Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Cavs Making Moves: NBA Free Agent Freeze Ready To Thaw?

Will LeBron James come back to Cleveland, or will
he break Cavs fans hearts again.
Eventually rumors can become facts.

The NBA's free agency period (a moratorium right now until July 10th) has been not much more than rumors.  The fact that Josh McRoberts signing with the Heat is getting a lot of attention tells you just how little anything concrete is happening.  No, it has been more about guessing where LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are going to go and following various owners' private jets to this point.

But now it may be happening.

Today is Wednesday, and LeBron James has a meeting set up with Pat Riley and various Miami Heat bigwigs.  Many feel that either Riley will lock in LeBron by the end of the day ... or that LeBron won't hear what he wants and will indeed move on.  Now the Cleveland Cavaliers have made a three way trade that dumps Jarrett Jack and Tyler Zeller off their books for a 2nd round draft pick -- obviously a salary cap move in order to sign LeBron.  Word is that they've also been chatting with Ray Allen, who has said he'd follow LeBron to his next destination, and Mike Miller.

To many, that destination is either Cleveland or Miami for LeBron.  While that would seem like a no-brainer to most, it really isn't.  Cleveland, essentially LeBron's home, offers a wealth of young talent right now.  They have Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, Anderson Varejao and some other young guys.  Miami, right now, has nothing.  Sure, Miami could bring the band back together but what is that?  LeBron, a guy in Chris Bosh who may not have that killer instinct to take the second in command role, a clearly fading Dwyane Wade and the same roster problems of filling the rest of the team with aging vets willing to play for the minimum or youn pups that aren't ready for prime time.  That still may be good enough to get back to the NBA Finals or even win another championship.  But LeBron didn't seem to have as much fun last year playing his rear end off while fellow star Wade rested and Bosh seemed content in his subservient role.

Granted, Cleveland won't have the same star power.  Maybe.  Irving is a rising star but he doesn't have Wade's or Bosh's status in the League or with LeBron.  However, the Cavs could turn a few of their young stars ... namely the current No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins ... and turn him into Kevin Love.  Love wants out of Minnesota and the Wolves might listen if the Cavs offered Wiggins in a package.  LeBron, Love and Irving?  In the very weak Eastern Conference?  That would be better than a LeBron-Wade-Bosh trio in South Beach.

LeBron knows those scenarios and will make a very informed decision.  No one else can until LeBron decides.

The freeze.

Once LeBron's domino falls, Carmelo Anthony will get a great look at the landscape.  Does he go back to New York?  Will he team up in Los Angeles with Kobe Bryant?  Will he try to go to Chicago and attempt to make a title run with the Bulls with a shift in Eastern Conference superiority?  If LeBron leaves Miami, would Carmelo decide to go there and team up with Wade and Bosh?

Bosh.  If LeBron leaves, does he go to Houston or the Lakers or somewhere else?  If he stays in Miami, where do those teams go?  Guys like Luol Deng, Trevor Ariza, Pau Gasol and Lance Stephenson will now get serious attention from teams who finish out of the LeBron-Melo-Bosh race.  Then guys like Shawn Marion, Paul Pierce and Emeka Okafor will fall into place.  Plus there will be the trade market of Love or Amare Stoudamire.

Unrestricted free agents like Eric Bledsoe, Greg Monroe, Chandler Parsons and Isaiah Thomas will finally receive their audiences.

Once the LeBron cork pops, the freeze is over and we will finally see the rapid movement of free agency.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Just Wait On Grading This NBA Draft, Let's Look At 2009 Instead

The NBA Draft is over.  Who won?  Who had the best pick?  Who had the worst pick?  Who got the big sleeper?  Who reached?  What trade was the smartest?

Who cares.

I know that's what draft nerds always do after the NBA and NFL drafts.  We try to break it down as if we are Miss Cleo.  Was is smart for Philly to draft Joel Embiid with that foot and back injury?  Should Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker have gone No. 1?  Who the hell is Bruno ... uh ... whatever that the Raptors picked?  Stop it!

We love this too much.  The Oscars are all about dubbing titles on movies and roles that just came out a few months ago.  I mean, did Shakespeare In Love hold up like Saving Private Ryan did?  No, put the former won Best Picture.  We like the hurry of it.  But we need to wait a bit just like most sports Halls Of Fame do.  Hold off for five years or else we would have Sammy Sosa in the Hall of Fame right now.  Take a step back.

