportswriters saying not to count out the Pistons should get their heads out of their asses. These are not the Pistons of 5 years ago. Rip is starting to cause trouble, Tayshaun has become their most consistent day-to-day player (which is fine, as he is very good, but no Billups), Stuckey is still learning the ropes at PG, both Amir Johnson and Maxiell have not filled the big shoes of a once-dominant Big Ben, and Sheed is as inconsistent as he as ever been. And, to add to their misery, Lebron is playing at Jordanesque levels. 10 years from now, we will look back at Lebron the way we look back at MJ and see how amazing he is. Let me get on my soap box for a second. Lebron is freaking AMAZING, and of course that's no surprise to anyone, but how amazing? His numbers are as good as MJ's for any given season. He has become a monster defensively and a good 3-4 years before MJ achieved that kind of defensive dominance. He is dominant at both ends of the floor at such a young age and the funniest part is the best is yet to come. The only problem the Cavs will have, down the road, is that the rest of their cast is a hodgepodge, except for of course, Mo Williams, who is an amazing PG, great shooter, and an unselfish passer. Big Z has lost a step but still has a decent mid-range jumper, Boobie Gibson is having an off year and is playing pretty lousy (last game aside), Varejao/Smith provide toughness and hustle, Wally and Big Ben are really showing their age, Darnell Jackson and Hickson are too young to make a real impact, etc... etc... Lebron will have to show the world why he is not the next MJ, but why he may be even better.

Cleveland 4-0

Celtics vs. Bulls
VERY interesting matchup because Chicago surged forward with some amazing trades, getting Miller and Salmons. And Rose has been consistently amazing all year. Deng is hurt though, but I think everyone over-estimated what his capabilities were. He is starter on a good team but not an All-Star and definitely not a superstar. Even Ben Gordon, with the world's biggest ego for a player who will never be an All-Star, has co-existed peacefully with Salmons as Rose has done an excellent job divvying up the touches. Ty Thomas is becoming a fantastic role player and Noah provides them with some frontcourt toughness, and finally Hinrich has bounced back and is sort of near his old form when he was one of the most coveted PG's in the league. That being said... this is Boston. KG may be gone, but they still have to contend with a dogged defense, a resourceful superstar in Pierce who has become defensively impeccable, the game's purest shooter in Allen, and a much improved Rondo who may be the best defensive PG in the league, with all respect to CP3. Rondo will stifle Rose, but Boston is really going to miss having KG and Leon Powe for that front court davis. Big Baby is... well... a big baby in comparison. The Celtics are still the defending champs and while the Bulls will have a good shot now that KG is out, they won't get past them this year.

Celtics 4-2

Magic vs. 76ers
The 76ers are so overrated. Iggy is a great defensive guard but often looks lost on offense for a supposed superstar. Speights has been good but their frontcourt is so thin. Miller has been as good as any PG in the league, which is good because Lou Williams has not been consistent at all. The Magic have been fantastic but other than blowing Cleveland out, they have not been very impressive and Dwight Howard has disappeared against lesser opponents, and I sadly include Yao to that list because Howard is the better center but Yao dominated him. Still, Rafer has been a capable replacement for the injured Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis is a smart scorer, and Hedo, while not the MIP he was last year, has been a solid veteran all season. Courtney Lee has been great as a rookie as well. The 76ers have no chance; Superman will eat them for breakfast.

Magic 4-0

Hawks - Heat
Talk about tough matchup to predict. The Heat have little besides Wade... and that may not matter because Wade is putting up BEASTLY numbers. He has made a strong case for himself for MVP. Let me digress for a second. If you talk about MVP as, well, what if I took out X player and replaced them with Y? How would the team do? If this is your criterion, D-Wade has it, hands down. And CP3 would be 2nd. If its just who is having the best season, then its a toss-up between Wade and Lebron. And if its who is the best player in the league, then its Lebron, and then CP3 and Kobe are a distant 2nd/3rd (but not so distant from each other). Anyway, Beasley has emerged as a confident scorer, but I think they will miss Marion because O'Neal is putting up mediocre numbers for a center (6 rpg, 2 bpg or so). Still, you can't beat a well built team, and Atlanta has just that. Hard to pin down the superstar here, but Josh Smith has been fantastic on both ends of the floor, Bibby has settled into veteran floor general well, Joe Johnson is a fantastic shooter, Horford is becoming a very solid center, and Marvin Williams has proved himself to be less useless than initially thought (he's done pretty well, but him over CP3???? Wow.) Anyway, D-Wade will stun the Hawks a few times, but he can't do it all by his own damn self... can he?

Hawks 4-3

Anyway, now that I've detailed what I like/don't like about the key players on these teams, let me talk briefly about the coming predicted matchups.

Lakers - Rockets
The Rockets have held their own vs the Lakers... for 3 quarters at a time. Granted, one game Artest talked Kobe into destroying us, but for the most part we don't have that deadly late game closer. T-Mac was that player for us, and you can argue all you want about whether he deserved it, but he came through many times. We don't have that kind of player anymore. Hell, last year it was all we needed to pull through and beat the Lakers during the regular season during our improbable 22 game run. Anyway, Yao may give Bynum fits, and Scola may contain Pau, and Odom may be a non factor, but Kobe is Kobe and he is going to burn us in the end.

Lakers 4-1

Nuggets - Spurs
Spurs won't have enough left in the tank at this point. Duncan's knees are starting to show the miles that have been put on over the 1000+ games he's been around and, well, the Spurs just don't have the depth to do it this year (odd year or not) with Ginobili out. Nuggets are not a dominating team, necessarily, but they can put away the Spurs easily enough.

Nuggets 4-2

Cavs vs. Hawks
No contest here. The Hawks can try to contain Lebron James by throwing Williams/Smith at him constantly throughout every game but they are going to expend so much energy doing it that neither will be able to score effectively on the other end and we will get to see Mo Williams do his thang. Don't forget Marvin Williams is coming from a recent back injury, so Josh Smith will have the majority of the burden on him. Good luck buddy. You are going to need it. Still, the Hawks have enough weapons to take a game or two.

Cavs 4-2

Celtics vs. Magic
Both teams have been very close this year, splitting the season series. Boston won the 1st two (with KG) and lost the last two (without KG). See a trend here? Celtics don't have the depth to pull it off, not without Powe or KG. And Mikki Moore/Stephon Marbury don't have the same impact that Sammy Cassel AKA Gollum and PJ Brown had. Not to mention that James Posey was their go-to guy for guarding people like Rashard, and Perkins will be completely useless against Superman. Hard to see the Celtics getting any further.

Magic 4-2

Western Conferences Finals

Lakers vs. Nuggets

Should be an entertaining series. Billups can strut his stuff here against the Lakers' weak PGs. But Dahntay Jones will need to be play the best defense of his life, and Kobe will still score at will. JR Smith will be a real factor in this series. If he can shoot the lights like he's done before, he can shoot the Nuggets into the Finals. Law of averages says this doesn't happen. Melo is another T-Mac, great scorer with no drive and mentally weak, which is why Billups is going to have to come up big here. Frontcourt battles are going to be key as well; while Nene and Bynum may cancel each other out, I'm not sure how the Nuggets will find an answer for Gasol unless K-Mart continues his brand of "thuggery" and stymies Gasol. I think this will go 6 games but the Lakers are too good and unless Melo suddenly grows giant cajones, I doubt the Nuggets have the tools to beat the Lakers

Lakers 4-2

Cavs vs. Magic

Ignore the game where the Magic destroyed the Cavs. It shows that the Magic can hang with the Cavs. But it doesn't tell the whole story. That game was a back-to-back and Cleveland was in the middle of a mini slump, of which they have now broken out of. Still, the Magic own the season series 2-1 and you can't count them out. But do you really think Rashard and Hedo can guard Lebron? Seriously now... And while Rafer is a very good defensive guard, I think Mo Williams will show him up. And Rafer is no Jameer Nelson on the other end of the floor. Howard is not offensively talented enough to make enough a difference to counter what is sure to be a solid performance by Lebron

Cavs 4-2

NBA Finals

Cavs vs. Lakers

Ooooooh this is going to be good. As good as Kobe is, I bet they put Lebron on him and watch the two butt heads. Kobe developed a mean streak on defense a couple years ago. So did Lebron. Kobe learned to trust his teammates and elevate their games a couple years ago as well. Lebron has done this from day zero in the league. The two players' careers have paralleled each other in the past few years. The difference is that Lebron is half a decade younger, but I think Kobe will be OK because he pulled an MJ and developed a nice little fadeaway and a lot of other tools that have helped him defy age and the miles he has put on. As for the rest of the players, I think Mo Williams will prove his worth as he torches the Lakers PGs. And Gasol will flex his muscles against the shorter Cleveland defenders, while Bynum should have his way on the block with Big Z when it comes to getting boards. The two will cancel out. It remains that Cleveland is a phenomenal home team, but don't forget that the only REAL loss in Cleveland was against... DUN DUN DUN.... the Lakers way back in February. Let me be honest here. I hate the Lakers. I hate the Lakers almost as much as I hate the Mavs, a little more than I hate the Yankees, and a lot more than I hate any NFL team. And I want the Lakers to lose the Finals and lose their mojo, because I hate seeing them on top of the world after swindling that idiot Chris Wallace to get Pau. So when these two pair up, I will be rooting as hard as anyone in Cleveland because A) I have been a Lebron fan since I saw him wobble onto the court so many years ago and B) Kobe is a rapist.

Cavs 4-3

Anyway, to steal a page from Stephen (and looking at our predictions, they are almost identical), here are my award winners for the year.

MVP: 1) Lebron James 2) CP3 3) D-Wade

Why? Lebron is the best player in the league and is putting up numbers that even Jordan would be jealous of while playing fewer minutes and with a much worse supporting cast. Jordan is the best there ever was. And Lebron is giving him a run for his money AT THE AGE OF 24. Lebron is the best player in the league and if you don't think so, well, you're wrong. Sorry! Had to snub Kobe because D-Wade is putting up monster numbers while being double- and triple-teamed and carrying the Heat by the nose to a respectable finish.

Rookie: Derrick Rose - leading his team of egos, non-talents, and has-beens to a respectable finish while putting up ridiculously good numbers at the toughest position to play as a rookie. OJ Mayo will be a great scorer some day and Brook Lopez will be an All-Star center in a couple of years (maybe even next year!) but what Rose has done in Chicago has been phenomenal. Also, Greg Oden is mediocre. He is 21, has gimp knees, can't seem to finish offensively, is fouling people at a horrendous rate, and seems to be overwhelmed extremely easily, folding under pressure time after time. He's just a rookie, yes, but he can't use that excuse forever.

Coach of the Year: Rick Adelman. Not because I'm a Rockets fan. OK first of all, Stan Van Gundy has a loaded team. And he has coached a bunch of offensive minded players into playing great team defense, but he has made a lot of questionable decisions with games on the line (and not always gotten lucky) and the failure to capitalize on KG being out for 3 months and STILL finishing in 3rd is baffling, given their relatively healthy roster (Nelson aside). Still, losing a PG and doing that well is impressive. Then, Mike Brown has Lebron to rely on. He has talked his team, again, into playing great defense. But when you have a beast like Lebron, is it really that impressive? Look at the Rockets on paper. We are a bubble team to make the playoffs. We have unproven PG's, a loose cannon in Artest, a 1st option in Yao that can't take over games, and a hodgepodge bench where Chuck Hayes, the most offensively retarded player in the league, gets 15 minutes a game. And we nearly got the 2nd seed in the West. If that's not a convincing case for a great coaching job, I don't know what is. Neither Brown nor Van Gundy suffered a loss of a superstar like T-Mac, and neither coach has done anything superlative with their star-studded rosters. Adelman has turned a 2nd-rate roster into a fearsome defensive team and a near-contender. Honorable mention to Nate McMillian for coaching a young team to 50+ wins and a playoff appearance in only his 4th season. Mike Brown and SVG can compete for 3rd in the contest of their choice, which will probably involve a) pie b) hot dogs or c) both at the same time.

Exac of the Year: Mark Warkentien - he somehow swindled Detroit into taking an aging Iverson for a true leader and has turned a bubble playoff team with no leader into the #2 seed in the hotly contested West. You could make a case for Cleveland, where Ferry brought a great complementary player in Mo Williams in what could end up being the biggest acquisition of the year. But we all know Danny Ferry is an idiot and lucky he has Lebron (lest we forget how terrible he was in the past 3 years). Don't count out Daryl Morey. Seriously - every move he has made has been nothing short of genius. He has worked with less and put together a roster that is much greater than the sum of its parts. Takes true genius, and a team of 25 statisticians, to make that kind of magic happen.


6th Man of the Year: Well, Jet Terry will win it. But, like Ginobili, he has played starter minutes. In a fair world, it would probably go to a J.R. Smith, who is still on most nights the most efficient scorer per minute in the league, and he plays 6th man minutes (20-25). Oh well, what can you do?

Defensive Player of the Year: Lebron James - Yes. I went there. Look at Da-wight's numbers. Ogle at them all you want. Wipe that drool off your face though. Those blocks are misleading. The best shotblockers in the league (Russell, Olajuwon, Mutombo) learned very early on that shots swatted into the 10th row are wasted opportunities. If you cannot turn a block into a turnover, then you just gave the team the ball back. Red Auerbach preached this and it worked. Fundamental basketball. Not as fun to watch, but fundamentals. And look at Dwight shrink from the opposition when he played Yao, even Brook Lopez. BROOK FREAKING LOPEZ. Da-Wight, you will get the award, but get that damn smile off your face and watch some tape of Bill Russell.

Most Improved Player: Tie between Devin Harris and Danny Granger. I think Kevin Durant should be in the running but he will get snubbed because everyone expects a sophomore player to improve in big ways. And Durant did, in big ways. But Harris went from being a small cog in an intricate machine into being THE MAN in Jersey, and did it with aplomb. And to make matters even worse for Dallas, he lit up Kidd in both meetings, especially the 41 pt monster game in Dec. Granger has become a legitimate superstar and a great defender. He has the potential to be an Artest with a far superior offensive game. If he can maintain the drive, he will be someone to watch for years to come. Great story for Indy fans.

Thats it!
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There is no nation of youuuu [Mar. 17th, 2009|04:51 pm]
WISE FWOM YO GWAIVE

Allow me to waste the next 5 minutes of your time

I just finished hearing the new SFA album. It perplexes me. It starts out with a bit of noodling that takes a while to take off and by the time it does (see Krautrock extravaganze Inaugural Trams), it is pumping through at a furious pace. Its a seamless album and feels like a well-sequences mixtape. Probably the most striking thing is that Gruff has taken a complete back seat and the band has sort of taken the New Orderish philosophy that the voice is just another instrument; they have warbled and squartled his voice so much (note: I don't think squartle is a word) that at times its barely recognizable, but when it is its to belt out the weird brand of indie pop that SFA does so well. Its a fantastic little album and it took me a couple of listens to digest properly. The last couple of albums sort of skated by without leaving an imprint (the last one especially), and while good on their own terms, pale in comparison to Phantom Power or Guerilla. This is SFA's In Rainbows in a way (not just talking about their distribution), it feels like the band has gelled in that imperceptible way that happens only when you've been stuck around the same chaps for 15 years. A year ago, they were 5 guys rocking out, and now they've come together like DEVASTATOR to ROCK YOUR WORLD.

I am in the middle of going around the nation for fellowship interviews. Its fun to go around to different cities but I am pretty tired of airplanes at this point. I've developed a gift for sleeping right after takeoff and waking up right before landing. Makes the process a little less painful.

NOW I get to talk about the Rockets for a bit. Three weeks ago they were a directionless team and now they've rallied to become the 3 seed. It doesn't make sense, on paper. Not at first at least. How the hell does a team lose a superstar and rally back!?

Since the Rockets are all about numbers, let me give you some.

http://www.82games.com/0809/08HOU7.HTM

When T-Mac is on the court, the Rockets average 1.4 less points per game. They also give up 0.5 more points on defense. They average fewer points per 100 possessions (almost a 40% decline). They shoot the ball at 48.9% rather than 50.1% when he is on the bench. They are 3% worse at rebounding.

Lets tie this together with something more tangible, as in his actual on court presence. When T-Mac is on defense, the Rockets lose the tight cohesion that makes them the leakproof unit that they are. He becomes a weak point. The other 4 compensate for his lack of lateral quickness and frankly, his laziness, and this reflects very clearly in the above numbers.

Same thing on offense. The offense tends to stagnate and watch him play the kind of 1-on-1 ball that, when healthy, leads to quick passes and easy buckets but, when he's not, leads to poor jump shots and missed opportunities. The offense slows and if he's not able to penetrate, he cannot produce and he takes lousy jump shots and everyone suffers for it.

Same thing on rebounding! (See a pattern?) T-Mac's numbers are down to career lows and whether it is laziness or a gimp knee, he has been unable to hold his own on the glass and as a result, the Rockets are actually a better rebounding unit with him on the bench.

So historically, T-Mac has been among the league's best in +/- and there is always a chance that since he's screwed us for a season and a half, maybe next spring he will bounce back like magic and regain his old form. J Kidd did it, though he is an anomaly in that respect. Amare was 7 years younger when he did it, clearly a factor here. John Stockton, though not as high profile, had a similar sugery and so did Zach Randolph. K-Mart is just now rounding out into form. But look at the knee injuries that have pretty much ended their respective careers - Webber, Penny, McDyess, Allan Houston, Mashburn.... It takes a year and change to get back to form and the Rockets don't have that kind of time, as Yao's miles keep piling on and he puts on an extra half year for every season because the Chinese basketball officials are slavedrivers.

Anyway here are T-Mac's stats for the year

15.6 ppg
4.4 rpg
5.0 apg (not bad actually)
38.8% FG (ouch)
37.6% 3P
80.1$ FT (actually an improvement)

Compare to his best season in Orlando, 02-03 before we traded for him (oh what could have been!)

32.1 ppg
6.5 rpg
5.5 apg
45.7% FG
38.6% 3P
79.3% FT

Anyway, this is not even worth arguing. What's done is done, and it's not pretty. Still, the Rockets are toughing it out and clinging on desperately to the home court advantage. Its admirable and even if futile, this is the kind of atmosphere and attitude you want to build in this young team so that if and when T-Mac decides the Rockets are worth his time, we have a legitimate shot to make a deep run in the playoffs.

Anyway, here is my pre-playoffs report card.

Ron Artest: B
Not quite the scoring punch now that he is second fiddle but still a top rate defender who, if he can stop running his mouth, can guard anyone in the league effectively. Still fiery but has kept his temper and ego under control. Did not cohabitate well with T-Mac and one or the other suffered for it most games they were together. Probably because both tend to stagnate the offense, as Artest likes the 1-on-1 game a little too much. Still prone to 1-10 clunkers from beyond the arc as he hasn't quite figured out his role in the system but overall those games have become the exception rather than the rule. Worth re-signing if we get the chance.

Brent Barry: D
Has struggled with health issues and has barely been on the court and is definitely not the on-court presence and 3 point threat we expected, but he is ancient. I'm sure his locker room influence has much more of an impact.

Shane Battier: A
I know everyone has read the NY Times article, but the fact remains that he is one of the best "glue guys" in the league. Defensively he is impeccable. Offensively, he is still hesitant to take open 3's, has an ugly baby hook, and no real athletic talent to speak of. But somehow he gets the job done and he makes great decisions. An amazing player that no one will really appreciate until he's long gone. Which I hope is not any time soon.