So instead of me breaking down the 2014 NBA Draft, I want to break down the 2009 draft to see really what did and didn't work.  Green are great picks, red are horrible picks and black are just guys who are okay (*-no longer with drafted team).

1-CLIPPERS, Blake Griffin.  A slam dunk, no pun intended.  He was a serious MVP candidate this past season and one of the most marketable players in the NBA.  Five years ago, the Clippers were moving along as the worst franchise in pro basketball history.  Now they are title contenders.

2-GRIZZLIES, Hasheem Thabeet*.  Ouch.  I don't know why we have so many bad No. 2 picks over the years.  It really is stunning.  Thabeet has basically been nothing in the NBA.

3-THUNDER, James Harden*.  Great pick and great player.  He, along with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were supposed to be OKC's Big Three.  They were until the Thunder realized they couldn't afford all three and shipped Harden away to Houston.

4-KINGS, Tyreke Evans*.  Evans has been so-so in the NBA.  He won Rookie Of The Year, and he's put up some nice point totals but his three-point shooting is horrid and he seems to be getting worse by the year.  Now he's a member of the New Orleans Pelicans and spent much of the season as a sixth man.

5-TIMBERWOLVES, Ricky Rubio.  I have loved Rubio's game since he was featured in SLAM magazine as a 16 year old.  But Rubio's flaws have stuck with him in Minnesota.  Remember that Rubio didn't even play for Minnesota until two years after he was drafted.  From there he is barely a double-digit scorer who has a nice assist total but cannot shoot.

6-TIMBERWOLVES, Jonny Flynn*.  Yeah, the Wolves picked another point guard with their second of back-to-back picks.  Flynn played just two seasons in Minnesota was out of the league in three years.

7-WARRIORS, Stephen Curry.  Curry is one of the top two or three players in this draft class.  Yeah, and Thabeet and Flynn were drafted ahead of him.  See.

8-KNICKS, Jordan Hill*.  Hill is an alright role player who just finished up his contract with the Lakers.  Not a star but a guy who can get you some rebounds and can have a game every once in a while where he fills up the basket.

9-RAPTORS, DeMar DeRozan.  Nice pick here.  An All-Star who certainly isn't a Bruno ... uh, what was that kid's name?

10-BUCKS, Brandon Jennings*.  Jennings isn't a guy who win with ... but he's a guy that can crush a game every once in a while.

11-NETS, Terrence Williams*.  Played 78 games in his rookie season with New Jersey.  Played 75 games in the following three seasons for four different teams and is now out of the league.

12-BOBCATS, Gerald Henderson.  A guy.  He's athletic and has some good games here and there but he'd pretty much leveled off as that kind of guy.  Nothing special.

13-SUNS, Earl Clark*.  Clark has bounced around the league yet had just one solid season in his lone campaign with the Lakers.  Other than that, nothing much to see.

14-PACERS, Tyler Hansbrough*.  Hansbrough's great college career hasn't translated to NBA success.  He is most known as an enforcer that pisses opponents off.  Not really a lottery pick kind of skill.

15-PISTONS, Austin Daye*.  Daye is basically a guy who collects playing time in garbage time.  Daye was one of those guys that came out of college as an athletic lengthy kid who was nothing more than that.  We see those kinds of busts the most.

16-BULLS, James Johnson*.  Johnson is just some guy floating along in the NBA.  He bounces from team to team and thru the D-League.

17-SIXERS, Jrue Holiday*.  When you consider the crap that I just listed drafted ahead of Holiday, he is a bit of a steal.  Holiday has been an All-Star before being dealt to the Pelicans in a 2013 Draft Day deal that sent Nerlens Noel to Philly.  A stress fracture ended Holiday's initial season in N'Awlins, but he's a legit player that should be in the League for quite a while.

18-TIMBERWOLVES, Ty Lawson*.  Yeah, the Wolves had three first round picks and they drafted three point guards.  However, the best of the bunch was the one guy they traded.  Yeah, the Wolves sent Lawson to the Nuggets on draft day for a future draft pick.  Lawson is nearly and All Star who has led Denver in scoring.

19-HAWKS, Jeff Teague.  Teague has gone from a guy that I thought would be a bust into a legit NBA player.  His rookie season saw him average just over 3 ppg.  Now he's starting for a playoff team and dumping over 16 ppg.  And unlike most guys so far ... he is still with his drafted team.

20-JAZZ, Eric Maynor*.  Maynor didn't even make it half a season in Utah before being dealt to Oklahoma City.  There he was a solid backup and has since just bounced around the league.

21-HORNETS, Darren Collison*.  Collison just signed a nice contract with the Kings, but he's not much more than a shoot-first backup point guard that rubs coaches the wrong way with his play.  Still, he's a decent talent.

22-BLAZERS, Victor Claver.  It took him three years to get over to Portland and, while he has started a few games, hasn't been much more than a end-of-bench kind of guy.

23-KINGS, Omri Casspi*.  To me, Casspi is a solid player.  Just a role guy though.

24-MAVERICKS, BJ Mullens*.  Mullens two seasons in Charlotte were very solid but he hasn't done much before or since.

25-THUNDER, Rodrigue Beaubois*.  Beaubois was a change of pace backcourt player who played his first four seasons with the Mavericks.  He spent last year in the French league.

26-BULLS, Taj Gibson.  Gibson is a solid sixth man who could be starting for many teams.  He hustles, boards, defends and does anything it takes to win.

27-GRIZZLIES, DeMarre Carroll*.  Carroll had a middling career until last year, were he started 73 games for the Hawks and was one of their defensive gurus.  

28-TIMBERWOLVES, Wayne Ellington*.  Yeah ... the fourth Wolves pick.  Ellington hasn't found that magic stroke he had in college and has found himself thrown into a lot of different trades.  He is now in ... let me see ... the Knicks.

29-LAKERS, Toney Douglas*.  Douglas never played for the Lakers but has spent his career as a backup combo guard ... though he did start 17 games for the Miami Heat this year.

30-CAVALIERS, Christian Eyenga*.  Eyenga played 51 career NBA games.  That's it.

So out of the 30 first round picks, only 8 remain with the teams that drafted them.  Only five have been to an All Star game with three of the picks (Griffin, Harden, Curry) being franchise kind of players.  Most are just guys who will play for a while then fly away into the forgotten land of NBA rejects.

Oh ... the second round wasn't much better ... though there were guys like Sam Young, DeJuan Blair, Jodie Meeks, Patrick Beverley, Chase Budinger, Danny Green and Patty Mills who were drafted.


Monday, June 30, 2014

What Is Jason Kidd Thinking?

Who are the winners and losers in the Nets, Bucks,
Kidd dance over the weekend?
I like Jason Kidd.  I liked him in high school ... and enjoyed his play in college and the NBA.  He was a sensational passer who took his biggest flaw, outside shooting, and turned into one of the best three point shooters of all time.

I thought it was a bit of a stretch for him to leave the New York Knicks as a player to the Brooklyn Nets as a head coach in a span of a day.  After the Nets started off to a horrible record, I thought he was in over his head.  Then the Nets got on a nice run and made the playoffs -- advancing into the Eastern Conference semifinals where they were eliminated by the Miami Heat in five games.

Not too shabby.  Yeah, he's got a veteran team and that helps but he did figure something out to turn that bad start into a great finish.

And then Saturday came.

Word came that Kidd wants front office control.  He wants the ability to make personnel decisions.  He wants to create his roster.  The Nets laughed that off and then Kidd wanted out.  The Milwaukee Bucks gained permission to talk to Kidd about hiring him to be their next head coach ... even though they still have Larry Drew as their current head coach.  After two second round picks later, Kidd is now the Bucks head coach, the Nets need a head coach and Larry Drew is out of a job.

WHAT IS JASON KIDD THINKING?

I get that you want to have total control of your roster.  Every coach would love that.  But that's some nads to demand to have that power.  Usually a coach and the front office work hand in hand on those issues.  While the coach doesn't get everything he wants, the front office tries to give him as much as they can.  Only the best of the best can get that kind of power.  Popovich.  Doc Rivers.  Flip Saunders.  There is your list and Saunders just put himself in as coach a few weeks ago.

For Kidd to ask for that kind of power is one thing.  Demanding it is another.  Willing to leave a playoff team like the Nets for the Bucks is a whole other thing.  Again, he is just a year removed from being a player and to ask for power like that is astounding.  Maybe he wanted out?  Maybe he really thought he deserved that power.