Aaron Brooks: A-
Has filled the offensive void in remarkably with clutch 3's (though he needs to shoot higher than his current 36% to really be an efficient scorer). Has taken over the PG duties with applomb. Defensively still a liability, and in the long run he really is a 6th man sparkplug and not a starting PG. Deron Williams would eat him for breakfast.

Brian Cook: INC
Forget he's even on the team sometimes.

Joey Dorsey: INC
Has been hurt most of the year. Has been unimpressive when on the floor. Not sure how much is injury and how much is representative of what he can actually accomplish on the court.

Chuck Hayes: C
This guy was our starting PF!!! Offensively he is completely retarded. Still an elite defender and a great rebounder but is a liability on the other end. Undersized for PF, too slow to play G, he doesn't really fit in anywhere. But he has been a good energy guy off the bench and he is unselfish to a fault.

Carl Landry: B-
Now we know why the Rockets weren't jumping at re-signing him. He has been impressive but is one dimensional offensively. Defensively he uses his athleticism to his advantage but still makes a lot of "rookie" mistakes. A solid backup PF still, if he can avoid stray bullets he will be a valuable asset.

Kyle Lowry: B
Has done well in the short time in Adelman's system, putting up good numbers, defending well, and making smart decisions. He should be our PG of the future. He has a lot of potential to be a phenomenal player. I have faith he will get better and will improve with time. An elite defender and has a knack for getting steals. Offensively he is still raw and relies on athletic ability; jump shot is lacking. Will need work but next year will likely be our starting guard, which is better for Brooks as well.

Tracy McGrady: F
See above.

Yao Ming: B+
Not statistically his best season. Has shown signs of fatigue (not surprising). No big improvements from last season really, other than on the health front (knock on freaking wood!). Still one of the game's top centers and has matched up well against Dwight Howard, though Howard has statistically been a much better center (and a beast to boot). No one in their right mind would pick Yao over him or really, over Bynum or Oden - he is an anomaly, but this is an advantage. No one really knows how to defend the guy. And he has grown more confident and more assured on both ends of the floor.

Dikembe Mutombo: B-
Look, he's 42. He gives Yao a few minutes to catch his breath. He is still a decent shot blocker in the paint. Can't ask for a whole lot else.

Luis Scola: A
Has been phenomenal this year. An ugly scorer but extremely crafty and smart. Knows how to position his body to get rebounds. Has put up some monster games this year. Really no question that he's the better player between him and Landry. Unselfish, smart, the ultimate team player. Him and Battier are gems of players and I have to give it up to Daryl Morey for making those happen (though I would rather have Roy than Battier, admittedly). No complaints about Scola - he isn't the most gifted player but he knows how to GIT ER DONE.

Von Wafer: A-
A great find. Has put up solid numbers in a reserve role. Good 3 point shooter and in general a solid scorer off the bench. He isn't a starter by any means on a playoff team but such is the state of our team these days. Great find really out of nowhere.

James White: INC
Who the hell is this guy? I didn't even realized he was on the team.

Thats all for now!
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Putting the F-U-N back in Phoenix! [Dec. 10th, 2008|08:26 pm]
I wuz nevar a gud spelar. Phoenix has been boring as hell to watch since they got the Big Diesel or Shaq-tus or whatever you want to call them. They have slowed their offense down to a plodding rate. Shawn Marion has been next to worthless in Miami while O'Neal has recently been playing out of his mind (for an old timer). So the trade was definitely a plus for Phoenix. But somewhere along the way, the team that was perennially at the top of the NBA in offensive efficiency (and at one time, believe it or not, 4th in defensive efficiency) fell off the curve. They gave SA a run last year in Game 1 of the 1st round and have never been the same since.

So now they trade little-used Boris Diaw, defensive specialist Raja Bell, and little-used Sean Singletary for Jared Dudley, a 2nd rounder, and Jason Richardson. So this is 1) a dumb move for Charlotte but honestly doesn't change much for them and 2) a huge coup for Phoenix. Let me just start by saying that Diaw is definitely an upgrade over Dudley, but not in the role he was playing in Phoenix. He can play 30 minutes a night and do well, as he showed a few years back when Amar'e was out. So in that case, it gives Charlotte a much needed big man. And with Richardson it allows Augustin, who has been playing his mind out, and Felton to share the court while giving Gerald Wallace, who has seen his numbers drop, a chance to pick up the pace a bit. Honestly, trading Brandan Wright for Richardson was not that smart because Charlotte was never one player away from being a playoff team. Brandan Wright has the chance to be special if he reaches his sky-high potential. He has certainly been an efficient scorer for the Warriors off the bench (8 ppg 4 rpg and 1 bpg in 17 mpg, shooting 61%). Singletary is not going to bring much but Bell gives them another defensive specialist and a veteran presence in the locker room. He's a competitor. I would be surprised if he doesn't demand a trade out soon and he will almost certainly leave in a year and a half if he isn't traded. But Bell is a complementary player. He is not going to change the fact that the Bobcats are a young team that is really going nowhere and that several of their top picks (Morrison, May, and the TO-prone Felton) have been busts or underachievers. So this trade doesn't do much for Charlotte either from a salary cap level or a personnel level other than letting their best scorer go for a desperately needed big man who hasn't played up to his contract in years.

So what does this do for Phoenix? In Richardson it brings a high-profile (if injury-prone) scorer who can space the ball well, run well with Nash, and give Shaq even more room while being able to create out of his kick-outs. He is going to put up huge numbers in Phoenix. It gives Barnes, who has been playing very well, even more playing time at SG/SF. It allows Dudley, who would probably thrive in a fast paced system with Nash, a chance to prove himself and at the very worst, he would be a low-profile backup (essentially what Diaw was but at much lower cost). They also get a high 2nd round pick (unless Charlotte makes a Faustian deal and goes on a tear) which they probably will keep - look at all the picks they have traded over the years by the way, if you want to have a short answer as to why the Suns are a mediocre team right now!! Their philosophy of trading young players and picks for proven role players and veterans (much more expensive I may add) has really backfired. So this is a huge coup for the Suns. They have instantly infused energy into a lifeless offense without giving up too much talent, they don't have any more cap burden, and they really had nothing to lose at this point. I am looking forward to see that group play - Nash, J-Rich, Hill/Barnes, Amar'e, and O'Neal. Barbosa will get better as the season goes on and he gets back in shape. This is how you bring a club back to relevance.

Also the Wizards trading a pick (as if they had that luxury) and Antonio Daniels for an unproven guard in Crittenton and an aging vet in James reeks of desperation. Caron Butler needs to hit eject before that franchise takes him down with him. Signing Arenas to a 6 year deal without any assurances of health was a bad move in a franchise that was already mediocre and more about bluster than any real brawn.

Speaking of trades, I think the Rockets oughta start exploring their options. T-Mac will return soon and Luther Head has an expiring contract and his value is as high as its going to get right now. Same with Franchise. There is always a possibility they can turn that to an even more valuable reserve, giving Von Wafer (who has played extremely well on both ends of the floor) more playing time. Head barely gets the nod as is when T-Mac is healthy (which is almost never it seems like). Not sure who they can get at that value but its clear that they still need another boost to get over the hump. Artest has been playing really well lately but when him and T-Mac are both on the floor, inevitably one will not play well. As often as not, that has been Artest. This is a chemistry issue and when the two get used to playing each other, which means T-Mac needs to man up and actually play, I think they will find a happy medium and the points will start pouring. But right now the gold standard in the West is the Lakers. With Battier back, who instantly brings the little things back into the system, the Rockets have shown much better ball movement and transition defense, but the question is will they be able to out-gun the Lakers? Its a premature question since they wouldn't face the Lakers until later the way things are but an important one. The Lakers have been inconsistent on defense and the only way to punish that is to pour on the points. Yao has played well but Artest and T-Mac will have to be in top form for this to happen. With Scola, Alston, and Battier all playing well, this is a good core and the addition of Barry (when he's healthy) will be even better. Landry and Brooks have been solid and Wafer has been a surprise. Chuck Hayes is another guy that we could shop around. At this point he doesn't bring much to the table - he is a top tier defender but offensively retarded and undersized. But I am sure some teams would gamble on him. No excuse for a big man to be shooting 30%. It would give Dorsey a bigger role too. I think best case scenario would be to shop Franchise, Head, and Hayes around and see what value we can get back. I suspect that someone will nab Franchise and maybe give us a pick or a trade kicker we can use to re-sign Mutombo, if Adelman wants a real backup center (which he has expressed). I think the issue is a luxury cap one at this point. I doubt we will be able to move Head, despite his expiring contract. We may have to settle for his inconsistent production at the offensive end (and non-presence on the defensive end). And Hayes would be a tough sell given his production and his longer contract, though he comes dirt cheap. I suspect they will be active near the deadline and make the move to get some veteran help but the real question is, will T-Mac ever grow a pair and return to form? Play through pain if need be like Kobe, Jordan, and all the greats? Or fade away with a whimper when his knee flares and leave us hanging?
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(no subject) [Dec. 8th, 2008|05:40 pm]
OK I am sure this is the 1000th time this has been said but I think for anyone that believes in college sports as something pure and untainted, they need to look at what is going on with the BCS right now. This is an institution driven by money. The Bowl system has always been driven by money. The incentive to change is minimal in that both the BCS AND the University presidents (that have probably the most say in the matter) are not thrilled with an incremental increase in revenue. BCS's response was to add another BCS game. What does it mean for us? Nothing. For BCS? More $$$$$. This is what is driving the damn system, and I am sure this is not a revelatory statement. But it is sickening. In fact there was a proposal by a Swiss company to implement a playoff system within the existing Bowl structure without hurting BCS revenues. I mean its not freaking rocket science.

The college presidents' argument is that a playoff will interfere with finals and the student-athletes' academic performances. WELL GENIUSES this freaking process stretches across 5 weeks anyway! Move the playoffs to the last 3 weeks of December or the last week of December and the first week of January. I mean when we graduate, we take our finals early. Make an exception for the 8 schools that make it to the playoffs. This is for 8 or 16 schools out of the 100 something Division I schools. It does not affect the majority of student-athletes!!! Everyone knows you get 6 weeks of vacation over Winter Break in college anyway. What better way to spend it than playing for a NCAA championship? There can be adjustments and compromises to make it work. All it takes is a little open-mindedness (and apparently a new set of college/university presidents).

Bowl Season drags on through January anyway. No one watches the freaking Gallery Furnture 2009 bowl or whatever other worthless bowls are on early on. Imagine how much more exciting it would be to have some of the semi-prominent bowls (Cotton, Holiday) as the venues for early playoff games. A 16 team playoff would be ideal but you can keep it to an 8 team playoff if the above concerns are overwhelming. Hell, anyone outside the top 4 or 5 should not be in contention for the National Championship anyway. Do it over 3 or 4 weeks. Have the seminfinal/finals be in the major bowls - Rose, Fiesta, etc... If it has to be about money, have the damn bowls bid for having those early playoff spots. It can and will happen but I think we have to wait for the dinosaurs running the universities right now to take take a trip upstairs and the BCS needs to stop counting their money for a second to see how bad everyone wants this to happen.

Lets just look at how messed up this years BCS bowls are. It would be too much to start talking about previous years, and those injustices have been well documented. I mean lets start with the elephant in the room. How is Texas, having beaten OU on a neutral field, perhaps the best measure of head-to-head worth, and having only played really one half of bad football all year, left on the outside looking in? OU is a fantastic football team. I don't care for the Sooners but I don't want to see the Gators win again and I think it will be a fine game when all is said and done. OU, outside of that game, has made an excellent resume for themselves. It comes down to the whims of voters, and it comes down to the philosophy of "What have you done for me lately?" Essentially, Texas was penalized for 1) The Big 12 being a retarded ass-backwards conference that lets others pick who plays in THEIR championship (!!?!????) and 2) for having cannon fodder in the latter half of their schedule while OU played some serious contenders. And of course OU's well documented non-conference schedule vs. 'Nati and TCU, both of whom are ranked (and one of whom will be in a BCS bowl). But in the end, Texas BEAT OU. In the only game that should matter. Tech does not belong in this equation because again, they had an impressive win against Texas and a more impressive win against OSU but their non-conference schedule was worthless and OU DESTROYED them. Taking all objective measures outside the games that OU, UT, and Tech played against each other, Tech clearly had the inferior schedule and least impressive wins (outside the Okie State win). UT got screwed. And a playoff would be atleast one objective way to prevent this. At least Colt will be back next year.

But again - how does Virginia Tech (ACC champion) get the bid over Tech? would anyone in their right mind argue that VT is better than Tech? In a playoff system, Tech would have had the chance to avenge their only really BAD game of the year. (And it was REALLY bad). I mean, no one in their right mind would argue the ACC is a good conference compared to Big 12. The Big 12 South is probably the most talented group of teams in the nation right now. I mean look at the ACC is not a terrible conference - UNC, UMD, Georgia Tech, Florida State, these are all decent teams. But what it comes down to is, you are saying that the ACC champ is a better team than Texas Tech and thats why Tech does not have a chance to compete for the big-time bowls. What BCS is telling us is that being the champ of a conference is more important thanhow good of a team you are. What incentive is there for a school to continue playing in a competitive conference if all it takes is a transfer to a lesser conference like the ACC to get a BCS bowl berth (and easier conference schedule) every year? I mean conference enrollment is a money issue as well, right?

So we have a 4 loss VT that gets an automatic bid to the BCS. How does 2 loss Ohio State trump UNDEFEATED!?!? (yes, UNDEFEATED) Boise State? The Big 10 is a pretty good conference. Penn State was in the mix all year, and I won't deny Ohio State is a good football team. But outside of those teams and Iowa (and I suppose traditionally Michigan, when Rich Rodriguez gets the personnel for his offense), the Big 10 is a pretty worthless conference. Boise State beat OU a couple years ago in one of the BEST bowl games in the history of the NCAA. They are an exciting football team and UNDEFEATED in case I hadn't mentioned that. And they don't get a chance for a BCS bowl??? 2 loss Ohio State and 4 loss Virginia Tech do?? A 10th ranked team and a 19th ranked team get the national spotlight while an undefeated 9th ranked team sits out?? This is injustice in its worst form.

Let me pose a possible lineup for the playoffs. I will pose a 16 team playoff and an 8 team playoff. I won't go into details over which bowls get which game because that is too much detail, just outline an initial lineup. In this system I will give the major conference champions a higher seed than other teams as a concession to how things run now.

Bracket 1
OU vs. Georgia
Penn State vs. Boise State

Texas Tech vs. TCU
Alabama vs. Oklahoma State

Bracket 2
Florida vs. Georgia Tech
USC vs. Ohio State

Texas vs. Cincinnati (hey if this is such an impressive win for OU then it should be impressive for Texas too right!?)
Virginia Tech vs. Utah

Talk about some exciting matchups that we normally don't get to see!! And for an 8 team playoff (I can't in good conscience include VT in this mockup).

Bracket 1
OU vs. Boise State (sorry Penn State but Boise is the more impressive team and you know OU would want a shot at this)
Alabama vs. USC (Again, what a game)

Bracket 2
Florida vs. Texas Tech
UT vs. Utah

The matchups would be so exciting and unconventional. You can work up a systematic approach to team selection very easily if you were so motivated. This is not rocket science. It would inject life into anotherwise bloated and lethargic Bowl system that only really picks up steam in its very last week. And it would address injustices to Texas, Texas Tech, and Boise St. among other schools and hopefully weed out the current prejudice favoring weaker teams from major conferences. Granted, there will be some issue taken over which teams take the last couple of spots, but those teams are so rarely (if ever) in the national title discussion anyway. There will be whining, there will be fighting, there will be kicking and screaming but this is something that must be done for college football to remain a pure sport. As it stands, the BCS is nothing more than a money-hoarding institution that has done nothing for college football. On the same token, the current cadre of university presidents are too content in their ways and more than happy to cash a fat check every year without taking the impetus for change. College football is one of the most exciting sports in the nation, if not the most, and a playoff would make it doubly so and would bring an impartial way to crown a national champion. I know BCS makes little tweaks every year but this is not enough. So seriously, BCS, what have you done for me lately??
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Getting some serious goosebumps [Sep. 29th, 2008|02:34 pm]
http://theyellowstereo.com/?p=1765
http://theyellowstereo.com/?p=1762

Watching Radiohead cover a couple of my favorite songs by my other favorite bands! The cover of Ceremony by New Order is unreal. Listening to Thom Yorke sing like Morrissey is cool too, watching one of my favorite vocalists emulate by absolute favorite vocalist of all time. They are like excited schoolkids playing covers of their favorite bands; they seem almost as excited as when I learn a new Radiohead cover. I have to say Thom Yorke is not much of a turntablist though, but his DJ set is pretty cool. Can't win em all.
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NBA PREVIEW - ROCKETS STYLE [Sep. 21st, 2008|02:53 pm]
The Disastros are tanking.

The Texans are poised to go 0-3.

If the Rockets don't pull it off this year, I may have to start watching MLS.

Anyway I am going to go player by player in alphabetical order for the Rockets and then quickly team by team and make a couple predictions. I have high hopes... we won 55 games without our best player for 1/3 of the season and we picked up another top-flight player. Anyway here goes...

Rafer Alston (PG) - At 32 he doesn't have as quick a step as when he first came in the league, but he proved last year that he is still a deadly 3 point shooter. In addition, his decision making has become much improved and he rarely commits the foolish turnovers that marred his first couple of years in Houston. He knows when to pass and when to shoot and is still a deadly offensive threat and as a 3rd or 4th option he is solid. Remains an excellent on the ball defender and a threat to steal the ball. Can still hold his own with most point guards but he remains a liability when faced with a bigger guard, especially Deron Williams, and this is going to take some matchup wizardry to solve because Alston is just not a big guy. Luckily we have...

Ron Artest (SF) - A top 5 defender and we got him for free. I doubt we will really see a dramatic change in terms of our defensive efficiency (we were #2) but imagine the matchup problems. Take LA for example. Put Battier on Kobe (clearly Battier does an amazing job guarding him one on one), stick Artest on Stay-Puff Odom, leave Bynum and Yao to bang it out (Bynum's inexperience is going to lead to foul trouble more often than not), and then you have paper-thin Pau Gasol that T-Mac can easily front. Or Take Boston, another team with excellent wings. Put Artest on Pierce and Battier on Ray Allen. Play a little zone in the post and Garnett will have a flurry of defenders running at him. Alston can man on Rondo and you're left with the likes of Kendrick Perkins or Leon Powe. The defensive matchups are tantalizing playing both Battier and Artest, and if you are only playing one the rotations now possible are limitless. People will harp on the fact that he is a chemistry-killer and that he does not know how to play smart offense. I will point them to the seasons that Adelman coached him; Artest was not only an unselfish player but he was smart and knew when to distribute the ball and when to take his own shots. In addition his defensive intensity has only grown. He is still a little child at heart and so it will take the Rockets' continued success to bring out the best in him, and that depends on T-Mac and Yao staying healthy. But still, this is a coup on the order of Pau Gasol to the Lakers last year. The toughness Artest brings is going to really shape the team into a true contender. He is a free agent next year so either we win this year or we may have to pay beaucoup money to keep him....

Brent Barry (SG) - Another excellent wing defender off the bench. He still remains a 3 point threat but his defense is what's going to earn him his ticket on the team. He no longer has the quickness or explosiveness that characterized his younger days but combined with Battier and Artest, we will have a constant rotation of stifling defenders on the wing that will free up defensive rotations everywhere else. In addition he can buy T-Mac valuable rest, giving us another option at SG and allowing say, Artest, to become the #2 option for a while.