It looks like he overplayed his hand quite a bit.  He will be (most likely) be leaving the Nets that made the playoffs last year and was maybe going to be together for one more season for a very young Bucks team that finished with the worst record in the NBA last season.  Business wise, it could be a wise move.  Kidd got a $10M over four years last year.  He just watched Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher get $25M for five years despite they not having any coaching experience.  I'm sure Kidd will be getting a better contract than he had in Brooklyn and he'll be (hopefully) getting a longer one with such a younger team.

But Kidd broke some huge coaching rules.  One, he went for a job that was already filled.  That's a huge no-no.  I mean, it happens that feelers get sent out and all of those kinds of investigation, but to openly go for a job that was already filled won't endear him to any in the coaching fraternity.  Two, he is now known as a guy that will stab his boss in the back.  While the Nets GM Billy King didn't want to hire Kidd, he was on board until the recent power grab.  Since this was essentially an ownership hire in Milwaukee (new ownership, by the way) there shouldn't be any good feelings in the Bucks front office either.

WHAT ARE THE NETS THINKING?

Well, the Nets come out of this looking sort of smelling sweet.  They stood up to the demand and backed up their GM King.  They will almost assuredly get a better coach out of all this.  While Kidd seemed to be improving as a head coach, this is a team built to win now.  Finding a veteran coach like a Lionel Hollins could be exactly what this team needs to maximize its small window.

So they get rid of their young coach without firing him and admitting any mistake -- and actually netting two second round picks in the process -- and get a win now coach.  All the while they showed front office solidarity at a time where that wasn't so certain.

WHAT ARE THE BUCKS THINKING?

Not too sure here.  Word is that they liked the way Kidd developed as a coach in Brooklyn and felt he could be a great hire to lead their very young, talented team.  Maybe he is, but you are also bringing in a guy that felt like he deserved much more organizational power than he earned.  That, I am sure, was discussed during negotiations between the team and Kidd.

The Bucks also have damage control about Drew.  While I'm not a big Larry Drew fan by any means, he didn't deserve this.  To have a job one day and then watch this soap opera play out over the weekend only to be fired Monday morning was not right.  If Kidd becomes the guy they think he'll be and develop this young team, that might go away.  Kidd better be that guy.

WHAT SHOULD WE THINK?  

No one comes out of this looking great.  Kidd is banking a lot on his coaching ability to pull this off and, essentially, losing.  The Nets are entering free agency with a huge question mark at their coaching chair.  The Bucks just went behind their coach's back and took on Kidd's agenda.  It will be a nice subplot to the upcoming season.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

I Don't Get Soccer ... But I Get The World Cup


I like the World Cup.  I kinda, sorta get into it.  Just a little bit.  I will admit that 99% of all the soccer I will ever watch will be World Cup soccer.  I'm fine with that and I will always admit that.

That's says more about the World Cup itself than the sport.  The same way I'll watch Olympic swimming or curling is the same way I'll watch World Cup soccer.  It is a special event that does connect the world.  You have a tournament where all corners of the world come together.  You have the United States and Iran, Ghana and Spain, Chile and Korea.  Large countries like Russia and small countries like Costa Rica.

I know the Olympic have the same sort of thing and I do enjoy the Olympics better.  However, the World Cup is centered around the one sport and you can feel like you watched the entire event.  And there is no amateur or professional rules ... the best are there.

The United States won't be soccer crazy, but I've felt that it is a soccer country.  We are as patriotic as any nation on earth and love to support our athletes in any sport.  We love to be the best.  We aren't the best in soccer as much as we are getting pretty darn good.  The fact that we still love that says a lot about our love for the World Cup and our national team.

We aren't soccer crazy, but no foreign country has a bigger contingent of fans in Brazil for this tournament than the old U.S.A.  Americans are into it.

We aren't soccer crazy, but no World Cup has had a bigger attendance figure than when it was here in 1994.  Both per game and total attendance ... which says something since there are now more games in the tournament than ever before.  It also says a lot about the kind of melting pot the nation truly is.

I love the pageantry of the World Cup.  The beauty of it.

I just can't get into the soccer.

Sorry.  

P.S.  At least this year there are no vuvuzelas.


Friday, June 27, 2014

James Michael McAdoo Could Continue To Hurt North Carolina

This hasn't been a banner season of North Carolina basketball.  From the PJ Hairston thing to the losing in the Round of 32 thing and the Rashad McCants thing, the Carolina brand has taken huge hits.

James Michael McAdoo may actually hurt the Tar Heels harder, however.

The Hairston thing was his fault.  Losing to Iowa State to end the Heels season did place hope for a 2014-15 team that has a nice recruiting class coming in and hope for big things.  The Rashad McCants situation will linger, but McCants' isn't really the most credible guy right now.  But McAdoo's decision to forgo his senior season and enter the NBA Draft ... where no one picked him ... may hurt the Heels for the rest of Roy Williams' time in Chapel Hill.

See, McAdoo won co-MVP of the McDonald's All American game in high school.  He was a key cog to a very good Tar Heels team in 2011-12 that was a Kendall Marshall broken wrist away from being a possible title team.  That draft season, McAdoo was actually looked at as being the better prospect of the Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Marshall draft class.

Unlike guys like Brandan Wright and Marvin Williams, he decided to stay after his freshman season and become the centerpiece of the Heels the next season.  Instead of taking a likely lottery selection salary, he wanted to stay in school.  He wanted to be the man.  He wanted the Carolina Experience.

After his sophomore season, his draft stock fell a bit.  He didn't have a back-to-the-basket game.  He didn't like contact.  His was sort of a tweener.  And due to the roster the Heels had, McAdoo played out of position at center.  Still, the 2013 draft was horrible.  One of the shallowest drafts in memory.  If McAdoo was going to jump ... jump now!

He didn't.  He loved school.  He wanted to work on his game.  He came back for his junior season and had a better year.  It wasn't a star power year, but he did have a nice run during ACC play.  Still, he didn't finish after contact, his free throw shooting was horrid and he had huge lulls in games.  Many figured he would be a four-year guy since the 2014 draft was loaded.

Instead he declared.

He wasn't drafted.  Not in the lottery like he would have in 2012.  Not in the first round like he would have in 2013.  He wasn't drafted at all.

When you look at the Roy Williams era, that stings.  As Tar Heels fans, we love to point to Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse, Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison, Bob McAdoo, Walter Davis and others about how our UNC guys just flourish in the NBA.  That was all the Dean Smith guys.  The Roy Williams guys have been a mixed bag.

Sean May crapped out.  Raymond Felton has had a bleh career that has focused on what he can't get done in his journeyman NBA life.  Marvin Williams was a bit of a bust.  McCants' personality knocked him out of the league.  Brandan Wright has his moments, but isn't a stud.  Ed Davis and Wayne Ellington haven't done much.  Tyler Hansbrough is basically an enforcer.  Tyler Zeller is a guy that looks good for a few games and barely plays the next week.  John Henson and Harrison Barnes have the upside but haven't shown if they will get there yet.  Kendall Marshall went from lottery pick to out of the NBA in one year, though he did catch on with the Lakers who were signing anyone just to field a team.  Reggie Bullock barely saw the court for the Clippers in his rookie season.

The only real successes are Danny Green and Ty Lawson, and Green really lucked into hooking on with the Spurs and worked his way into his good fortune.  Lawson is a near All-Star with the Nuggets.   Green stayed four years while Lawson stayed an extra season (his junior year) and led the Heels to a title.

Look, every school has guys like JM McAdoo.  Guys whose freshman hype slowly fades away and they just turn into good college players.  Any Tar Heel fan could see that McAdoo was frustrating at times to watch and could never understand why he just couldn't take it to the next level.  NBA guys, like Heels fans and maybe McAdoo himself, figured that there was no next level and that this was it.

Again, McAdoo was a big time recruit.  So was Barnes, Henson, Hansbrough and Ellington.  When recruits look at the end game of the NBA, why would they look to UNC right now?  Kentucky and Kansas keep backing a truck up to the NBA draft and dropping guys off all over the place.  UConn and UCLA have been as well.  Look at the top of the draft last night.  Wiggins was recruited by the Tar Heels.  So was Jabari Paker.  Julius Randle.  Dante Exum.  Noah Vonleh.  None of the big guys on draft day became Heels.  When you look at the development of Heels into NBA stars, you cannot blame them.  Especially when the schools the Heels nationally recruit against ... Duke, Kentucky and Kansas ... are churning out #1 overall draft picks.