Shane Battier (SF) - What can I say... people will dog the Rudy Gay trade but Battier is a top 5 defender (possibly only under Kobe, KG, and Bowen) and a fantastic 3 point shooter. I will say this again - he needs to be less hesitant from the corners because he can really space out the defense when he's on. He has the capability of scoring 15 any night when his shooting game is on. That said, he is only an average 3 point shooter straight on and just above average from the angles. He needs to lose that little baby hook on offense as well because it just looks ugly. But seriously, this guy is a defensive stopper and his instincts are invaluable. One of the most underrated players in the league.

Aaron Brooks (PG) - Look for him to get more playing time this year. He is still a defensive liability and he is tiny. Bigger guards will run all over him (and by bigger I mean most PG in the league these days). Still, he is a creative offensive scorer and has the potential to be an efficient spark off the bench if he plays his cards right. He will most likely be the first backup to Alston.

Joey Dorsey (PF) - Another tough defender, a sort of hybrid between Hayes and Landry. He is R-A-W. He is offensively as retarded as Ben Wallace. However, Wallace is a good comparison defensively as he is an intense defender, an aggressive rebounder, and a decent shot-blocker. He will be good off the bench to provide key relief for Landry (if we re-sign him) and Scola. I don't expect a ton out of him this year though. Other than offensive rebounds, he is worthless on that side of the court. Look for him to be our 3rd center if we go small; he can hold his own with many centers defensively in this league. Will probably spend a little time in the NBDL.

Steve Francis (PG) - How the might have fallen. Only 31 and half a decade removed from being an All-Star starter. We all know he doesn't have much of a basketball IQ and that he still throws tantrums both in public and behind closed doors. I don't have much to say about him. We got him for cheap. If his ankles hold up, he will add depth at PG. I still hope secretly that he has a flash of the old Franchise in him but I have to remain a realist. Washed up :(

Mike Harris (SF/PF) - A Rice product. I have to be proud. He was a good scorer at Rice and in short stretches with the Rockets he has been a surprisingly effective scorer. Very smart player; you can count on him to take high percentage shots. Still very athletic and very young. He is a bit of an X-factor; he played significant minutes last year because of injuries and did well. He will be near the end of the depth chart at either position but can be an effective spark when needed.

Chuck Hayes (PF) - Our hustle man (once our starting PF...!). Fantastic rebounder despite his height and an elite defender. Offensively he knows when to take a shot and when to leave it to others and his unselfish play ensures that he will be a valuable asset on offense because he is a determined rebounder on both ends of the floor. Landry and Scola took a lot of his playing time but in the case of injuries he is a great asset and he can still play 10 minutes a game and be very effective. Shows how much depth we have now in our frontcourt.

Luther Head (SG) - I don't understand this guy. He should be a deadly 3 point shooter but instead he is woefully inconsistent and still worthless on defense. He will lose a lot of playing time to Brent Barry. Only shot 35% from 3 point land last year. He comes cheap atleast. Hopefully he will figure out whats wrong and start shooting the lights out like he did his rookie year.

Carl Landry (PF) - We have no excuse at this point for leaving this guy unsigned. I am sure at this point he realizes his market value is not as high as he once thought. He is an athletic big (though a little small) that plays bigger than his height and can get us a lot of rebounds and high percentage shots. He had an excellent rookie campaign, especially at the tail end of the year. I remember wanting Big Baby instead of him and now I realize how wrong I was. He will still share minutes with Scola, who is definitely the better player, but the tandem of Scola and Landry is pretty formidable. If we lose him, I have my doubts that Dorsey can be as effective on the offensive end, though he may not have to with the addition of Artest.

Maarty Leunen (SF) - NBDL bound. I doubt this guy will ever crack the roster.

Tracy McGrady (SG) - He is getting paid serious dough to bring us a title and his clock (aka his back) is running out. He knows it too. Still an elite scorer and solid defender and when healthy, a threat to drop 40 any given night. The help we secured over the off season should help lighten the load but he should know the pressure is on him. I don't have much else to say except this - when people question T-Mac's heart, that riles me up like nothing else. I am a proud Rockets fan and I can say that there are few players I am more proud of than T-Mac. He has put his heart into this city and into this team and I can't be the only one to appreciate that. He has played his heart out in every playoff game... Look at Dallas a few years back. Other than T-Mac and on occasion Yao our team had disappeared. Ditto for the Jazz the past couple of years; T-Mac got his points and averaged nearly 7 assists. He has played his heart out only for the rest of the team to collapse under the pressure, and the burden (rightfully so with his franchise player salary) ends up on his shoulders. I guess I will say this though... he needs to improve his 3 point shooting. 29% is not going to cut it.

Yao Ming (C) - Freak injuries... I guess you can only say that so often until you have to admit that Homo sapiens is not built to be 7'6". He is injury prone because of his height in the same way that so many taller players (Rik Smits!?) were. He is still the best center in the league in my opinion; head to head he outperformed Dwight Howard and offensively he is nearly unstoppable one-on-one, though he tends to flail under the double team. His conditioning and strength are as good as ever. Barring a freak injury, Yao should have the capacity to play 82 games for us and score 23/12. But every time the big guy falls down my heart stops just for a second...

Dikembe Mutombo (C) - Congolese Methuselah. We need to re-sign him. In short stretches he is still an amazingly effective shot blocker and really clogs up the paint. And his elbows are very sharp.

Luis Scola (PF) - He proved in the Olympics that he can play on an elite level. Scored 25+ against Team USA when Manu was hurt. He is an incredibly crafty scorer and as tough as they come (The "Argentinian Bulldog"). Thanks to our friends down I-10 for gift-wrapping him and sending him our way. Not much else to say; he is definitely no 2nd option but as a 3rd or 4th option on offense he is an asset. And again he is a crafty and unorthodox scorer and this makes up for any size he gives up in a matchup.

D.J. Strawberry (SG) - Did we really need another defensive guard with no offensive skill set? Then again we didn't give up much to get him (Sean Singletary).

Anyway, with this line-up I almost wish we had kept Novak because his non-presence on defense would have been more than offset by his precise shooting. Oh well. Oh yea, we also picked up that French center (Weis)that VC posterized in the Olympics. Wonder if he will set foot on our sures.

Anyway, a quick word on the rest of the league.

Boston - there is no way they can keep up that intensity for another year. They are getting older and despite making a couple of savvy moves (getting Miles was a nice low-risk pickup) and re-signing key players, they lost Posey, an invaluable glue guy that hit clutch shots and played tough defense. I think they are going to feel that loss for a while.

Detroit - have a young star in Rodney Stuckey. Billups is still durable and Rip is Rip. Maxiell and Amir Johnson are great up-and-coming bigs. Big question mark is Sheed... do we see All-Star Sheed or lackadaisical Sheed this year? That is gonig to determine whether or not they make a real push in the East. Oh yea, they have Kwame Brown to sit on the bench now.

Orlando - Surprise star in Turkoglu last year. Lost some depth at PG (Arroyo) and SF (Mo Evans) but signed Pietrus from the Warriors. D-Ho is going to get even better and Rashard Lewis should be solid. They will remain an elite team in the East.

Cleveland - Safe to say that LeBron is the best in the league. Addition of Mo Williams is going to make him that much better and make this team that much more deadly. I think they will miss Joe Smith though. Not much else to say; they still don't have what it takes to be a lock for the Eastern bid but no one in this league has any clue how to stop Lebron James. Any clue.

Washington - They are going to miss the playoffs. Butler is wasting his best years here. I have my doubts about Arenas' knee and Jamison is an aging star (but still a star). Lost Roger Mason to the Spurs and made no significant movement in this year's market. Stagnation will not win you basketball games.

Toronto - pickup of Jermaine O'Neal is huge. It allows Bosh to move to his natural position (PF), frees up the logjam at PG and lets the better one (Calderon) strut his stuff. No big losses really, though cutting Garbejosa was a questionable move. Should make a good run at the playoffs this year.

Philadelphia - the real winners of this years free agent market. Signed Elton Brand, kept AI-2, re-signed Lou Williams, and kept Andre Miller. An amazing core. This is the best Philly team since the Larry Brown era and probably since Sir Charles was in town. Thaddeus Young should get better and they kept most of their young core together.

Atlanta - Laughable. How do you let key players leave for EUROPE? Laughable. Mo Evans will not fill the void that Childress and his hair left. Atleast they kept Josh Smith for less than he is worth.

Indiana - I doubt TJ Ford will be the difference maker. Depends on what they end up getting for Tinsley I guess. Rush was a good pickup via the draft but still the East has gotten much better this year and Indian really hasn't. They will not make the playoffs as long as they have duds like Troy Murphy getting significant playing time. On a bright note, Danny Granger is an exciting new star and should have a breakout season this year.

New Jersey - How do you trade Jefferson for Yi Jianlian and expect to stay competitive!? Devin Harris should get better. Expect VC to start tanking it soon and demand a trade. This time, I can hardly blame him.

Chicago - Beasley is definitely more of an impact pick because Rose is going to take a while to get warmed up. It's clear that Ben Gordon is no star anymore. And we may have seen all we are going to see out of Deng. And that Hinrich is not the talent we thought him to be. But Sefolosha and Ty Thomas should get better. I doubt, however, that the Bulls even make the playoffs.

Charlotte - Well the core is together, Sean May and Morrison should be healthy (and probably worthless). Augustin was a so-so pickup. I don't see him filling any obvious voids (and there are many). They will be bottom feeders again this year. Trading for J Rich was a dumb move. Brandan Wright should start to pick it up this year. Not sure Larry Brown can turn these jokers into contenders.

Milwaukee - Perplexing. How do you trade a lousy forward for an All-Star (RJ) and then proceed to trade a PG whose stock had never been higher for Damon Jones and Francisco Elson? Perplexing. Joe Alexander was not the player I would have picked at No. 8.

New York - D'Antoni will make things more fun but this team is stuck under the weight of years of bad contracts. Wish they had kept Balkman. They need to dump Curry, Marbury, and just start over. The problem is the only young player worth a damn on this roster is Nate Robinson (unless Galinari turns out to be the real deal). David Lee is above average at best. What a disaster.

Miami - Speaking of disasters... Beasley will be an instant impact pick but it's clear that he is immature. D-Wade is clearly once again a top 5 player in this league. And Marion will be himself. But this team has almost nobody else to rely on. Haslem, James Jones, Chris Quinn is your starter!?!? The funny thing is they may actually make the playoffs on the back of D-Wade. Chalmers was a good draft pick at 34.

LA Lakers - They lost Turiaf, which is HUGE as he was one of the few guys to bring toughness to this otherwise gelatinous team, but they kept together a talented core - possibly the best foursome in the league - in Kobe, Bynum, Gasol, and Odom. Bynum will not be the impact player people are making him out to be but I can see him averaging 15/10 which is probably good enough to ride deep into the playoffs as long as Gasol can produce.

New Orleans - payed too much money for Posey but really, they had a solid team already. Will be a serious contender for the title. CP3 is amazing, David West is underrated, Ty Chandler is a top 5 center (more a commentary on how rare good centers are these days) and Peja is still solid. Devin Brown is a good low-risk pickup. Dangerous franchise.

San Antonio - older and starting to show cracks. Duncan has 2 years left at this level. Manu does not. He is aging in front of our eyes. Mason was a good pickup but Brent Barry was a big loss. They had their time in the limelight.

Utah - No big changes from last year. Deron Williams is still the 2nd best PG in the league behind CP3 and Boozer is a formidable scorer. Porous defense will keep them from winning the West. They are still a frightening team to meet in the playoffs.

Houston - I've said enough about these guys but this could be the year...

Phoenix - Sinking under the weight of years and years of bad moves, trading draft picks, making perplexing trades, and driving out an exciting coach for an unproven coach. They will sputter into the playoffs. Robin Lopez was a good draft pick, though.

Dallas - Desperation is setting in. J Kidd was a terrible pickup. You get a 36 washed up PG with a limited offensive skillset outside of passing (OK, so he is still the best passer in the league) and give up a PG that has gotten better every year and is putting up great numbers with the Nets. Oh yea, and 3 draft picks. There goes the franchise. OH WAIT, lets spend our precious little cap room and bottom feeders like Devean George and Diop! What a disaster. I won't even get into Josh Howard's questionable behavior...

Denver - I think it was too early to go into rebuilding mode. Camby is an amazing player. Melo and AI are not going to do this on their lonesome. Losing Najera was huge too. They are going to be on the outside looking in come playoff time.

Golden State - A franchise in flux. Losing B Diddy was huge and losing Monta Ellis to whatever injury he sustained is worse. Marcus Williams is not going to be worth a damn. Maggette is underrated but this team lost the face of their franchise (and to what? Another bottom feeder?). Losing Pietrus and Barnes was huge too. This team will be fun to watch simply because Don Nelson is a mad scientist and he will find an exciting combination. But the playoffs won't be in his equation.

Portland - Years of careful drafting and rebuilding are going to finally take root this year. Portland will not only make the playoffs but will atleast get into the conference semis. Greg Oden is supposedly amazing in inital workouts and his presence will let Aldridge play more naturally. Jerryd Bayless was a HUGE pickup and Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Rodriguez should make a significant impact. This is Roy's team. I don't give a crap about Portland and I am still proud of that kid. Don't ask me why, I don't know. I am secretly rooting for the Blazers if the Rockets lose because this is the way to build a franchise. Also they helped us turn Nicolas Batum into Ron Artest...!

Sacramento - Kevin Martin will finally have the freedom to score at will. He is in the top 10 in terms of offensive efficiency. Too bad he has no help. Terrible draft pick this year with Thompson. They also overpaid to get Beno Udrih. I doubt Donte Green will make a real impact in the next 3 years. Rebuilding time, finally. Once they drop Abdur-Rahim and Kenny Thomas they will have plenty of room to make some serious moves over the next few years.

LA Clippers - What a joke of a franchise. How do you let Elton Brand get away? Years of poor decisions and draft picks, thats how. Baron Davis, joke's on you. I don't have much faith in Gordon, though Jordan is a low risk draft pick. And the string of desperation moves and signings was laughable. Elton Brand was the cornerstone of the franchise, and they let him get away. The franchise will be feeling that loss for the next decade.

Minnesota - Al Jefferson will be good and he has some young help. Kevin Love was a great draft pick as well. But this team is 5 years from even thinking about making the playoffs. They oughta take a look at the Blazers. Patience is a virtue.

Memphis - Joke of the league. OJ Mayo will be good but they actually picked up Jaric and Buckner? Is this franchise run by idiots? They had the good sense to let Kwame go atleast. Darrell Arthur was a good low-risk pickup. Rudy Gay is good but he better be amazing if this team is going to win more than 25 games. Mike Conley will be interesting to watch.

OKC - I liked KD in college but consider me unconvinced. If he bulks up he can be a great defender but that amazing rebounding we saw in college is not evident. He is making better decisions though. With a little mentorship he could be great. Jeff Green should be better too and Westbrook was a smart pickup. Ibaka could be a good pickup too, if raw. This team will be fun to watch but they are nowhere near finding a mix that can win some serious games. OKC doesn't seem to care, they sold out season tickets anyway.

Finally a quick rundown of how teams will rank in the West and East.

WEST
1. LA Lakers
2. New Orleans
3. Houston
4. Utah
5. San Antonio
6. Portland
7. Phoenix
8. Dallas
9. Denver
10. Golden State
11. LA Clippers
12. Minnesota
13. Sacremento
14. OKC
15. Memphis

EAST
1. Boston
2. Detroit
3. Cleveland
4. Philadelpha
5. Orlando
6. Toronto
7. Washington
8. Miami
9. Chicago
10. Indiana
11. Milwaukee
12. Atlanta
13. New York
14. Charlotte
15. New Jersey
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Clutch City [Sep. 8th, 2008|01:45 am]
http://broadband.nba.com/cc/playa.php?content=video&url=http://boss.streamos.com/wmedia/nba/nbacom/top10s_specialties/top10_olajuwon_careerplays.asx&video=

I believe!
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RON ARTEST [Sep. 3rd, 2008|06:32 pm]
COURTESY OF ESTEBAN

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

HOORAY
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I CANNOT IGNORE THE ROCKETS [Jul. 29th, 2008|09:43 pm]
LIFE IS OK. I AM TIRED.

ON TO THE ROCKETS.

Trading Donte' Green and Bobby Jackson for Ron Artest is good on paper. It re-affirms our commitment to this core - T-Mac has another year or two at this level, Yao if healthy can perform like this for years. Artest gives us that much needed third start. It comes at the expensive of a promising offensive player in Green and a backup who was instrumental in our 22 game win streak last year... but you can't hoard role players and expect to compete with the likes of the Lakers, Celtics, and Spurs. The addition of Brent Barry was phenomenal as well. At 28, Artest is at the peak of his game. He is only under contract for one year, but we gave up very little of our existing roster to get a key piece. I am going to quickly detail out our current depth chart.

PG Rafer Alston / Aaron Brooks / Steve Francis (?)
SG Tracy McGrady / Brent Barry / Luther Head
SF Ron Artest / Shane Battier / Steve Novak
PF Luis Scola / Carl Landry (?) / Chuck Hayes / Joey Dorsey
C Yao Ming / Dikembe Mutombo

OK obvious holes and points to make. First off - we only have two point guards and Aaron Brooks is unproven and undersized. He is an X-Factor. Steve Francis is washed up but at 1 or 2 million he is fine as a 3rd string, although he is still a locker room cancer. Alston was solid last year and proved himself to be an elite PG. I have full confidence in his abilities - and this is the first time I can safely say that since he has been a Rocket.

Now at SG we are set. Barry is still a phenomenal 3 ball threat and will give T-Mac some rest to prevent some of the wear and tear. Luther Head is fine as a 3rd string. He isn't good for much else because he is mentally soft, erratic from behind the arc (though when he's on, he's on), and defensively worthless. T-Mac has GOT to stay healthy but we all know his history and can fully expect him to miss 6-7 games with his various problems. Back injuries are tough because your whole body becomes vulnerable as it tries to compensate for a core weakness.

Man - talk about overhaul at SF. Battier was great as a starter and a phenomenal glue guy but offensively he seemed hesitant to pop the 3 ball. He can double as a back up at 2, moving Barry to the point so that our 1 to 3 will be large and still mobile, giving us some real flexibility and potential to cause a lot of problems. Artest is a phenomenal defender and a talented scorer and with the right teams can be an AMAZING team player - see the Kings a couple of years back when he was motivated. He is absolutely freaking nuts but we traded an unproven young talent and a washed up backup PG (who never really learned to play PG) for a legitimate All Star. You cannot argue with that logic. Steve Novak as the 3rd string is whatever. He is defensively non-existent but probably the best spot up shooter on the team.

At PF Scola is going to be solid. The growing pains are over; as a 4th option he will flourish with his constant hustle and movement without the ball. He is a star. We need to sign Landry. Landry is such a huge force off the bench. We cannot delay this; this puts more pressure on Landry to sign since his services are less necessary but this guy is a phenom and we can't let him go to free agency to some other team; he has the potential to cause some havoc off the bench. I love Chuck Hayes; he is still an elite defender and a great rebounder but he is small and offensively retarded. As a 3rd option he is amazing. Joey Dorsey is sort of in the same mold as Hayes but bigger, maybe a bit more athletic. He won't see much time but in a pinch can serve as a 3rd string center (small at 6'7" though).