This is a big time for Heels recruiting.  Justin Jackson, Theo Pinson and Joel Berry form a solid 2014 class that shows Ol' Roy hasn't lost that touch.  But there is nothing set in stone beyond that and the Heels are in the running with studs like Diamond Stone, Seventh Woods, Stephen Zimmerman, Ivan Rabb, Harry Giles and Amir Coffey.  Guys like Woods and Giles would be nearly locks a while ago could go elsewhere.  

Again, every school goes through this.  There are guys all the time that come out with bad advice and ruin their basketball lives.   Still, the Heels would feel better if they could get a big time success story in the NBA or the star factory that once lived in Chapel Hill could fall off a bit.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Why The Lakers Shouldn't Be A Long Shot To Get LeBron James, Melo ... Or Both


We are at the eve of draft night and the selections are taking a back seat to the free agent frenzy that will happen less than a week later.  All we really know is that LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are opting out of their contracts with the Heat and Knicks, respectively.

I firmly believe that both will eventually resign with their former teams.  Well, "firmly believe" may be a bit too much.  I think their old teams are the favorites to gain their services.  Still, neither is an absolute formality.

I'm not going into the various teams around the league and what they have to offer both of those guys.  I will, however, tell you why I think the Lakers are getting a lot less respect for getting either ... or both ... of these guys than the media is letting on.

MONEY:  No, the Lakers cannot pay them more than the Heat or Knicks can per season.  That's the way the CBA is set up.  Still, they can pay one of them a max contract and have the ability to pay both of them a little less than max money.  Only Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre are under contract for next season.  The Lakers also hold the #7 pick in tomorrow's draft.  They could deal that pick, along with Steve Nash's expiring $9M salary to someone who would send back nothing but a protected pick.  That would clear up enough room for the Lakers to pay both LeBron and Melo about $16M a season to start.

Unlike most of the other suitors, the Lakers already have the money ready.  The rest need to make moves to clear up space.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION:  While the Knicks and Heat are seemingly glamour franchises, LA has the best of both worlds.  The weather?  Miami is nice but so is Los Angeles.  Nearly always sunny, mild at worst and has lots and lots of beaches.  New York is a media haven but Los Angeles is no slouch.  The Lakers have been the glamour franchise of the NBA for 35 years.  The Lakers have won 10 titles since the last time the Knicks have.  Even when they are down, their games are still on TV and the Staples Center is still the place to be.

STAR TREATMENT:  I'm not talking about the perks Jack Nicholson gets.  I'm talking about the way the Lakers treat their stars.  Of their biggest stars, only Shaquille O'Neal wanted out ... and that had more to do with a power struggle with Kobe Bryant than anything.  Even then, the Lakers dealt Shaq to the team he wanted for players the Lakers really didn't want.

At the end of Magic Johnson's and James Worthy's careers, they overpaid the stars due to what they had meant to the franchise over the years.  Bad business?  Maybe in the moment.  But ask Kobe Bryant about that.  Kobe is in his 19th season and coming off leg and Achilles injuries that forced him to nearly miss all of last season and the Lakers ... despite all their best interests cap-wise ... gave Kobe a two year extension that kept him the highest paid player in the NBA.  The Lakers take care of their stars.

Even guys like Pau Gasol.  Gasol wasn't dealt away this season because it would give off the smell of a pure financial decision that they didn't want to have.  Gasol helped with them two titles and didn't want to just ship him off to anyone to appease their needs.

Why is that important?  Well, LeBron James is upset that the Heat amnestied Mike Miller despite him being a pivotal part of their 2013 title team.  He also saw the Heat dump Joel Anthony's salary and fail to use their mid-level exception due to cap concerns.  While the Lakers won't just throw money all over the place, they will do what it takes financially to win.  Everything they've done, from the past to Kobe's contract to not dealing Gasol points to them caring for their stars.

A NEW BIG THREE:  No matter what Kobe Bryant can offer this coming season, it is certain to be better than what most of the league can muster.   Kobe, Melo and James all played on the 2008 and 2012 Team USA squads and got along just fine.  Carmelo actually performed better than anyone when he wasn't the focus of defenses.