And finally at C we still have the same problem as before - we need a real 3rd string center. Dikembe can carry us for 10-12 minutes a game and do it well (he can still play solid D) but beyond that let's be realistic, the guy is atleast 43 (and possibly as old as 59). Yao has GOT to stay healthy. He is phenomenal and still the best offensive center in the league when healthy and has improved every year. He has a versatile post game, is becoming a more dominant rebounder and a respectable shot blocker and his conditioning and athleticism have been phenomenal. But let's face it, men are not designed to be 7'5" and the wear and tear on his lower body is starting to show. He needs a 3rd stringer to take another 4-5 minutes off his playing time every game.

So anyway what does this all mean? Look at last year's squad.

PG Alston - James/Jackson - Brooks - Franchise
SG T-Mac - Head - Snyder
SF Battier - Wells/Green - Novak
PF Scola - Landry - Hayes
C Yao - Dikembe

Look at the difference in depth. Granted we are once again thin at PG and perpetually thin at C but we are much deeper at SG with the addition of Barry (who really only needs to put in 15 min/game to make a substantial difference, regardless of whether he plays 2 or 3), much deeper at SF as Battier now comes off the bench (similar to last year where Hayes, while great, became our 3rd stringer), and just as deep at PF assuming Landry re-signs.

I applaud Daryl Morey for making a real commitement to this squad. If it doesn't work, then we explode and rebuild around a still young and talented squad. But as long as we are committed to T-Mac, this is the right move to make and the right way to do things. I believe.
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Riding ghost horses [Jul. 15th, 2008|07:32 pm]
I have ignored this in spectacular fashion!?!??! I've been pretty busy at work at the VA SPA on my first month as a resident. It's tiring but very rewarding being able to run a team and call the shots but a bit scary as well since I've only had this gig for a year now. Anyway life is good otherwise; I have a little more time to play guitar and hit the gym and fret over the Disastros. LIFE IS A-OK.
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The story is old, I know (but it goes on) [Apr. 28th, 2008|01:21 am]
Elimination game tomorrow :( I BELIEVE
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I was dressed for success, but success it never comes :( [Apr. 24th, 2008|12:24 am]
Rockets down 0-2 in a hole; even with Alston back its hard to see a lot of positives. Utah has free reign to swarm T-Mac because no one is stepping up offensively. Scola is picking up dumb fouls (even though AK's flop was one of the most heinous late-game calls I have ever seen), Landry isn't as energetic as he was in the regular season, and Bobby Jackson has been erratic. Late game we disappear and play porous defense. And we have no answer for Deron Williams; I doubt even Alston can do a lot the way Deron is playing. Aaron Brooks has been a surprise spark off the bench; Adelman rarely played him in big moments during the season and he is picking up some quality time. Battier continues to be clutch but T-Mac just looks banged up out there; no matter what he does we can't seem to pick up the slack. People that made the argument or even the supposition that we were better without Yao don't need to look very hard at this series to see how much we miss a second dominant scorer and more importantly, a paint presence on the offensive end. The presence of Yao opens up T-Mac's game as Utah can't afford to double T-Mac if they want to contain Yao in the paint; both AK and Okur would be occupied playing Yao deep allowing T-Mac to penetrate and create. In addition that would take so much pressure off Scola, who is a fantastic 3rd option but a poor 2nd option for a playoff team, much less one in the West. And Yao is a fantastic passer despite having brick hands and this would open a world of pain from downtown courtesy of Battier, Jackson, and Alston. Last year we had little help from the bench and took this Utah team to 7 games and nearly eliminated them. This year Utah has gotten better with the addition of Korver and the maturation of Deron Williams while we took one step forward with our bench and two back with injuries to T-Mac, Yao, and even Alston. This is unbelievable that we have to look to next year already. I am too sad to look at the free agent situation :( The core will be staying, I am sure we will have room to re-sign Landry and we should take a good look at re-signing Jackson given his ageless motor. Mutombo hopefully will re-sign too, that guy is ageless as well. T-Mac, Yao, and Alston are all under contract, as is Battier (I think), and Brooks and Scola I believe are still under contract. I don't care much about Luther Head - if we have to ditch his salary to get another player so be it. Mike Harris would be a good pickup at the veteran's minimum as he provides good rebounding and hustle play but is a awkward fit; too slow to play guard and too small to play forward. Rice product though! This club could be a championship team if healthy but it's clear now that T-Mac is injury prone (back injuries are notorious for causing people to overcompensate) as is Yao (how many more freak foot injuries!?). Rik Smits had similar issues; you just can't build a championship club unless you have consistent play from your stars. Rockets :( :( I AM TRYING TO BELIEVE
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Sundialing away [Apr. 17th, 2008|10:44 pm]
PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS:

Leastern Conference first

Boston 4 Atlanta 0 - what a joke, Boston's defense will hold Atlanta to 75 or less in every game while handily scoring enough to win in double digits. Atlanta lacks a big time scorer to break through Boston's suffocating defense and while Josh Smith is individually a great defender, they lack the capability to body KG, Pierce, and have enough to defend Allen out on the wing.


Washington 4 Cleveland 2 - King James is hurt, Cleveland is still paper thing even after adding a bunch of aging veterans, while Washington managed to get the 5 seed without Arenas for most of the season. Gil is getting back in gear, Butler is playing better than ever, and Jamison continues to defy age. Plus their bench is starting to flesh out. Washington will be dangerous

Orlando 4 Toronto 3 - Orlando had a huge surprise this year with Hedo Turkoglu playing near All-Star ball and Dwight Howard breaking out as the premiere center in the league. Rashard was just an added bonus. Turkoglu runs the point better than Nelson and gives Orlando a huge weapon with which to dismantle the shaky defense of Toronto. TJ Ford and Calderon are an amazing PG tandem and Bosh is solid as always but Toronto just doesn't have enough punch or anyone to really body up Howard to make it to the next round.

Detroit 4 Philadelphia 1 - Detroit seems to get better with age; Billups hasn't let up one bit, Rip is still one of the best in the league, Maxiell and Amir Johnson have fleshed out into fine role players while Prince is a bonafide star. And Wallace spreads defenses like no other allowing Maxiell and Johnson to wreak havoc inside. Philly has no shot; AI Jr. is not good enough to carry this team by itself.

Boston 4 Washington 2 - An interesting matchup; I think Arenas can blow up any given game so Washington can ride that to a victory or two but Boston's defense is just too good for this to be more than a small speed bump to the finals.

Detroit 4 Orlando 1 - Orlando doesn't have the experience to beat Detroit, hands down. Dwight Howard will post monster numbers against Maxiell and Johnson but perimeter defense will be key in stopping Rip and Billups as well as Prince and I don't think Orlando can hang in there with as few weapons as they have. I wouldn't be surprised if they win 2 though - they can still be potent offensively if Rashard Lewis can find a way to score against Prince.

Boston 4 Detroit 3 - Clash of the titans; this will be a defensive slugfest. Very intriguing as both teams are excellent defensively and both teams have enough offensive weapons to keep the defense on its toes. Neither team is especially deep so simply based on the quality of the starters you have to expect Boston to pull through but this will be a close series.

Western Conference

LA Lakers 4 Denver 2 - The Nuggets play no defense. Whatsoever. The Lakers are going to find a way to exploit that and I expect that they will fill up the box score pretty handily. Still, the Nuggets are an amazing offensive ballclub and the fact that they can drop 120-130 on any given night will net them a couple of wins. But as they say, defense wins championships and Denver didn't seem to get the memo.

Houston 4 Utah 3 - I am biased. Houston is one of the hottest teams in the league right now despite sputtering to the finish but Alston is hurt and T-Mac is banged up. Still, Houston has fleshed out one of the deepest benches in the league. Scolandry will be able to score against Boozer and defensively hold their own enough to keep Boozer from dropping 30 something as he did so frequently last year. But Deron Williams is going to tear Aaron Brooks and Bobby Jackson up and will defensively limit their production. Alston will change things when he comes back as he can be defensively amazing at times but Utah easily wins the PG matchup. AK47 will be an X factor as he can easily drop enough second chance and fast break points to pad Utah's lead. T-Mac will have to step up his game without Yao. Utah just has so many weapons - Harpring and Brewer, Ronnie Price, Okur (who despite having an off season is still a tough assignment with his 3 point shooting). It will take excellent team defense by Houston to pull this one out; Utah has proved its mettle with impressive victories in the late season over San Antonio, Houston, Denver, and New Orleans. I am being optimistic :(

Phoenix 4 San Antonio 3 - I am picking this upset because the Spurs have no good answer for Shaq, Stoudemire has far surpassed Duncan offensively, and Nash is still the most creative passer in the league. The Suns have only gotten better with Shaq; I take back my initial hate for that trade. It's done wonders to their offense as it actually has made their fast break BETTER because they rebound faster and more cleanly and can get the ball out on the open court. In addition they get a lot more second chance points now. Have to wonder how much the Spurs have left in the tank but they are still the reigning champs so I wouldn't be surpirsed if I was wrong. Wouldn't be the first time!

New Orleans 4 Dallas 2 - What a dangerous matchup for the Hornets; Dallas brings experience, is finally gelling with Kidd, and Dirk has come out playing some fantastic basketball. The downside is somehow in all this Howard has gotten much less aggressive and has become content with being a role player when he is one of the most talented swingment in the league. Still, CP3 should be MVP with the way he has carried this team. Ty Chandler will keep them in the game defensively and scores high percentage points. David West, if he can avoid foul trouble, will be an offensive threat and Peja is a crafty veteran who can explode without warning. Dallas wins the battle of the benches as New Orleans has Bonzi, Hilton Armstrong, and a surprise in Julian Wright who is coming into his own with a fine end to his rookie season. Dallas still has potent weapons in JT and Stackhouse as well as veteran defenders in Eddie Jones and Devean George who will make it very tough for the Hornets if they don't play with more energy than they did yesterrday.

LA Lakers 4 Houston 2 - I have to admit, Pau or not, the Lakers are just too good for Houston to win in a 7 game series. Houston desperately needs Yao as Bynum would quickly get into foul trouble and Pau certainly can't stop him. Battier can defensively limit Kobe's scoring but they just have too many weapons. Houston's team defense would have to be otherworldy to get out of the second round. T-Mac is no Kobe, he won't be able to do it alone.

New Orleans 4 Phoenix 2 - Phoenix doesn't have the defensive capability to stop New Orleans. Nash has never been known as a great defender and he is only getting older. CP3 will eat him alive. Still Nash finds a way to get it done year after year and he will find his open man with ease as always. Defensively though the Hornets are better and Amare's porous defense will not be enough to keep Chandler and West from scoring in the paint. This will be a good series if it happens because watching these two PG's go at it will be a lot more entertaining than anything the Least has to offer.

LA Lakers 4 New Orleans 1 - The playoffs seem to last forever and I wouldn't be surprised if a long run fatigued the paper-thin Hornets. On the flip, LA is so deep that with big enough victories they will be able to rest a lot of their key players. Fatigue will be the difference in the end because LA has such a deep team that they can rest Kobe for long stretches and not burn away the lead. I think when the Lakeshow is going full force the Hornets won't stand a chance.

NBA Finals

Boston 4 LA Lakers 2 - This will be KG's year. The Lakers won't be able to contain KG inside with Bynum or Pau. Allen and Pierce will burn them from the outside and I doubt Kobe will be able to hold Pierce easily. Boston can defensively stymy Kobe and still have enough in the tank to take on LA's role players; they still have no true second star and that lack of a dominant presence outside of Kobe will give Boston a solid chance at their first NBA championship in two decades. I just like rooting for KG, it's like rooting for Santa Claus.

THATS IT!
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YAOOO? WHY???? [Feb. 26th, 2008|12:20 pm]
Yao out rest of season with a stress fracture. My stomach dropped when I saw that. Oh man :(
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I BELIEVE [Feb. 22nd, 2008|08:54 pm]
I have been beat down to a little pulp doing ICU at St. Paul so I won't belabor the point. The fact that I am thinking of doing this for a living is absurd and masochistic. But I am!

ROCKETS UPDATE:
Wow... Rockets are on a tear. A TEAR. So my hope that Adelman's system would kick in after the ASB was legitimate. And I waffled on my prediction it would happen. Waffled a lot. Big texas sized jumbo griddle waffling. SO the Rockets have not only been on a tear with Yao playing his best ball, T-Mac settling into the sidekick role, and excellent bench production but they have traded dead weight into contenders and cap space so I will ANALYZE a little.

Let me go position by position, player by player. THE GRADES COME OUT

PG
Rafer Alston - B+
What an improvement; Rafer is playing smart ball, limiting turnovers, passing the ball effectively, finding the open man, taking smart 3's and hitting them, and running the court like a vet. He looks nothing like the Rafer of last year and while he can still force the ball on occasion and be turnover prone, he knows when to stop firing and let Yao and T-Mac take over. What an improvement - he is still a third tier PG but he has settled into the role he needs to play. I can't say how happy I am with him.

Aaron Brooks - B
No one expected much from him and he is still raw and green as all hell but shit... the guy can play! He is an offensive threat whenever he comes off the bench and is the perfect little sparkplug. Needs a little fine-tuning and needs to settle down; he can be a deadly shooter but is shooting a paltry 30% from downtown, though his numbers have improved. Excellent late draft pick. Kudos to Mr. Morey, excellent late 1st round prospect.

Mike James - D
Dead weight. Slow, defensively a liability, and a lukewarm shooter. He is nothing like the Mike James of three years ago, a fiery little slasher off the bench. Complete dead weight, but we turned him into Bobby Jackson atleast.

Bobby Jackson - INC
I have my reservations - he IS 34, but he is a great little slasher, if a bit of a ball hog. Iffy shooter but he will fit in with Adelman, who he played under with the great Kings teams of the early part of the decade, and he will be a nice backup to Alston, who is asserting himself as the starter. And the best part is if he doesn't work out, his contract is up in a few months. Regaredless, even though it cost us Wells (you really have to look at this deal as Wells for BJax), it fits in with our up-tempo scheme without really sacrificing the chemistry already there. And this buys a bit more time for Hayes and Battier, who require the ball a lot less than Wells to be effective. Good move.

Steve Francis - F
How the mighty have fallen. "Injuries" have sidelined him but lets face it, this former All-Star starter is a worthless, whiny sack of crap. Within days he was a cancer stick on the end of the bench. Just wow. Thank goodness we got him low risk and can send him on his merry way none too soon.

SG
Tracy McGrady - B-
Tough to give TMac, still the heart and soul of this team, such a lousy grade but the fact is he is injury prone and has done little to dissuade the haters from pointing that out missing nearly 15 games and putting out a paltry 22 points a game. He is still hesitant and too reliant on an erratic shot that is near unstoppable when on, and unfortunately he doesn't hold back when it's off. But I have to give it to him, he is deferring to Yao Ming, who is having a career year. He still passes the ball well, has excellent court vision, and continues to hold his own on defense. His PPG have taken a hit but he is still a deadly scorer and when hot, can be as good as any in the league, Kobe included. Consistency TMac, consistency.

Luther Head - C+
After a hot start last year, Head disappearred in the playoffs and had been missing for most of the early part of the season, shooting poorly and playing with marked hesitation. Now he has earned back some playing time and is slowly becoming the deadly 3 point shooter he was last year. Still a defensive liability and still spotty; with TMac healthy he won't get more than 15-20 but if TMac goes down again it's hard to say which Head will show up; the 20 point deep threat or the complete no-show Head of last years postseason. Hard to rely on that.

Kirk Snyder - D-
Hard to get a feel for him; not a great shooter, inconsistent scorer, poor defender, but he didn't get much of a chance. Was much more effective in Utah and New Orleans but was essentially worthless. Turned into Gerald Green, who is a raw talent. Won't fail him because he seems like a nice enough dude.

Adam Haluska INC
Didn't know he even existed until yesterday. Got him in the BJax trade.

SF
Shane Battier B+
Hard to believe we thought we could win two years ago, trading a raw but clearly talented Rudy Gay for the proven, peaked, but consistent Battier. Still a tough defender and pretty reliable deep threat but otherwise an offensive non-presence, doing a lot more than his numbers show but not bringing the kind of impact Rudy Gay brings. Hard to knock his day in, day out hard work and he is the perfect glue guy but man... what if? What if...

Bonzi Wells B-
Reliable scoring off the bench; Adelman loves his packages and since he came out with Head it gave us some size down low. Great rebounding guard but he slows down the system with his back-that-ass-up style of posting up smaller guards. Tough defender when he wanted to be. Was a pretty good locker room presence this year, not the usual cancer/headcase. Already have that with Franchise. Tough loss to swallow; definitely not near the Sacto performance of a couple years back but solid backup.

Gerald Green INC
Not enough playing time in Minny to assess. Young guy, very talented, very athletic, hard worker, potential to be a good defender if taught properly (one year to late to learn from JVG/Tom Thibodeau), but not a great shooter, and not the smartest guy in the world. Will be a project. Certainly no worse than Snyder, who was a bust even in Adelman's run and gun system.

Steve Novak C
Defensively worthless, not very athletic, but a deadly scorer. Has been effective in limited minutes. Definitely a "situation" guy. Hard to justify playing this guy if you don't need someone to spread out the zones. For a cheap 2nd round pick, not a bad pickup but he is more of a liability than not.

PF
Luis Scola A-
Just like Battier, far better than his numbers show. What a steal we got from San Anton. Great passer, has molded into a great offensive presence when needed, solid rebounder, and tough defender. Big time hustle guy. I love this guy, I would probably have a man crush except for his nasty looking greasy hair. What a pickup - he has become a solid starter.

Chuck Hayes B
Dude, I love Chuck Hayes, I may have a man crush on him too. He is offensively retarded, this is no doubt, but he remains an elite defender and tough rebounder. Fantastic hustle guy. Will never detract from any offensive set out there and is always around for the opportune putback basket. Such an amazing complementary player, and so humble. I think I do have a man crush.

Carl Landry B+
Has really come into his own and is taking some of poor Chuck's playing time (most of it actually). Fantastic rebounder, good scorer, incredibly athletic. Such an efficient scorer (shooting 60%). I'm glad we got this guy over Big Baby, kudos again Mr. Morey for proving me wrong. He has a good shot of becoming Chuck Hayes with an offensive game, though Hayes is more of a hustle guy. Very strong and athletic; raw but coming along fast. Amazing pickup. Can you believe how stacked we are at PF now???

C
Yao Ming A+
Career year. Thought big Dwight Howard was going to pass him up but head to head Yao dominated him. 30 point scoring threat on a nightly basis; amazing and efficient post game. Coming into his own as a rebounder and shot blocker, works hard for position and is getting much better with timing. Not nearly as foul prone as before. Beautiful mid range shot, the best free throw shooter on our team, and such a dominant post game. He is the best center in the league, and quietly dominates on a nightly basis. I can't ask for more. I think it's kosher to have two man crushes right? I can't gush enough about how awesome Yao has been. Easily the best center in the league since Shaq's long, slow, and painful decline. Stunning.

Dikembe Mutombo INC
I love the finger waggle. Hasn't played much as Yao has been KNOCK ON FREAKING WOOD healthy, but he still has a bit of the old shot blocking in him. Freakish durability for a 55 year old guy (just kidding). Can count on him in a pinch but he has the ability to fill in should he be needed. Averaging career lows in minutes (8), is 1-7 for the year from the field, but still - the finger waggle is so awesome :D Can't hate.

So as a team, I give them a B+. Hottest team in the league, won 11 straight including toppling the near invincible Hornets with conviction; Yao and Tmac have been on fire, the supporting cast is gelling, the players that didn't fit in are gone, new blood coming in. Still, nothing on the magnitude of Pau to the Lakers (just wow); Lakers are looking amazing and have one of the best benches in the league to backup DFish, Kobe, and Pau. What a robbery. Dallas got much worse with Kidd (how do you trade Harris, who is already better, for Kidd, who can't score, is slow, turnover prone, and at the twilight of his career? AND give up picks and Diop? Idiocy). Spurs got marginally better (and much older) with Thomas providing a mid range threat, Cleveland looks scary with Joe Smith (upgrade from Gooden) and Big Ben, who will provide the Cavs with some real toughness, if he decides to show up. Larry Hughes was largely ineffective (I really like the guy too but I hate to say it, he's been unreliable), but Boobie will have a chance to come into his own (though he's hurt). PHX got much worse with Shaq, don't even get me started. Heat fan rejoice, your future is not so bleak anymore because if Marion stays, he will be perfect for DWade and if he leaves, thats $20 MILLION DOLLARS to invest along with a 1st or 2nd overall pick (likely). Chicago is done for as a franchise. Time for implosion. Glad we didn't trade TMac for Ben Gordon and change. Hornets I don't think got much better (certainly not with James, and arguably not even with Wells, though he fits OK with their system), Portland won't make the playoffs, and Denver is just plain not good enough despite looking great on paper. Utah, though, is so freaking scary. Korver spaces out defenses so much that Boozer, the strongest PF in the league, has free reign over the pain and Deron Williams is like a better version of Kidd. 19-3 since Korver came. Deep bench and talented bigs - they are going to go far. GSW are scary too, they are a threat for 130 on any given night. We beat em though :) Not sure we can keep up in a 7 game series. They are too fast and too deadly; Ellis, B Diddy, Harrington (who is playing extremely well), and SJax. Azibuike is not too shabby either. Most impressive but they won't win it all. And on the East, Detroit looks solid with the addition of Dixon for Nazr (worthless), and the Celtics still have the best record and best trio in the league with Allen, KG, and Pierce. But with the emergence of our bench, the dominance of our stars, and the minor tweaks we made we have a good shot at WCF... or further. Stay tuned!
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UPDATES [Feb. 2nd, 2008|02:50 am]
I just saw SFA OK in concert and it was amazing as always! I am post call and haven't really slept and have to wake up in 3 hours but can't sleep right now :( :( :( Life is busy! I'll try to post some pics.

Anyway I was all moody about the Rockets last time I posted - I still think Gay for Battier was a mistake and despite the fact we got rid of Howard, James has been equally worthless. Luther Head has improved and the rookies Landry and Brooks have been fantastic in limited time. Alston is surprisingly playing well as well. T-Mac looks less and less like a superstar every day. I think it's time to face the fact that he is just chronically injured and, well, pretty much washed up. One good thing is that Yao has become more dominant without T-Mac, putting up his share of 30-20 games. Dwight Howard has gotten leaps and bounds better but Yao manhandled him when they faced and honestly Howard still has a way to go, though he has freakish upside. Scola has been playing solid ball and Chuck Hayes, despite getting less minutes, is still as effective as ever. Even Bonzi is playing well. The funny thing is it took a T-Mac injury for all this to gel; trading T-Mac may very well be a viable option. I was tossing around the idea of getting J-Kidd for T-Mac but honestly we need to surround Yao with shooters, not J Kidd. If Yao were a Howard or Amare, J-Kidd would be a great fit but he is a finesse, half-court center and honestly anyone can get him the ball. Still, T-Mac wil need to step it up if we are going to make it out of the 1st round... this year it really is on him. The supporting cast (except maybe Head, James, and Snyder... and Franchise) has turned things up a notch and Yao is now hands down the best player on the team - time for T-Mac to make things happen.

Anyway I start ICU tomorrow - it's going to be a very painful day! I am not really looking forward to it, I'm already thinking ahead to an afternoon nap... :(
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UPDATE [Dec. 25th, 2007|01:15 pm]
It's been a while.

Rockets suck, McGrady is hurt, I think it's time to re-evaluate things. Mike James has been useless, Luther Head has been ineffective, Brooks probably warrants a bit more playing time given how crappy the others have been, Franchise is washed up, and surprisingly Alston is the most effective PG we have. Scola has been good but slow to improve and Hayes has still been offensively ineffective. McGrady is, I hate to say it, chronically injured and despite Yao having his best season yet, I think he's peaked; Dwight Howard has passed him up. Rudy Gay is exploding in Memphis while Battier puts up his usual modest numbers. And there's really very little else to get excited about off the bench, other than Bonzi finally giving us some much-needed punch. I don't know what to say; it takes time for a new system to set in but it's just not taking. I guess JVG wasn't the problem; the problem is McGrady is on the decline, Yao can't carry a team, and our bench looks a lot better on paper than they do on the floor.

:(

Other than that residency is going well. I won't elaborate too much because I'm not sure anyone even reads this anymore.

IF YOU DO HAPPEN TO READ THIS HOLLA BACK
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EARLY CONCERNS [Oct. 18th, 2007|11:07 pm]
Having watched/followed some of the early Rockets preseason games, here are some concerns player by player (having already addressed team concerns!)

1) Rafer Alston - My biggest concern is can we trade him!?!? Seriously though this guy shot more 3 pointers than T Mac last year as our POINT GUARD, made dumb decisions frequently, did not have the best A:T ratio in the world (putting it mildly), and oftentimes was an unreliable scorer. He was also horrendous as a on-the-ball defender despite getting a fair amount of steals. He has incredible room for improvement and early preseason play hasn't changed my opinion on him.

2) Shane Battier - He is an amazing 3 pt shooter when he's on but he's had long cold stretches as well and I have the feeling it got to him mentally to the point that he was hesitant to take shots. This CANNOT happen as he will be on the floor a lot, being the "glue guy" for just about any potential lineup. He will get tons of outside looks with Yao and T-Mac both on the floor and will need to convert for the Rockets to be successful as Yao has yet to prove he can effectively score while double teamed. He needs to remain confident and consistent.

3) Aaron Brooks - Two concerns: early summer league play showed he could hold his own with the rookies but how many great summer leaguers have been complete busts? Plus he is incredibly undersized. He may provide some energy scoring off the bench as he is quick and a great shooter but he will be a defensive liability and a mismatch against just about every PG in the league. He will be a utility player and once he gets some experience and confidence could be a dangerous weapon but he won't be a factor until close to All-Star Break when he gets a few games under his belt. He could be a sleeper scoring threat though late in the year(see Daniel Gibson).

4) Jackie Butler - he's our #3 center and really just has to be a big body inside for a few minutes a game. I imagine he will eventually be a great backup to Yao; he has a lot of upside to be a solid rebounder and shot blocker. I don't have any concerns because I don't have any expectations.

5) Steve Francis - Of course the real concern is if he has anything left in his tank after two unproductive years in NY where he was beset by ankle injuries, confidence issues being a backup, gained some weight, got slower, and all in all was nowhere near the Franchise of the past. He is expected to be a backup to James or Alston and really is a freebie addition as he adds depth and there's not a lot to be expected but again, he was once the star of this Franchise and if he doesn't atleast put 10 ppg up people are going to see him as a disappointment whether or not they realize that he is just extra insurance.

6) Mike Harris - Likely won't make the team; he is an open shooting threat and athletic but isn't offensively gifted or big enough to make a real difference. Will need a lot of work to prove he can make the team.

7) Chuck Hayes - Needs to work on a mid-range shot. Even though he is noted mainly for hustle and rebounding, which he does extremely well, and even though he is a good, if under-sized, defender, it remains that offensively other than opportunity baskets he is a liability. Should be a huge asset off the bench though, if Scola starts but I'll get to that in a bit...

8) Luther Head - Talk about collapse last postseason. He emerged midseason as a possibly 6th man candidate and an amazing shooting presence off the bench, near the tops in the league, but COMPLETELY melted in the playoffs. Has always been a lousy defender, very soft offensively. Other than his lights out shooting he hasn't proved he can pull his weight in big games as even his shooting is worthless when his confidence is as low as it was against Utah. He's a hard worker so I think it's nothing that a little focus won't fix in terms of not getting psyched out with shooting slumps but defensively he has a long way to go and Adelman is not the coach to groom that talent, especially when it looks like he has little defensive instinct.

9) Mike James - for a guard that used to thrive on quickness, age is a real concern. He had an awful season with the Wolves last year and with Foye they had no real need for him, though trading for Juwan Howard is hilarious. I don't know where he fits in in the PG depth chart, but he could potentially shot. Hopefully he won't rely on his outside shot and will continue to attack as that is his strength; he is at best an average outside shooter but recently he appears to be leaning on that crutch more and more. Here's hoping he still has a bit of the Toronto Mike James in him.

10) Carl Landry - Very raw but has the potential to be a fantastic rebounder. Will need a lot of work in the NBDL. Likely won't make the team or will spend most of his time on the IR.

11) John Lucas - Should be cut; he is offensively clueless about how to run the team, freezes in the big time, isn't a great shooter or scoring threat, and is undersized defensively. Works hard, I guess. In all rights he should be cut; he isn't NBA material.

12) Tracy McGrady - We all know he can score, play defense, dish the ball; he did it all when no one else stepped up vs. Utah and I don't care what the haters say, but T-Mac is the heart of this team and this team will go only as far as he carries them. He is the emotional core of this team. The supporting cast and new offense should allow him more freedom on offense and a little less strain on his back and hopefully his minutes will be 35 or less on a daily basis so he will be fresh in the postseason. The fact remains that he has been hurt every year with back problems and this year will likely be more of the same; I fully expect him to miss 5-10 games atleast with back problems just based on history. I expect the world from T-Mac but I can't get mad at the guy, he plays his heart out every game. Don't know what else to say really, since his back is really always the only real concern. I have no doubts about his leadership. He is the emotional center of the team and the rest of the team feeds off his energy and he makes excellent decisions in the clutch. Again, the Rockets go as far as T-Mac can take them because without T-Mac, we are dead in the water.

13) Yao Ming - The concern is always his health given his injuries the last two years but I mean, how often do you expect someone to get osteomyelitis? Tibial plateau fractures? Freak injuries. Yes tall people are more likely to succumb to them but seriously... Anyway, Yao is going to be even more of a dominant force this year in the low post and is the best shooting big man in the league when he's single-covered. Two concerns: will he be able to adjust to the high post offense of Adelman and keep up with the frenetic offensive pace he is known for? And will he adjust better to double coverage, as throwing defenders at him threw him away off in Utah and has always been a problem for him. And let's face it, he IS going to get double covered by just about any team since he is by far the best center in the league. Valid concerns but Yao is a hard worker and I am sure he will adapt as he always has. He has improved year after year and I have no idea where his ceiling is. He has the potential to be one of the best centers ever and I expect a lot out of him.

14) Dikembe Mutombo - He's 42, creaky, and won't be able to put up serious numbers, we know that. Offensively he has a dinky hook shot and can get some putbacks but where his talents really come in are on the rebounding and shotblocking fronts, where he hasn't lost too much in recent years (despite being a far cry from the low-post force he was as a young player). He is still a significant threat inside defensively. And he will buy Yao minutess, which is the most important thing. Still, if Yao gets hurt (knock on wood!), he won't be able to put up serious minutes and we will really be testing Jackie Butler to put up 20 minutes of work at center or have to go small ball. Neither option is appealing. Here's hoping it won't come to that! SAY NO TO OSTEO YAO.

15) Brad Newley - Talented offensive player that we may never see. Will be in Australia for the near future. Would be surprised if he gave up stardom there for benchwarming here.

16) Steve Novak - Has not proven a damn thing in two years. Hasn't been a consistent shooter even though we know he has the potential to be a high percentage open shooter. Defensively worthless. Hasn't shown much improvement over two years. This may be the best he gets, and if that's true, he's done in this league. He may find a niche in Adelman's system for certain offensive situations but I can't see him getting much playing time in.

17) Justin Reed - Won't see much playing time. He has the potential to be a decent 3rd string, earning 10 minutes a game and getting a few boards and easy points. Doesn't have great shooting range. Defensively I don't know how good he is but I know he can't guard marquee forwards; both Hayes and Scola are much better options. Don't see him getting much better as I think this is less due to him being raw as much as it is due to him just not being that talented. Still, he is a big body we can throw around if he makes the active roster.

18) Luis Scola - Has been extremely foul prone early on. Very active rebounder and a decent scorer with a good mid-range shot. Has the potential to start if he can keep out of foul trouble as he was a very good defender overseas and has the potential to be the same here once he adjusts to the rules. May take the better part of the year for that to happen; Hayes will likely be the opening day starting forward. But Scola will come around and given his play with Tau Ceramica and his work ethic, I have no doubts he can be the same player in this league. I'm very excited to see how he turns out.

19) Kirk Snyder - Was a decent pickup at the price we got him, can be an athletic open-court scoring threat but is not a very good shooter and not a great defender. He has improved somewhat since we picked him up and may thrive in Adelman's high post offense as he is a great cutter but I don't see him getting much playing time. And though he has improved a bit, it's not enough for him to make a good case for himself taking anyone else's playing time at SG or SF (even Head). He will get 10 min/gm if he's lucky.

20) Bob Sura - His back ended his career two years ago. Kept around for locker room presence but he's got nothing in the tank. More valuable for his veteran leadership and expiring contract than anything else. Maybe we can get a draft pick out of him or package him with Alston for a little more depth at forward.

21) Bonzi Wells - What a headcase. Here's hoping he returns to form (13 and 8 like he put up in the playoffs). He's not the greatest shooter but he is a good post-up guard, is sizeable, can be a great defender when he wants to, and has been humbled time and time again to the point that I HOPE he has learned his lesson. I know for sure he doesn't think he's the shit like he used to. Still, he's a cancer and just not a very good person in general. He was a gamble to take from the beginning and we paid very little for him and got even less. Never got along with JVG. If that fatass could lose some weight he could easily return back to his 13 and 8 playing form but that's really up to him. Mentally I don't know where he is. He looks better this preseason than he did at any point last year as a Rocket but who knows how long that will last. Could have been a difference maker in some of those close games vs. Utah, esp game 7. I hope we will see the Sacto playoff Bonzi we saw two years ago and not the headcase fatass we've been seeing in Houston. One can only hope, but his preseason has been promising so far.
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NEW RADIOHEAD [Oct. 10th, 2007|04:54 pm]
IS MINDBENDINGLY AMAZING

It's the most comfortable I've heard them sound since OK Computer; the band has a groove that has to be heard to be believed. The dense sounds and vocals build and swell and ebb so beautifully, it's just phenomenal. They just sound so comfortable playing together, and you can tell that Jonny Greenwood has grown a ton as a musician since the last couple of albums as his touch is all over this. This is tons better than Thom Yorke's solo album, even though his voice is just as beautiful. It's the dense layers of guitars and synths and ambience that really makes this album. The lyrics are just as haunting though, something that Yorke has always been stunning at. Greenwood is an amazing musician and you can tell that as good as Yorke is, he is much better in the context of Radiohead than as a solo artist. This is just the tightest, most focused Radiohead album I have heard since Kid A. And as amazing as OK Computer is (still my favorite CD of all time) this is just a much more sophisticated and musically skilled Radiohead. It's stunning, just mindblowing, I've heard it three times in a row. WOWZERS.
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YAO MING YAO MING YAO MING YAO MING YAO MING YAOOOO MING [Oct. 9th, 2007|10:17 pm]
#1 IN HOLLINGER'S PER RANKINGS BITCHES

1. Yao Ming, HOU
2007-08 outlook: Check out Yao's numbers on a season-by-season basis -- they've gone steadily upward. He figures to keep heading in that direction; in fact, the projections foresee him having the... Complete Profile 2007-08
Projected PER
28.51
League Avg: +13.51
2006-07 PER: 26.54

2. Dwyane Wade, MIA
2007-08 outlook: Wade is likely to miss a few games at the start of the season as he recovers from offseason shoulder and knee surgeries, so much like Kobe Bryant a year ago he could have a slow... Complete Profile 2007-08
Projected PER
27.43
League Avg: +12.43
2006-07 PER: 29.04

3. LeBron James, CLE
2007-08 outlook: As always, the sky is the limit for James. He projects to have the third-best PER in the league this season, and even that may be underselling his prospects. Much of what he does... Complete Profile 2007-08
Projected PER
26.76
League Avg: +11.76
2006-07 PER: 24.56

4. Kobe Bryant, LAL
2007-08 outlook: So, what do you suppose he can do in a year when he doesn't have preseason knee surgery? While Bryant's trade quasi-demand has taken center stage, that shouldn't take the... Complete Profile 2007-08
Projected PER
25.34
League Avg: +10.34
2006-07 PER: 26.13

5. Dirk Nowitzki, DAL
2007-08 outlook: Because of what happened in the playoffs last year, Nowitzki won't repeat as MVP unless he averages 37 points and 23 rebounds a game. This is preposterous, of course, but it's... Complete Profile 2007-08
Projected PER
24.76
League Avg: +9.76
2006-07 PER: 27.70

6. Chris Paul, NOR
2007-08 outlook: Paul should again be among the league's point guards, and if he can stay off the injured list his first All-Star berth is well within reach. The projections are hugely optimistic... Complete Profile 2007-08
Projected PER
24.67
League Avg: +9.67
2006-07 PER: 22.00

7. Dwight Howard, ORL
2007-08 outlook: Howard is still young, has shown continuous improvement to this point, and off the court is a Boy Scout whose idea of a wild night is staying up til 11:00 to watch the end of "High... Complete Profile 2007-08
Projected PER
24.51
League Avg: +9.51
2006-07 PER: 21.19

8. Gilbert Arenas, WAS
2007-08 outlook: Arenas should be fully recovered from the knee injury by the time the season starts, and once again he's swearing he'll... Complete Profile 2007-08
Projected PER
24.33
League Avg: +9.33
2006-07 PER: 24.07

9. Kevin Garnett, BOS
2007-08 outlook: The long-expected Garnett trade finally came to pass, sending him to Boston in return for half of the Celtics' roster. It's possible the chance at contending could provide added... Complete Profile 2007-08
Projected PER
24.10
League Avg: +9.10
2006-07 PER: 24.20

10. Chris Bosh, TOR
2007-08 outlook: Bosh is only 23 and already is among the best power forwards in basketball, so obviously his future looks rosy -- he's projected to rank 10th in the league in player efficiency... Complete Profile 2007-08
Projected PER
24.02
League Avg: +9.02
2006-07 PER: 22.72

11. Carlos Boozer, UTA
2007-08 outlook: Boozer missed huge chunks of the previous two seasons with hamstring problems, so the threat of injury is always a concern. But if he gets through the schedule he should be a... Complete Profile 2007-08
Projected PER
23.80
League Avg: +8.80
2006-07 PER: 24.11

12. Amare Stoudemire, PHO
2007-08 outlook: With the microfracture thing behind him, it once again seems the sky is the limit for Stoudemire. And don't fret too much about that knee surgery in early October either -- while... Complete Profile 2007-08
Projected PER
23.73
League Avg: +8.73
2006-07 PER: 23.15

13. Tim Duncan, SA
2007-08 outlook: Duncan is technically a free agent next summer, but don't hold your breath. The Spurs can and will extend his deal for the max before the season starts. On the court, Duncan's... Complete Profile 2007-08
Projected PER
23.72
League Avg: +8.72
2006-07 PER: 26.19

14. Carmelo Anthony, DEN
2007-08 outlook: The projections have Anthony finishing second in per-minute scoring behind Kobe Bryant, but the addition of Iverson may change the nature of Anthony's output. It's possible he'll... Complete Profile 2007-08
Projected PER
23.07
League Avg: +8.07
2006-07 PER: 22.20

15. Tracy McGrady, HOU
2007-08 outlook: McGrady's player efficiency rating should stay in the low 20s, but expect it to be structured differently. The Rockets' talent influx in the offseason should allow him to ease up... Complete Profile 2007-08
Projected PER
22.92
League Avg: +7.92
2006-07 PER: 23.28
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FINISHING THIS UP [Oct. 5th, 2007|05:45 pm]
WTIH A SPUTTER. Let's finish with the SE division, which kind of sucks.