WHO IS YOUR COACH:  By the way, there is a coaching vacancy in LA.  That is by design.  If they bring in LeBron or Melo ... or both ... and ask who they want to coach them, that guy will get an immediate call.  Mark Jackson?  Byron Scott?  Larry Brown?  Lionel Hollins?  I think anyone not named Mike D'Antoni will be on speed dial.

LEGACY:  Legacy is an interesting point here.  If Carmelo wins a title in New York, he will be a legend since the city hasn't won one in over 40 years.  LeBron can just add to his legacy in Miami.  The Lakers have been winning before these two and will probably win after these two.  Still, look at the names on the wall.  Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Gail Goodrich, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neal, James Worthy, Jerry West and Jamal Wilkes have their jerseys hanging there with Kobe Bryant's set the join them one day.

Look, I'm not saying this will happen.  I'm not saying they are stupid for not becoming Lakers.  I am only saying that the Lakers do seem to have the same chance in the media as teams like Chicago and Houston have even though the Lakers' money situation is a lot better right now.

Should Kobe Bryant Have His #24 or #8 Retired By The Lakers?

Kobe Bryant is one of the best players to ever play in the NBA.  He is a first ballot Hall Of Famer and will receive all the trappings of one of the true elite players in the game.  One of those things will be seeing his jersey retired at the Staples Center not too long after he retires.

But what number will be on that jersey?  Number 8 or number 24?

If it was me, both numbers would be on that jersey.  I mean, do you really think any other Laker will ever wear either number?  Probably not.  They both should be up there.  However, if you got to pick one, which one?

Kobe wore the #8 for his first 10 seasons in the league (1996-97 through 2005-06) and has wore the #24 in the 8 seasons since.  If Kobe plays out his contract, two more seasons, he will have wore both numbers the equal amount of seasons for his 20 year career.

If you look at his accomplishments, it is still tough.  I'd lean toward his #8 achievements at first, but it is a close call.  Let's look at the criteria:

CHAMPIONSHIPS:  Kobe won his first three titles with the #8 and his last two with the #24.  Three beats two so that should be a no-brainer.  Well, not so fast.  While Kobe-8 was an important part of the threepeat from 2000 to 2002, Shaquille O'Neal was the biggest dog on that team.  Kobe-24 was the Finals MVP in both of his championships and the undisputed star of those teams.  Not to mention that the two titles Kobe-24 won pretty much validated his greatness and showed he could lead a team to titles.  Tough call.

ALL NBA TEAMS:  Kobe-8 was on the All NBA first team in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006.  Kobe-24 was on it in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.  Kobe-8 was on the second and third teams twice each.

PERSONAL ACHIEVEMENT:  Kobe-8 scored 81 points in a game.  That's wild.  Kobe-24 didn't do that.  Kobe-24 won an MVP in 2008.  Not Kobe-8.

Kobe has stated that he wants 24 to be retired.  I get that.  That number has seen him more as an elite player than 8 ever did.  Still, the years of 8 were nothing at all to sneeze at.  I really wish both could be retired.

I know this.  Neither number will be worn by a Laker again.

Sportz' 2014 NBA Mock Draft


Over the years, I have realized a lot of things about mock drafts.  They are pretty much useless.  Sure, you can gauge where a guy is slated to go (which is actually helpful in fantasy mock drafts so you don't reach for someone you could get later on), but you never know what each team is truly thinking.  Not just that, but trades almost always happen and with the NBA Draft, many trades cannot happen until after the draft itself.  So while a pick doesn't seem very smart at the time, a team may be making it for someone else.

Also, when it comes to the NBA, I never mock the 2nd round.  It is extremely futile.  Many teams elect to take a flyer on a guy who plays overseas so they can develop them before getting them on their own roster.

That being said, here I go with my own mock draft ... and take it with a grain of salt.

1-CLEVELAND CAVALIERS - ANDREW WIGGINS, KANSAS:  I believe the Cavs were all in on Joel Embiid before he broke his foot.  In their decision between Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins, I think they'll go for the multi-talented Wiggins.  He's a good character kid who will solidify the shooting guard spot alongside Kyrie Irving.  He also loves to play defense.  I originally had Parker in this spot at first, but in an interview with Andy Katz, Parker admitted that he hasn't talked to the Cavs that much.