1. Washington (41-41) - Gonna assume Agent Zero resigns, or this team is dead in the water. Fact is, Jamison/Arenas/Butler is one of the best trios in the league, really only second to KG/Pierce/Allen, and Washington has a little more to work with off the bench. But just a little. They still suck at the center spot. Etan Thomas and Brendan Haywood are worthless. Nick Young was a steal at #16 in the draft, and I still like Agent 50 or whatever the hell DeShawn Stevenson calls himself; he can be an efficient scorer and doesn't really need a lot of touches. They lost Hayes and I doubt Blatche will be that good so really that's about it. Not much to write home about; if Arenas is smart he will get out while he can because Jamison is only getting older and I'd be pissed at Ernie Grunfeld too if I saw how little this team improved over the offseason. They had a good draft and they'll be good because Arenas is phenomenal. But it's an Eastern conference that has gotten tons better at the top and there's no chance in hell Washington is going to crack it.

Prediction: 43-39, #6 in East

2. Orlando (40-42) - Laughable. How do you sign Rashard Lewis to a max, let Darko get away, and then do nothing else to help a team chock full of holes? Dwight Howard is a stud and Lewis is good but he's like Hill again minus the versatility (which is what made Hill) and the injuries (which is what did him in) - he's no max contract player. Jameer Nelson is a shoot first point guard which is a mistake given how many touches Lewis and Howard will need. And they got no help from the draft. Tony Battie is even more worthless now that he's out for the year with a shoulder injury. Keith Bogans is a sleeper, a good pickup they made. They also signed Adonal Foyle, who will likely get significant playing time now that Battie is out. This team will make it because of the star talent but they don't stand a chance of making it out the first round.

Prediction: 38-44, #8 in East

3. Miami (44-38) - Well this team was built to win one, and they won one. D-Wade is going to be sidelined for a while with injuries, Shaq is getting older, Toine is worthless, they lost Posey, and J Will is good but has lost much of the speed that made him so dangerous. Haslem and Zo are back and both are going to be solid but not enough for this team to amount to much. Daequan Cook was a good pickup though, and Dorell Wright could get better. Still though, when your options are Penny and Smush to back up J Will at PG, you are in a world of trouble. This team needs Flash back but he isn't going to be able to lift all the dead weight up again this year. It's what happens when you build a team for one title, but I'm sure most Heat fans will tell you it was worth it.

Prediction: 38-44, #9 in East

4. Charlotte (33-49)

This is a team with TREMENDOUS upside. J Rich was a decent pickup but I think they really should have kept Brandan Wright becuase this team isn't going to be a contender just from that one pickup. Years of lottery picks, though, have left them a huge array of young talent. People still believe in Adam Morrison but I think he sucks ass. He's a poor shooter who makes bad decisions and can't play defense. But Okafor is awesome, one of the most underrated bigs in the league. Felton should make a big splash in his first season as sole starter at PG. Walter Hermann should develop but I think the biggest re-signing was Gerald Wallace, who was oftentimes the most consistent scorer on the team. The potential starting line-up of Okafor, Wallace, J Rich, and Felton is formidable to say the least. Too bad Sean May is out for the year. And their bench is nothing to laugh at either. Matt Carroll was a surprise last year off the bench and they have a lot of young guys who could step up. It's not going to happen yet but give it a year and these guys will have their first taste of the playoffs. As long as J Rich's knees don't give out.

Prediction: 34-48, #13 in East

5. Atlanta (30-52) - I think I may be underestimating Atlanta. THey had a good draft with Acie Law and Al Horford, adding a much needed PG but strangely enough drafting another forward. I mean, Josh Smith, Josh Childress, Marvin and Shelden Williams... how many small forwards do you need? Joe Johnson ought to be solid as always and Zaza Pachulia should get better. I still think the young guys need time to mature, I'm not sure these guys are quite ready for the big time yet. But they will be a team to watch over the next couple of years, especially if Horford fills out and plays the 4 and really lives up to his sky-high potential. Not a lot to say here but stay tuned because these guys are going to be making a run for the top soon. Just not this year.

Prediction: 31-51, #14 in East

#14
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HOLLINGER RANKINGS [Oct. 5th, 2007|05:44 pm]
1. Chicago Bulls 55-27 1st in Central
Despite the glaring lack of frontcourt scoring, the Bulls are a threat to be taken very seriously ... MORE
2. Cleveland Cavaliers 54-28 2nd in Central
People are dismissing the Cavs after watching their unimpressive performance in the Finals ... MORE
3. Boston Celtics 51-31 1st in Atlantic
The addition of Garnett and Allen means the team is likely to more than double its win total ... MORE
4. Orlando Magic 49-33 1st in Southeast
With the youth and the addition of Lewis, a five-game improvement doesn't seem outrageous ... MORE
5. Detroit Pistons 48-34 3rd in Central
Despite the incredibly good fit between Detroit's different pieces, one wonders if this nucleus ... MORE
6. Miami Heat 43-39 2nd in Southeast
The Heat are an incredibly difficult team to predict this year because they're basically ... MORE
7. Atlanta Hawks 42-40 3rd in Southeast
Atlanta should win as much as it loses this season, and in this conference that makes ... MORE
8. Charlotte Bobcats 40-42 4th in Southeast
Nobody is talking about the Bobcats, but the way they finished last season people really ... MORE
T-9. New Jersey Nets 39-43 T-2nd in Atlantic
The Nets still envision themselves as contenders in the East, but it's time for a reality check. ... MORE
T-9. Toronto Raptors 39-43 T-2nd in Atlantic
Every key Raptor except Bosh and Bargnani projects to have a lower PER than a season ago ... MORE
11. New York Knicks 38-44 4th in Atlantic
The Knicks won't be terrible, simply because Randolph gives them such an offensive force ... MORE
12. Milwaukee Bucks 35-47 4th in Central
The Bucks should be quite a bit better because they'll effectively add three players to the ... MORE
13. Washington Wizards 33-49 5th in Southeast
I see Washington in decline for at least a year or two until the youngsters are ready to step up ... MORE
14. Indiana Pacers 28-54 5th in Central
The Pacers seem headed in the wrong direction, and their reluctance to nuke the roster ... MORE
15. Philadelphia 76ers 21-61 5th in Atlantic
Despite the good karma from last season's finish, it seems to me the Sixers will need to ... MORE


Hollinger's Projected Western Conference Standings (INSIDER)
TEAM PROJECTED RECORD PROJECTED DIV. FINISH
1. Houston Rockets 61-21 1st in Southwest
Betting on Adelman and McGrady to achieve postseason success hasn't been a really wise ... MORE
2. San Antonio Spurs 59-23 2nd in Southwest
Once again, we'll conveniently ignore the Spurs until March 1, then look up and notice ... MORE
3. Dallas Mavericks 58-24 3rd in Southwest (5th seed)
While I still get this uneasy feeling that 2006 was this team's best shot at a ring ... MORE
4. Phoenix Suns 54-28 1st in Pacific (3rd seed)
They'll still be a great show, of course, and they'll still be a factor come May. But ... MORE
5. Denver Nuggets 53-29 1st in Northwest (4th seed)
So while the upside for this group is high, they look more like bridesmaids in this conference. ... MORE
6. Utah Jazz 50-32 2nd in Northwest
The Jazz have a couple factors pulling them in each direction. On the one hand ... MORE
7. Los Angeles Lakers 43-39 2nd in Pacific
Nobody's really sure what their goal is or what the timeframe is for achieving it, but they ... MORE
8. New Orleans Hornets 39-43 4th in Southwest
With improved health and the decline of several potential contenders, I think they'll ... MORE
9. Golden State Warriors 36-46 3rd in Pacific
The fact the Warriors put it all together for two months last season doesn't necessarily ... MORE
10. Seattle SuperSonics 35-47 3rd in Northwest
Clearly, we shouldn't expect much of a home-court advantage. But the Sonics will be better ... MORE
11. Memphis Grizzlies 34-48 5th in Southwest
Yes, they'll be better, but that's hardly saying much. This is a transition season ... MORE
12. Sacramento Kings 27-55 4th in Pacific
As a result, I'm looking for the worst Kings season yet -- and that's before they break out the ... MORE
13. Portland Trail Blazers 26-56 4th in Northwest
Blazer fans might be crying into their organic fair-trade soy lattes after the loss of Oden, but ... MORE
14. Minnesota Timberwolves 22-60 5th in Northwest
The Wolves lost 50 games with Garnett, and clearly they won't be better without him. ... MORE
15. Los Angeles Clippers 20-62 5th in Pacific
Lots of people expect the Clippers to stink now that Brand is out. I'll take things a step further
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Central Div [Oct. 3rd, 2007|05:35 pm]
Second to last!

1) Detroit (53-29) - Billups is back, Sheed is supposedly hungry, Tayshaun gets better year after year, and Rip is still one of the most consistent. But why do I get the feeling that things aren't going to be much better this year for the new Bad Boys? They miss Big Ben in a big way, that's for sure. They had a good draft, picking up Arron Affalo and Rodney Stuckey, but those guys won't make an impact for a couple of years at the earliest. I don't think Hayes will make a difference and Nazr Mohammed is worthless. McDyess is miraculously still intact but is really at this point an afterthought. And Webber may not be back because of cap problems and even if he were, what is he worth? He's still a great passer and fair shooter but he had absolutely not explosivness left in his legs and can't rebound or D worth crap. Jason Maxiell may be better this year with more playing time and Amir Johnson is a promising young player. Still though, there's just not much after the four stars on the floor. But those four stars are more than enough to make a big dent in the East, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them in the ECF.

Prediction: 49-33, #3 in East

2) Cleveland (50-32) - King James can't do it all alone. With Pavlovic and Varejao still unsigned, the Cavs are going to have to rely on Boobie to step up. The only pickup they made is Devin Brown. Devin Brown. The big teams in the East somehow decided the status quo would be enough to elevate them to the next level. I don't care how much better Lebron gets, but Daniel Gibson and Drew Gooden aren't enough of a supporting cast to win (look how bad they got creamed in the finals), I hate Varejao with a passion because he is a talentless flopper, and Pavlovic is frighteningly inconsistent with his game. Big Z is well on his way to being a has-been but still has that pretty mid-ranger. But it's not going to be enough. Cleveland had its day in the spotlight, got ushered out quickly, and will likely lose Lebron to free agency if they don't make a big splash in the market soon. Sucks for them!

Prediction: 43-39, #5 in East

3) Chicago (49-33) - Chicago is LOADED with talent. LOADED. But time after time they find themselves reluctant to make the one big move that will put them in Finals territory. They kept Deng, who is stellar, but missed out on KG, who is phenomenal. I'm glad they didn't trade for Pau though because they would have overpaid for a forward who is honestly one of the more overrated bigs in the game. Joakim Noah was a good draft pick as he will be a fantastic addition to the current core without detracting from the chemistry or demanding touches. Hinrich is one of the best defensive guards in the game and one of the most underrated and intelligent PG's around. Ben Gordon, while amazing in spurts, is not a consistent threat. Deng, however, has emerged as a bonafide star. Big Ben still has the inside presence that Chicago needs but is offensively retarded. And the bench is just amazing - Sefalosha, Duhon, Ty Thomas, these guys could start for a lot of teams. There's a lot of bright young talent on this team and just enough veteran know-how to make it work. But you have to wonder why they never made that move for KG or Pau when that would almost certainly have been enough to earn a Finals appearance. Still, they stand a great shot now but they don't have anything that makes them stand out over Boston, San Antonio, or Houston. But Paxson has done a great job with the house that Michael built; he turned them from bottom-feeders into a perennial playoff threat. That's how you build a franchise.

Prediction: 56-26, #2 in East

4) Indiana (35-47) - You know, I feel kinda bad for Pacers fans. Since the brawl where Artest singlehandedly ruined Reggie's shot at a title, the Pacers have had such awful luck. I mean, who are they left with? The injury-prone Tinsley and O'Neal (who wants out)? Mike Dunleavy (HAHAHAHAHA)? That was, by the way, the dumbest trade of the year. I don't know anyone can even advocate that with a straight face. Besides Marquis Daniels (who looks like a catfish) and Troy Murphy (who is overpaid and largely worthless) there's not much bench talent to mention. Diogu is raw but could be good and Danny Granger doesn't completely suck. What else is there to say? How the mighty have fallen.

Prediction: 22-60, #15 in East

5) Milwaukee (28-54) - After all that Yi jazz, things have finally settled down in Buck-town. They have a good core going in with Redd, Mo Williams, Yi, Villaneuva, Bobby Simmons. Charlie Bell was a good guy to keep around, and Bogut is OK at what he does. Still not going to be enough to win it in the East. This is the kind of team that really needs to shake things up to stand a chance at winning (and keeping Redd, who is kind of nuts for dealing with this crap for this long). I'm not convinced about Yi. I don't see him putting up more than 12-15 a game. He has a pretty shot and is fast but he doesn't have the toughness or size to really play PF or C that well. Who wants a forward who can score 12 but can't rebound or play D? I don't know, we will see. I'm just not convinced.

Prediction: 34-48, #12 in East
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Atlantic [Oct. 1st, 2007|06:14 pm]
Freaking ESPN :( I wanted to sit on this for a while longer. Anyway... I'll start with the strongest division first. How the hell did this happen? I always had a good laugh from the Atlantic. Oh well!

1. Boston (24-58) - Well it's obvious who had the best offseason besides Houston. Reminds me a lot of the old 96-97 Rockets when they traded a shitload of roleplayers (and some damn good ones as it turns out) for Barkley. Barkley averaged almost 20 and 15 that year and between Chuck, Glide, and Dream the Rockets coasted all the way to the WCF and lost to a solid Jazz team. I hate the Jazz. Boston has a similar predicament - they have very little in the way of a bench but have two lights-out shooters in Pierce and Allen and the most versatile forward in the game in KG. They plucked defensive genius Tom Thibodeau from the Rockets as an assistant coach (though I doubt that will change Doc Rivers' incompetence too much). AND they picked up solid role players in Posey and House. And uh... Scot Pollard. They have a couple of good youngsters in Rondo and Dahntay Jones as well and drafted Big Baby. So the roster is thin, there's no doubt about that. But any time you have 3 future HoF'ers on one roster, you are going to win some games. And given how weak the East is, they are going to clean house. They may not win it all - don't think they match up well against balanced teams like Houston or San Anton, but they are going to make a big splash. They deserve it - the Celtics are one of the most stories franchises in NBA history and they have had nothing to show for it in years. I can't wait to see this trio rock the house.

Predicton: 59-23, #1 in the East

2. Toronto (47-35) - Despite Boston's amazing offseason, the Raptors remain the most well balanced team in the East. TJ Ford is a fantastic point guard, Bosh is a legitimate superstar, and Bargnani will make quite a splash this year, despite only having flashes of brilliance last year. They did lose Mo Pete but signed Jason Kapono (for too much money) and picked up unproven talent in Delfino. Garbejosa should improve quite a bit too. Really other than that they didn't make a lot of change, which is good and bad. They are still a young and inexperienced team and would really have benefited from a veteran presence in the locker room besides, uh, Rasho Nesterovic who will collectively make the whole team Stay-Puft. And the whole reason this team will get anywhere is because the East sucks. In the West they would be competing for the last couple of playoff spots. Still, they are young and fun to watch and have a lot of young talent; their frenetic pace and offensive tilt is refreshing. They may make it as far as the conference semi-finals but not a lot further than that

Prediction: 46-36, #5 in the East.

3. New Jersey (41-41) - When a team goes .500 you expect atleast a few changes, right? Guess not. They lost Mikki Moore, who is overrated, and signed Jamaal Magloire, who is washed. They kept VC, which is huge, and JKidd is still the best PG in the league, but Jefferson is one of the most overpaid mid-level stars in the league and I just don't have that much faith in Krstic. Not sure how big an impact rookie Sean Williams is going to make. I mean, where there's a Kidd, there's a way but seriously - what was VC thinking in re-signing back to an aging team where no one wants to make any change? You hear all the rumors about them making a move for Jermaine but they just don't really have the assets to make it happen in my opinion. Teams like this need to make changes - look at Boston. That wasn't desperation by them, it was genius. Stagnation is the worst thing that can happen to a 5 or 6 seed NBA team, which is why the Rockets have been making such marked changes in the past couple of years. You can't settle in this league.

Prediction: 40-42, #7 in the East.

4. Philadelphia (35-47) - I'll say it up front. I am an AI fan. Iguodala is one of the most fun offensive players to watch and his a defensive genius. He is freaking amazing. But he's no star. He's a Josh Howard type, a third option on most contenders but an invaluable one. I am gushing aren't I? Still though, the Sixers are young and don't have a true superstar but have an amazing veteran presence in Andre Miller, likely the most underappreciated PG in league history. Korver is of course, one of the best spot up shooters in the league and Willie Green is a fine roleplayer. They had a fantastic draft, picking up raw talent in Thaddeus Young and some offensive firepower in Daequan Cook. Koppnonen could be decent as a backup too. However, the big concern is that Dalembert is injured, and even though he is a bit overrated he is a great shot blocker and a good presence in the middle. Carney should improve this year but he's no replacement, and Reggie Evans is really only good for rebounding. And any team that has to start Shavlik Randolph at center is in trouble. Still, this is a team to watch; with one or two good drafts they will be back near the playoff hunt and they are really only a superstar away from making a huge splash.

Prediction: 35-47, #11 in the East (I swear I thought about this and didn't just cut/paste)

5. New York (33-49) - I jumped the gun on this one. I'd like to state right here and right now that I am going to make a slight change in my predictions because the Knicks, clear and simple, really fucked up. Without a stable coach and missing Renaldo Balkman, who was surprisingly a good pickup last year, the Knicks already find themselves shorthanded. I promise I made those predictions a while ago and just have been lazy to post them, really :( Not that more than two people will bother to read this! Anyway, Wilson Chandler isn't going to make a damn bit of difference for this team; only pickup worth mentioning is Zach Randolph. They also dumped Franchise (thanks guys) who was redundant with Starbury on the team. Starbury is still a cancer to most teams - he tries so hard and means well but he has no freaking clue how to win. Randolph is more of the same. Eddy Curry is good but damn did the Knicks give a lot to get him - they could have had a lot more with the draft picks they gave up to Chicago. David Lee, however, is one of the best young forwards in the league and I think most teams would kill to have him. The rest of the team is not even worth talking about. Jerome James? Mardy Collins? Jared Jeffries? Dan Dickau? Q Rich fits well with this team as its just full of headcases who don't know how to work together, besides Lee. What a freaking mess. How is this team this bad and still over the cap? I could have done a better job with 1/3 the money that Thomas is making and avoided legal trouble to boot. But you gotta have a team that everyone can laugh at, not with, and the Knicks are making a good case to supplant the Wolves as "that team."

Prediction: 34-48, #11 in the East.
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CRAP [Oct. 1st, 2007|05:27 pm]
ESPN just posted their power rankings and here are mine I didn't read them I just saw the ROckets were 4 HOORAY so here we go - I will put my analysis up later.

West

1. Dallas 61-21
2. Phoenix 59-23
3. Houston 56-26
4. San Antonio 54-28
5. Utah 49-23
6. Denver 46-36
7. Golden State 45-37
8. Memphis 41-41
9. LA Lakers 36-46
10. New Orleans 34-48
11. Portland 32-50
12. LA Clippers 31-51
13. Seattle 27-55
14. Sacramento 24-58
15. Minnesota 18-64

East

1. Boston 59-23
2. Chicago 56-26
3. Detroit 49-33
4. Cleveland 48-34
5. Toronto 46-36
6. Washington 43-39
7. New Jersey 40-42
8. Orlando 38-44
9. New York 37-45
10. Miami 35-47
11. Philadelphia 35-47
12. Milwaukee 34-48
13. Charlotte 32-50
14. Atlanta 28-54
15. Indiana 22-60
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Gaining ground and gaining traction [Sep. 10th, 2007|01:23 pm]
The season is about to start! So I have to hustle to finish this.

Lets start with the Jazz, who I now revile.

1. Utah (51-31) - So the Jazz pretty much outplayed and outhustled us the last few games of that series. It was embarassing. And it showed how strong they really are as a team and how amazing Sloan is as a coach. For example, their depth is unrivalled because they have a variety of utility players that can be substituted in and out based on need. Take Giricek, a tenacious defender and good mid-range shooter who could start for a lot of teams but comes off their bench. Or AK-47, a former All-Star, now a 4th option who is still one of the most feared shot blockers in the league. Boozer has established himself as a dominant force, Deron Williams looks like the next coming of J Kidd, and Memo is a Sam Perkins-like nuisance. Paul Millsap will be a great boost off the bench, Morris Almond was a fantastic pickup and likely the best shooter in the draft, and despite having a largely faceless bench Utah can boast one of the deepest, best-constructed benches in the league. They won't ever wow anyone but they did impress in the playoffs and they will only get better. Only thing is, so did a lot of other teams and the Jazz made very few moves, which says something about their chemistry but also emphasizes the conservative nature of the franchise, their gift and their curse so to speak. A couple years down the road, these guys could be hoisting that trophy. Just not yet.

Prediction: 49-23, #5 in West

2. Denver (45-37) - Really the only other team to speak of in this Division. AI is aging and slowing but it certainly doesn't phase him; he is still a premier PG. And Melo is a bonafide superstar, now easily on the level of Bron and D-Wade. Of course, they also have the defensive player of the year in Camby, probably the best shotblocker in the league. K-Mart is useless and kind of overpaid but he will give them a good presence down low. Kleiza emerged as a solid option off the bench, and Nene has been consistent over the years. One of the big X-Factors is J.R. Smith, who is a headcase despite being a massively talented offensive player. Will Karl give him a shot after he imploded in last year's playoffs? Chucky Atkins wasn't too bad of a pickup to backup AI. And they just made a move today to add Steven Hunter to backup Camby. Still, this is too little to offset some of the huge moves made by Houston, Boston, and Phoenix that elevated all of those franchises to new levels. As long as they have Melo and AI they will be contenders but the supporting cast is still not quite up to championship caliber.

Prediction: 46-36, #6 in West

3. Portland (32-50) - For all the talk Greg Oden gets, he is not gonig to make a big impact his first year. He is a long term project and will most likely be more of a Bill Russell type than a Ewing or Chamberlain type offensive force. Still, Russell wasn't too bad of a player :) ROY is freaking awesome, I am a huge fan. Aldridge should be good this year, I never realized how raw and skinny he was until I saw him next to the NBA bigs. Getting rid of Randolph was HUGE because he was 1) a bad influence and 2) would single-handedly slow down a fast paced offense a la Barkley. Frye is a decent pickup and Francis was an expensive buyout that was smart in that he would have been dead-weight on that team (and Houston can use him!). Steve Blake was a good cheap pickup. Other than that core, they stole James Jones and Rudy Fernandez from the Suns for next to nothing, got Josh McRoberts relatively low in the draft (he will be a good backup in this league), and picked up Taureen Green pretty late in the draft (I think he is a steal that late). Jarret Jack isn't terrible either. This is a young, growing team. They are years away from the playoffs but they have an exciting core. They won't make any splashes in the next few years but they should steadily improve under the tutelage of Nate McMillan. And they look like they're having fun - that alone makes them worth watching.

Prediction: 32-50, #11 in West

4. Minnesota (32-50) - I feel dumber for even having to write about this team. What a trainwreck. They got next to nothing for KG and have been wasting his prime away with worthless moves, aging veterans, overpaid reserves, and poor draft picks. Not to mention the Joe Smith fiasco years ago that pretty much grounded the franchise for a decade. Corey Brewer is a good kid and a good player, and Randy Foye was a solid pick last year. But they freaking TRADED MIKE JAMES FOR JUWAN HOWARD. HOW DOES ANYONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND DO THAT? ARE YOU FREAKING RETARDED KEVIN MCHALE? Ryan Gomes and Gerald Green are OK young players, though Green has an NBA IQ of about 0, Al Jefferson is of course a solid player but in the West he barely sneaks into the top 10 PF. Ricky Davis will score his points, at the expense of anyone and anything around him. Ratliff is a good shot blocker, and I guess Madsen is a good cheerleader. Hassell's impact defensive days are nearing an end. And look at the rest of the crap on this roster - Telfair, Jaric (HAHAHAHA), Howard!, hell I don't even know a third of the players on this roster. What a pile of shit McHale has put together. And this from a franchise that was tops in the West less than a decade ago. Wow. I'm just going to stop talking.

Prediction: 18-64, #15 in West

5. Seattle (31-51) - I think trading Allen and his smooth-as-butter- shots but bum-as-hell ankles and expensive contract for a young scorer in Jeff Green was one of the smartest moves Seattle has made in years. And getting Durant wasn't a bad move either :) Big Baby was a good pick late in the draft, was really hoping Houston would get him (we had the chance). Collison is actually pretty good (not really lottery material but still), Wilcox isn't too bad, and Ridnour is a solid PG (Delonte West is good as a backup). They have a solid core in Green and Durant to build around and between Seattle and Portland, the Northwest has a lot to look forward to in the coming years. Just hope the fans up there are patient and won't get too mad when the Sonics move to OKC :( Any time you trade a superstar like Allen, you take a step back, but they are poised to take a couple steps forward really soon. This franchise has a bright future, regardless of what city they end up in.

Prediction: 27-55, #13 in West
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Pacific Division [Aug. 27th, 2007|02:55 pm]
So some more useless predictions :)

I'll start with PHX

1) Phoenix (61-21) - Phoenix has been plagued by injuries the past couple of years but this year they stand to make a healthy run to the top. Their core hasn't changed significantly, though they lost James Jones and for some inexplicable reason trade away quality cheap draft picks to sign veterans that are not significantly better. Still, drafting Alando Tucker was a pretty good move; he is a good fit for D'Antoni's system. And of course, Grant Hill at the vet minimum was a phenomenal pickup, and the big reason why Phoenix is still scary as hell. The core of Nash, Stoudemire, Bell, Barbosa, and Marion is close to the best in the league (hard to beat Boston's new triple threat), and having players like Diaw, Hill, and Tucker off the bench... just wow. Phoenix probably won't win only because small ball never manages to beat a solid half court game like what the Texas Trio will have over the course of a 7 game series, but if there was one small ball team that could do it, it's these Suns.

Prediction: 59-23, #2 in West.

2) LA Lakers (42-40) - If you are barely cracking into the playoffs and haven't made any changes, you're only getting worse. Kobe knows that. Passing up on Kidd to keep Bynum, who likely will amount to jack shit, pisses me off and I hate the Lakers. Kobe has every reason to be livid. Odom's shoulder is fragile as well, and really the only other threat is Walton. Farmar is not much of an option at PG, which makes the expensive Fisher pickup a little more reasonable, and Crittenton will take a couple of years to develop atleast. The bench is horrible. Kwame Brown, Mo Evans, Brian Cook... This is a terrible, terrible team. ANd they will still have a shot at the playoffs because Kobe is the best offensive player in the game, hands down. And he's defensively no slouch either. If they trade Kobe, the franchise is done for the decade. If they don't, he leaves and they're done for the decade. Not a good time to be a Lakers fan.

Prediction: 36-46, #9 in West.

3) Golden State (42-40) - I find it hilarious that these guys barely made the playoffs, before upsetting the top seed in the league. They so thoroughly dismantled Dallas after picking up Jackson and Al Harrington (who honestly was kind of useless) that it kind of made me cringe. I mean, they took no prisoners. Still, this is a small ball team that has no clue how to play defense. The moment their shots stop falling, they lose, and lose big. However, Nellie's frenetic pace means that even down by 15 you can't count these guys out. It's hard to say they can repeat the magic but Belinelli is a great pickup for this team, and Brandan Wright is a great young player. Trading J Rich was probably smart, since he's fragile and injury prone and has turned into a jump shooter. Brandan Wright gives them that explosive athleticism that will clear up shots for Jackson and B Diddy, who is again becoming one of the premier PG's in the league. And of course, Monta Ellis emerged as a fantastic SG and Biedrins is a shot blocking monster. Re-signing Matt Barnes was a smart move. This is a team to watch - but they won't go much further than the 1st round.

Prediction: 45-37, #7 in West.

4) LA Clippers (40-42) - Sucks to be an LA fan. Their JV team is equally lousy and was equally inactive. Al Thornton was a decent pickup at #14 (easily the best player left), and Brevin Knight is an adequate PG (which is better than nothing, which is basically what they have left) and I'm sure Elton Brand will put in another solid season and Sam Cassell will somehow keep his magic motor rolling but really... this team needs to build around Brand now instead of adding a piece here and there every so often. Tim Thomas is worthless, Maggette is overpaid and has lost tons of trade stock, and Kaman is simply OK at center. And the bench flat out sucks. Maybe I'm being overly harsh but this is a team just screaming out for new management.

Prediction: 31-51, #12 in West.

5) Sacramento (33-49) - So many Cali teams, so much crap. Atleast the Warriors are fun to watch. Bibby is slowing down and is defensively worthless, and Artest is really a 2nd option at best but is being shoved into first option because there isn't much else. Brad Miller is a softy now and Spencer Hawes probably won't amount to shit. Shareef Abdur-Rahim looks lost out there. Kenny Thomas must be enjoying all that money he gets for sucking out there, reminds me of Juwan. I guess it's good that Kevin Martin had a breakout season, and John Salmons doesn't completely suck, and Mikki Moore is a decent pickup but there is no way that this team wins 30 games. It's funny, on paper they look pretty good until you realize how redundant some players are offensively and how long it's been since half of them have had seasons worth a damn. It's gonna be near impossible to move Bibby given his contract or Artest given his volatility, and most of the other veterans they overpaid are worthless now. Looks like it's rebuilding time!

Prediction: 24-58, #14 in West.
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(no subject) [Aug. 26th, 2007|06:15 pm]
About all I use this thing for these days!

I'm going to do a division by division breakdown of how teams got better/worse (with some help from ESPN.com's transaction meter) and make my (most likely wrong) predictions.

Lets start with the Southwest Division, the most relevant and likely the best division in the league right now. I'll do this by best record last year but cheat a bit since the Spurs won it all.

1) San Antonio (58-24) - Still the team to beat this year. They got ripped off by trading away Scola to Houston but cleared up cap room for key pickups next year. In addition, they signed an incredible Bowen-clonse in Udoka (defensive/3 pt specialist) and a good athletic big in Frenchman Ian Mahinmi while keeping a key player in Oberto and maintaining depth by keeping solid backups in Matt Bonner and Jacque Vaughan. Tony Parker proved that he can shine in the spotlight, Manu is always a threat to explode for 30, and TD is going to be able to play at this level for years. They won't win it this year but with Splitter on the way in 08-09 (what an amazing draft pick, another moment of clarity by Spurs GM wiz RC Buford), expect big things soon.

Prediction: 54-28, #4 in West

2) Dallas (67-15) - What an incredible regular season last year; they nearly reached the storied 70 win mark and in such dominant fashion only to be blown out by the lowly, scrappy Warriors in the playoffs. In a moment of subjectivity, I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thoroughly :) Nick Fazekas was a good draft pick, though he really is a slow and slightly retarded Dirk with even less defensive acumen. They kept key bench players Devean George and Jerry Stackhouse for reasonable prices, added a bit of veteran help with shooter Eddie Jones, and got just a touch older and wiser. They are going to be a strong team this year but I suspect their narrow window of opportunity in an ever more competitive West has passed. The Rockets have gotten significantly better and the Spurs have not gotten any worse; I am hesitant to say that Dallas has not gotten worse as Dirk is going to have a lot of mental baggage, Terry and Stac are going to get just that much slower, and the only really potential up and comer is Mo Ager, though I suspect Josh Howard will have a brilliant season (he is easily the most exciting player on that team). Ddallas is still strong and in position to win it all but I think their time is up.

Prediction: 61-21, #1 in West

3) Houston (52-30)- An amazing offseason has bumped Houston from dark horse contenders to legitimate and dangerous playoff threats. Dumping Van Gundy for Adelman was as troke of genius, as we were offensively retarded despite significant offensive talent. Tracy McGrady will get some help off the bench so that may help his bad back this year; like Dallas, our window is rapidly closing as well. Yao Ming will only get better. We shored up the PG spot and got rid of dud Juwan Howard by getting Mike James and then in a lucky move signing Steve Francis for pennies while drafting sleeper draft pick and stellar shooter Aaron Brooks late in the draft. And in probably the best move, we dumped dud V-Span for stud Luis Scola, who can potentially start at PF for us, allowing us to bring Chuck Hayes in a bench role to cover either F spot. There is an outside chance that Carl Landry and Justin Reed can contribute off the bench, and Jackie Butler is actually a pretty good pickup to backup Yao Ming. We addressed nearly every issue we had before without sacrificing our defensive talent... IF and only IF T-Mac stays healthy there is no reason this isn't our year. Still need to dump Alston somehow...

Prediction: 56-26, #3 in West


4) New Orleans (39-43) - I have very little to say about New Orleans because they bore me. Chris Paul is, of course, the best young PG in the league without a doubt. Peja is expected to be healthy but he has always been a soft and in my estimate, kind of worthless as anything but a spot up shooter as he has lost most of his quickness. Julian Wright can be expected to make a big impact in a team this thin, while Jannergo Pargo is not a bad pickup to back up Chris Paul. For a team this bad, they made very few worthwhile pickups, except maybe Morris Peterson, who will provide a bit of offensive punch. David West will continue to be the best unknown PF in the West, but for a team this bad and in a West this good this team will struggle to crack the playoffs, much less contend.

Prediction: 34-48, #10 in West.

5) Memphis (22-60) - somehow, despite an abysmal season and a near-massive shafting in the draft, the Grizz got better. Not much, but enough. They are dark horses to make the 8 spot now. Mike Conley is a fantastic pickup at the 4th pick; a great option for a young team. Juan Carlos Navarro is also a great pickup; the Grizz got him on the cheap and he provides a nice long range threat with a phenomenal floater (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCXj_fUm_2w). And of course, Pau is staying; he is a great player, not quite franchise but nothing to scoff at. Couple that with a young up-and-comer in Rudy Gay, a solid PF in Hakim Warrick, and of course the off-season acquisition of Darko (one of the best defensive forwards and shot blockers in the league) and its clear why the Grizz are arguably the most improved lottery team around (Portland and Atlanta are still young and lacking a true superstar). Memphis will definitely be better, but will they make the playoffs? Hard to say, but I'm betting on it

Prediction: 41-41, #8 in West.
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Comeback Kids? [Aug. 9th, 2007|10:19 pm]
Penny signing with the Heat and reuniting with Shaq??

Miller making a comeback with the Celtics??

Allan Houston wanting to return to the Knicks??

I have pretty hallowed memories of these guys (well Penny ruined that with comeback #1) so I am not looking forward to watching them hobble around the court trying to get another ring, maybe that's just me (Miller especially, Miller Time is something sacred to all basketball fans, even Spike Lee admits that).

What can you do? I guess at the end of the day I'd want a ring too to cap off my career.

I know my IM Championship T-Shirt (which I am currently wearing) is damn near priceless :D
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It's not like the movies [Aug. 5th, 2007|03:36 pm]
BONDS HITS 755 - just for the record, I think that while Bonds probably did use steroids, so did greater than half the people playing the game during his time; I mean it's obvious why other athletes can avoid the spotlight (they haven't knocked 755 out of the park in their careers) but in this era it's safe to assume that pitchers and hitters are both equally juiced, as sad as it may be. And the thing you can't take away from Bonds is the mental aspect of the game: the concentration, the coordination, the determination. The steroid scandal has pretty much haunted Bonds' career and I'm sure his personal life as well for the past decade; I think the enormous pressure put on him by media just waiting to vilify someone is unwarranted and cruel. I mean look what it did to McGuire. There may always be an asterisk next to Bonds name but I have a feeling that there are a lot others out there escaping the heat and letting it rest on Bonds' shoulders. What can you do? I'll be cheering for him regardless.

As for life, it's been pretty good. Tiring I suppose - was in the ICU all last month and it was probably the most intense but rewarding month of my life. Puts things in perspective a bit; it's been an adjustment to get back into a more casual pace. I've got another guitar lesson today, gonna get back in the grind and see if I can start belting out some Stairway riffs soon. We'll see! Can't complain too much - things are going OK!
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CHUCK HAYES RE-SIGNS [Aug. 1st, 2007|09:59 pm]
HOUSTON LOOKIN GOOD

By the way, as far as one sided deals go, Boston looks like they beat out Houston's trade with San Antonio. KG for Al Jefferson (who may leave), Theo Ratliff's expiring, and three young scrubs in Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, and Ryan Gomes and two draft picks, one of which was Minny's anyway? This is like the battle of the idiots, with McHale beating Ainge out for idiot of the century. What a colossal rip-off. Now Minny is going to buy out Hudson, who may sign with Boston; Boston also picked up Eddie House. All of a sudden, Boston, once the butt of so many jokes, is looking like the best team in the East and possibly a title contender with that kind of talent, despite their clear lack of depth. Ray Allen's bum ankles aside, the prospect of Pierce and Allen taking open shots created by KG's dominant inside game is salivating, even with Rajon Rondo of all people running the point. Boston gave up youth and pretty much the first few years of the 2010's to make a run for it now with three future Hall of Famers. I'm thinking Ainge may have finally gotten lucky enough times in a row to appear smart, and I'm thinking Kevin McHale is a colossal idiot.
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STEVIE FRANCHISE! [Jul. 19th, 2007|06:28 pm]
2 years, 6 million - a steal!

Depth chart time!


SF Shane Battier - Bonzi Wells - Steve Novak
PF Luis Scola - Chuck Hayes - Carl Landry - Justin Reed
C Yao Ming - Dikembe Mutombo - Jackie Butler
SG Tracy McGrady - Luther Head - Kirk Snyder
PG Stevie Franchise - Mike James - Rafer Alston - Aaron Brooks - John Lucas - Bob Sura

Time to dump Lucas, trade Alston and Sura's expiring away and get a quality backup F (young, athletic type), maybe try to move Snyder? I don't know. We need to trim down to 15 and the only definite dump is Lucas; we need to re-sign Hayes, maybe Landry will spend a little quality time in the NBDL before coming up? Sura/Alston need to go, even if just for draft picks, throw in Snyder as well. Who knows, I can't think I am tired and excited.

Can't wait to see Stevie throwin oops to T-Mac!

More reason to drink your sorrows away if you're a Magic fan:

Orlando (stupidest franchise in the league, not even counting the Penny/Shaq days) trades T-Mac, Howard, Reece Gaines, and Tyronn Lue for Cuttino Mobley, Franchise, and Cato. They package Cato to Detroit for Darko and Arroyo, trade Franchise for Trevor Ariza and Penny (who forced Shaq away, got injured and became irrelevant, and signed with Phoenix to get new life essentially leaving Orlando with nothing from those years), waive Penny as an act of vengeance (Hill was fired the first time because of Penny), lose Cuttino to free agency, and basically have Ariza to show for that trade.

Now we have T-Mac, Franchise back, we get Mike James for next to nothing 2 years back, trade him for Alston, get James BACK for Howard who is beyond worthless, and now have Alston and Sura (who we got for Lue) to trade away POTENTIALLY to Orlando.

IRONY ORLANDO IS THY NAME.
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Evolution seemed complete [Jul. 16th, 2007|09:46 pm]
Astros suck :( It's after the break and we are still a crappy team. Ah well, it was a good few years. Rebuilding time again I guess?

Anyway, Aaron Brooks got the Vegas League's top rookie and All-League awards, beating out the other 25 picks ahead of him for that title. Not too bad for a 6'1" SG eh? Between him and James we have quite a potential scoring punch at PG. Time to move Alston I hope?

Also Scola is coming for 3 years and about 9 million - Morey has done quite a good job in his first few weeks as GM; I underestimated his abilities. Brooks looks to make an immediate impact and shipping our 12th man (11th if you count Sura) for another impact player and potential starter - from a division and interstate rival no less - was a stroke of genius. The question remains - how is he going to get us some more interior rebounding (Scola is not known for his boarding skills) and how is he going to move Alston!?

Still though, we've already made dramatic improvements over last years 52 win team in the span of a few weeks and we won't be as boring to watch anymore :D

PS A good read on why SA traded Scola (more specifics than my "clear cap room" theory)

Why the Spurs dealt Scola for virtually nothing.


Many of you have asked and talked about the peculiarity of the Spurs basically handing the Rockets an impact power forward and potential star for cash, a second-round pick and a homesick player (Vassilis Spanoulis) who won't be in the NBA again any time soon.

Well, they did do that.

But the Spurs weren't exactly doing it out of the kindness of their collective hearts.

It looks as if this was a deal that got the Spurs virtually nothing. In truth, they got a lot and continued to show why the organization is among the more forward-thinking in the league.

Originally the Spurs had a deal in place to send the talented Argentine, Luis Scola, to Cleveland. And by the way, I must say had they done that the Cavs could well have taken a huge step toward becoming an Eastern Conference dynasty, considering all their other parts.

When that deal fell through, the Spurs turned to their rivals to the east and helped make the Rockets a lot better. Trust me on that. I've seen Scola up close in the Olympics and love his game. He's better than the Spurs' Fabricio Oberto, but that type of player.

But the Spurs are not four-time title winners because they're dumb. In fact, it could be argued that eventually the Spurs will end up with more significant pieces as a result of this deal.

Ultimately, both teams will be happy. Here's why:

The deal began taking shape shortly after the Spurs decided to take Brazilian center (and Scola's current Tau Ceramica teammate) Tiago Splitter. This kid is a phenomenal prospect as well.

Splitter is a physical player who can score inside and from mid-range, measured 6-11 3/4 at the NBA pre-draft camp two years ago, has a 7-4 reach and is just 22, five years younger than Scola.

Splitter won't be able to buy out his contract until after the 2007-2008 season, which is what the Spurs were looking at when they dealt Scola.

The Spurs could have cleared some money to bring over Scola next season, but as they saw it Splitter was younger, better, a better defender and would cost about the same to sign as Scola.

By including Jackie Butler in the deal and putting in cash considerations, the Spurs will not have to pay Butler's $2.9 million salary next season, nor Spanoulis' $1.9 million. That allows the Spurs to clear a roster spot and be able to better afford signing athletic French big man Ian Mahinmi, their 2005 draft pick, and also free agent swingman and athletic Bruce Bowen-type defender Ime Udoka.

The Spurs' "generosity" helped the Rockets, no doubt. This will be a huge pickup.

But ultimately, Spurs fans are going to love this deal as much or more.

It's going to allow them to bring in the next Bruce Bowen, a project in Mahinmi whose athleticism has been compared to David Robinson's and a younger, taller, better Scola.
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THANK YOU STEPHEN FOR POINTING THIS OUT TO ME <3 [Jul. 12th, 2007|10:21 pm]
I VERY EXCITE RIGHT NOW

We just traded V-Span for Jackie Butler and Luis Scola. Scola is an amazing player who has the potential to start for us while V-Span may not even be stateside next year. With Darko and Walton off the market, the PF market was getting scarce but goddamn.... I always wanted Scola but never thought we would get him. How fucking cool is this?? Scola is amazing - great athleticism, coast-to-coast skills with decent ball handling (great for a PF), good passer, good midranger shooter, fair rebounder (a noted weakness), and I am unsure about his defense. Still, he is a great first option at PF if we can get him to come over from Spain (which seems to be likely).

So assuming he starts - here we are!!!

SF Shane Battier - Bonzi Wells - Steve Novak
PF Luis Scola - Chuck Hayes - Carl Landry - Justin Reed
C Yao Ming - Dikembe Mutombo - Jackie Butler
SG Tracy McGrady - Luther Head - Kirk Snyder
PG Mike James - Rafer Alston - Aaron Brooks - John Lucas - Bob Sura

Again, we have 18 players on this roster. Lucas will likely not come back - he wants more playing time, and Sura's expiring can buy us some cap relief (to sign Francis perhaps?) Snyder will likely benefit from Adelman's system but I wouldn't mind trading him if we can get good value on him. Still though - Scola is an amazing fit for the run-first style of Adelman's system, I am so excited right now. I believe the limit is 15, we may have to send down Landry or Novak to the NBDL to get some experience while not taking up a roster spot (we will see). But man..... this is looking more and more like a championship team. We are maybe one minor move away (PG is still a problem) but should we move Alston and sign Francis and convince Francis not to be a knucklehead but use his talents to be a team player (he was sort of moving in that direction in his last year in Houston) we would be so money. How ironic would that be? It's like trading Mobley and Cato for T-Mac - Orlando has a knack for terrible contracts (making Lewis one of the highest paid people in the league? Come on, the guy has never averaged more than 23, is putty on defense, and is at best a 2nd option on even the worst teams. Congratulations Orlando!)

Wow, just wow. Good time to be a Rockets fan!
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Michael Bay is why the rest of the world hates us [Jul. 4th, 2007|10:26 pm]
Or "Why Transformers is a Piece of Shit"

Point 1: The movie probably spent the GNP of a small country on product licensing before ever touching the effects. The effects, while good, are wasted as it takes a good 90 minutes before they are ever utilized in a semi-interesting fashion. In fact, I have now wasted a good 20 minutes of my time thinking of how much I hated this movie. That makes me kind of mad.

Corollary 1: I just spent 8 bucks to watch a $300 million GM commercial. Half the movie's budget is spend cooking up shitty rock riffs and bad car chases to emphasize how cool American cars look (they don't look very cool, sorry), and Michael Bay conveniently flashes the GM/Camaro/Whatever logo right in the middle of the action.

Point 2: The movie is a soulless piece of commercialization. The only bright point, Optimus Prime, has about 15 minutes of screen time. Peter Cullen's voice made me so nostalgic; to think how good the rest of the movie could have been had they utilized everything that budget could have gotten them. The rest of the Transformers are uninteresting, except maybe Bumblebee; the most glaring offender is Megatron, who has about 10 minutes of screen time, a few corny lines, and is a poor caricature of a villain.

Point 3: The movie was written either by teenagers who dropped out of the 7th grade or money hungry business types who saw nothing in the franchise except a lot of bling. The script is stupid, falls flat when trying to be clever, falls flatter when trying to be profound, and is funny only half the time when it wants to be but most of the time when it absolutely doesn't want to be.

Corollary 3: The actors in this movie are shit. In fact, Shia LeBeouf should transform into a urinal so I can take a nice long whizz. He can combine with the rest of the cast to form a Mega-Urinal and I'll just kind of walk up and down doing my thing. What a trite affair. Atleast the female leads were easy on the eyes.

Counterpoint 3: I get nostalgic seeing this $300 million incarnation of Optimus Prime, it reminds me of what I grew up with and what I could have had. Peter Cullen delivers his cheesy lines with such conviction that it's hard not to get caught up in a childlike fervor when he drones on about whatever those Philistines wrote.

Bottom Line: Transformers spends 90 minutes building up to a plot device that is as cliche and boring as Hollywood can get, only to lead to a revelation that is exponentially more stupid and an action sequence that, while amazing to behold, goes completely unappreciated given all the bullshit we are fed. I can't see how anyone enjoyed this piece of shit; this marks the third big budget piece of shit I've wasted my time on this year. Blame Hollywood.

1.5/10 (1 for the effects, 0.5 for keeping Peter Cullen as Prime's voice)
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INSOMNIA [Jul. 4th, 2007|03:15 am]
Man I woke up a little while ago and am now wide awake. SIGH IT DOESN'T MATTER (/EEYORE)

Anyway, with Orlando signing Rashard (for way too much money) they probably won't pursue Darko hard; Darko will command the mid level exception and then some. So there is a small possibility that if the Rockets cut Sura, who is guaranteed $1 million of his 3 mill salary, we could free up enough cap space to make a good run at him with a good chance of keeping Chuck Hayes. ESPN says Darko wants 9-10 and a long-term deal; best we could do is probably 7-8. But he would be starting and playing with a contender that is just a couple pieces from making noise. Hayes and Mutombo are clearly our priority free agents, and both won't command too much of a salary ($2 million apiece?) and Tsakalidas can take his show on the road for all I care (though if V-Span turns out to be anything he might want another Greek on the team - lets sign Theo Papaloukas!? But he is going to want some serious dough so screw him). Regardless, the only other contender with the money is Chicago if they don't resign Nocioni, who I also wouldn't mind in Houston honestly. Nocioni will likely be a sign and trade though, probably package in some deal to get KG/Kobe if that ever happens.


Sooooo yeah depth chart time assuming we cut Sura, don't resign Tsakalidas, and grab either Darko or Nocion:

SF Shane Battier - Bonzi Wells - (Andres Nocioni?) - Steve Novak
PF Darko Milicic/Andres Nocioni - Chuck Hayes - Carl Landry - Justin Reed - Steve Novak
C Yao Ming - Dikembe Mutombo
SG Tracy McGrady - Luther Head - Kirk Snyder - Vassilis Spanoulis
PG Mike James - Rafer Alston - Aaron Brooks - John Lucas

Couple of things are very clear - Darko would be the better fit between him and Nocioni since he is big, gives us a good interior defender and rebounder to pair up with Yao (as well as one of the league's premier shot blockers along with Camby, Duncan, and presumably Oden next season). We have the MLE again to offer him and can probably clear a bit more space but we won't be able to sign him for the 9-10 he's asking for; hopefully he will want to play for a contender or he can work a sign and trade with Orlando and we can dump Alston on them! Which is the otehr thing that becomes clear - Alston needs to goooooooooooo.

But if we trade Alston, who starts, James? James is a good 6th man but as a starting PG, even in an up tempo system, I am not 100% convinced.

We are getting closer to building a solid supporting cast around the two stars but it seems every couple steps forward we take a step back and it is a bit frustrating as a Rockets fan. What will likely happen is this - we don't sign Darko (not enough money), we hope Landry pans out and start Hayes, and we end up starting Alston and bring James off the bench because NBA coaches see something in him that I just don't.

So here is my (sobering) realistic depth chart

SF Shane Battier - Bonzi Wells - Steve Novak
PF Chuck Hayes - Carl Landry - Justin Reed - Steve Novak
C Yao Ming - Dikembe Mutombo
SG Tracy McGrady - Luther Head - Kirk Snyder - Vassilis Spanoulis
PG Mike James - Rafer Alston - Aaron Brooks - John Lucas - Bob Sura

A more realistic version of what would happen is, given that we have 17 (I think) players signed, we trade away a PG (supposedly there is some interest in Lucas and V-Span around the league, and limited interest in Alston) and package in Snyder or Novak to some team for either a PF and a backup PG or vice versa - a solid PG and a big body PF - and use the MLE to shore up whatever needs shoring up (maybe a third string C should Yao or Deke get injured).

Lets see what our stat whiz of a GM can figure out - I hear there is some deal on the table that they can't announce or pull off until certain signings happen (July 15 is a key date).

We will see!
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Rumors, trades, disappointments [Jun. 29th, 2007|10:02 am]
The Rockets made a pretty poor night out of the draft - they get a small PG instead of Tiago Splitter or another PF, grab Landry instead of Big Baby or Josh McRoberts, don't make any big moves, and keep people's heads scratching. Our last pick, Newley, may never make it here. The Spurs, of course, pick Splitter, who could be a Ginobili-level talent and a steal at the 28th pick; he may not make it this year or he could have been close to a lottery pick. Brooks is a good shooter but he's kind of like a smaller Luther Head - what gives? The Rockets are just not good at drafting. The Suns sell their pick, Rudy Fernandez, again. I would have loved to see him in Rockets red. The Suns, as smart as they are at getting vets, as good as their coach is, are terrible at drafting. They've given up Luol Deng, Sergio Rodriguez, and now Fernandez in 3 of the last 4 drafts. Nate Robinson too according to ESPN. Somebody should let the Suns/Rockets know that the draft is actually serious business.

Big trades - Seattle trades Allen for Jeff Green but also takes on Sczerbiak? They take on a rookie PF to go with Durant, an average PG in Delonte West, and a has-been in Wally. The Knicks also made the Blazers look genius; they get a young forward in Frye, unload unneeded and troubled F Randolph and move to a younger rotation while the Knicks once again have a glut in the starting lineup with Curry and Randolph playing the same game. The Blazers are genius - they are like the Bulls but with more talent and more potential; Roy, Oden, Frye, Aldridge - not too bad at all. They will be in the playoffs very soon. Bobcats pick up J Rich and give up Brandan Wright, good move on the Cats' part, getting some vet help to go with Okafor, Felton, May, Morrison, (Wallace?), and all the other young guys there though the Warriors were probably smart to move him after drafting Belinelli and watching Monta Ellis explode. Utah drafted well, getting Rice star Morris Almond and grabbing some foreign talent on the cheap. Oh well, atleast Houston is rumored to be going after McDyess, he could be the PF we so desperately need. He just needs to rebound and provide some interior D. Still, what a bummer of a draft for the Rockets. I fail to see how Brooks will be anything more than a sharp shooting backup, and we could have really gotten some quality help at PF.

PS Grats on Biggio's 3000th hit, can't think of any more deserving of a player in the MLB. Seems like these days class acts like Biggio don't really come around anymore :( Gotta have respect for someone with that kind of dedication and loyalty
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The clouds are forming geometric shapes! [Jun. 28th, 2007|04:39 pm]
I have been jamming to the Lips lately - no noise complaints yet! That lyrics is from "Suddenly Everything Has Changed" which pretty much sums up the past week (It goes fast... It goes fast D:) Internship officially starts Sunday with me on call in the ICU - ouch. It will be good though, I've been brushing up and taking advantage of my last few days. Plus I get paid for orientation, always nice to have some spare change lying around (in this case to pay of credit card debt). New furniture is all in sans TV/internet so I've been playing lots of guitar and I've actually been productive (somewhat). Reality kicks in pretty fast - they refer to me as Dr. now which still weirds me out. I'll be running around writing orders, sticking tubes down people's throats, and running around as people code on me left and right. The trenches ain't pretty! Thought I'd update this thing - I've neglected it since I don't have net.

PS Moving's a bitch and I'm still not done.
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BYE BYE JUWAN [Jun. 14th, 2007|04:03 pm]
We got rid of Juwan! We got Mike James in return, a guard who did well in Houston as an energy player, still has speed and thrives in fast paced offenses. This not only adds depth at PG but also gives us a guard more suited to Adelman's offense while getting rid of Howard's dead weight (and fat contract). We also got Justin Reed, a high energy up-and-coming PF who while unproven, played well in limited minutes under KG. His #'s for last season are not that impressive compared to the previous season but still, he's not really the focus of the deal but rather someone to even out the salaries. He could be a surprise but I wouldn't count on him to do more than provide a backup for Hayes should he get into foul trouble.

But we got rid of Juwan :)

I guess this quashes any rumors of Kobe for T-Mac/Howard/whatever else but there still is the possibility of getting Rashard Lewis for Battier/draft pick. Imagine that lineup:

F Rashard Lewis
F Chuck Hayes
C Yao Ming
G Tracy McGrady
G Mike James (I'm assuming he starts and we trade or bench Alston, or atleast hoping)

With the following bench:

G Rafer Alston
G Luther Head
G/F Kirk Snyder
G John Lucas
G Bob Sura
G/F Bonzi Wells (?)
F Justin Reed
F Steve Novak
C Dikembe Mutombo

Again, there are rumors that we trade Sura for Jasikevicius and signing Wells is another possibility and of course, the Lewis trade is still a rumor (I think the chances are fairly low that it will happen given the interest in Lewis).

Still... Juwan is gone :) First step to success!
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Rockets rumors [Jun. 5th, 2007|01:14 pm]
So the rumor is a sign and trade sending Rashard Lewis to Houston for Battier and the 26th pick in the draft. Not a bad deal at all for both teams; Lewis would struggle in an offense with Allen AND Durant while Battier would be that glue guy with his defensive presence and unselfish offensive game. I would miss Battier but passing up a talent like Lewis would be a shame. The next rumor is Battier straight up for Chris Wilcox. This is a big mistake. BIG mistake. I like Wilcox but his numbers have been on a pretty lousy team and Battier has been very important to us. The talent gap between Lewis and Wilcox is huge, much bigger than a 26th pick can account for. Big mistake; Battier brings a lot of intangibles to the team which Wilcox won't, though Wilcox will finally give us a good rebounder. Finally, the last rumor is Sura's expiring contract for Sarunas Jasikevicius (I have no idea how to say that name). I think this is a pretty innocuous move; Sura is useless on the IR and Sarunas is atleast a warm body, though he has never proven himself to be a good shooter or a capable PG. Off the end of the bench though, he can't hurt and who knows, he may come around under Adelman's system. The rumor is that V-Span will be sticking around under Adelman's system and that Bonzi probably opt out and try free agency. I'm fine with both; Spanoulis was given no chance under JVG's system and Bonzi is a bad apple and I hope he goes far, far away. Assuming we get Lewis, our starting lineup could look like:

C Yao Ming
PF Chuck Hayes
SF Rashard Lewis
SG Tracy McGrady
PG Rafer Alston

and assuming that moron Alston doesn't jack up as many 3's as he did last year, that's a pretty solid lineup; better than

C Yao Ming
PF Chris WIlcox
SF Tracy McGrady
SG Luther Head
PG Rafer Alston

If we make the trade for Sura, here is our bench -

F Juwan Howard
F Steve Novak
G/F Bonzi Wells (?)
G/F Kirk Snyder
G Luther Head
G John Lucas
G Sarunas Jasikevicius
C Dikembe Mutombo

John Lucas will likely be cut, so we will have some room to work with here and there; Wells is again an X-Factor but for cheap I'm sure a lot of teams will take a chance on him to come around. Good luck to them; I can see why Adelman is reluctant to take him back.

In the end, who knows what will happen? July 1 we will find out but I expect atleast some changes.
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