2-MILWAUKEE BUCKS - JABARI PARKER, DUKE:  This is an interesting pick, just because the Bucks drafted Giannis Anteokounmpo last year.  I don't care.  I say if you are a bad team, you pick the best talent available even if you already have someone in that spot.  What?  You can't play both at the same time?  Parker couldn't see time as a stretch four?  Parker is a heck of a player and the Bucks need guys like him.

3-PHILADELPHIA 76ERS - DANTE EXUM, AUSTRALIA:  Exum has moved up many mock drafts, even getting consideration at the top spot.  Exum, paired with last season's Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, would form an outstanding backcourt.  Plus, the Sixers have another lottery pick to add a big or a shooting wing if needed.  

4-ORLANDO MAGIC - NOAH VONLEH, INDIANA:  The Magic may be the most heartbroken of all the teams that Embiid got hurt.  They wanted Exum, who will most likely go ahead of their pick.  The Magic will instead have to focus on one of the power forwards that are available in this area.  Vonleh is more skilled than the rest at this spot.  He does the big man stuff like block shots and rebound but he also has a decent jumper which guys like Aaron Gordon and Julius Randle don't.

5-UTAH JAZZ  - JULIUS RANDLE, KENTUCKY:  The Jazz have had a interesting run of big men of late, but their best ones have either left (Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap) or are banged up (Enes Kanter).  Randle could end that.  While he isn't Karl Malone, he will remind Jazz fans of their franchise's best player.  Randle is a beast inside, a rabid rebounder and great at mixing it up inside.

6-BOSTON CELTICS - JOEL EMBIID, KANSAS:  Like last season with Nerlens Noel, the Embiid watch could really underscore the draft this year.  Embiid was the top pick until he broke his foot and is rumored to be out nearly a year.  That makes the Celtics the most obvious landing spot.  Danny Ainge has obviously gone all in with the rebuilding phase of the C's.  Embiid won't be ready for a year?  Who cares?  To Boston, they're getting a guy that could be the best player in this draft and a big part of their rebuilding.

7-LOS ANGELES LAKERS - MARCUS SMART, OKLAHOMA STATE:  If the Lakers don't deal away this pick, Smart makes a lot of sense.  He's a strong guard who can score in a variety of ways.  The Lakers need a powerful point guard ... or anyone ... who can score and defend.  He also has those intangibles of toughness and a winning attitude that a guy like Kobe would love to take under his wing.

8-SACRAMENTO KINGS - DOUG McDERMOTT, CREIGHTON:  McDermott isn't the next Jimmer by a long shot, but the Kings sure could use a wing man like this.  A guy who can shoot and who has under-appreciated athleticism would be a great addition to a team that has a ton of guys in the frontcourt.  

9-CHARLOTTE HORNETS - NIK STAUSKAS, MICHIGAN:  The Hornets want McDermott, but I have him gone in this mock so Stauskas is a fine backup plan.  The Hornets need perimeter scoring and especially long range shooting.  Stauskas fits that to a T.

10-PHILADELPHIA 76ERS - AARON GORDON, ARIZONA:  Someone inevitably falls in a draft, and Gordon may be that guy.  He's a poor man's Blake Griffin with a decent defensive game but a limited offensive arsenal but he can develop.  Along with Exum earlier in the draft, Carter-Williams as the reigning Rookie Of The Year and Nerlens Noel hopefully making his rookie debut this upcoming season, the Sixers would have a nice haul of youth.

11-DENVER NUGGETS - JAMES YOUNG, KENTUCKY:  Young really came into his own during the NCAA Tournament.  He's a deadly shooter who showed a very athletic side to him.  Denver needs a wing like this for their attempt at Brian Shaw's triangle.

12-ORLANDO MAGIC - GARY HARRIS, MICHIGAN STATE:  There are many ways Orlando could go here, but I don't think they'll go with the waiting approach of a Dario Saric.  Just a hunch.  Harris is mature for his age, a nice defender and a guy with a nice stroke.  Yeah, he would form a small backcourt with Oladipo but his talent is tough to pass up here.

13-MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES - ADRIEN PAYNE, MICHIGAN STATE:  Harris' teammate Payne would be a nice addition to the Wolves.  Like it or not, Wolves fans, but Love is gone after next season.  Payne certainly isn't Love, but he is a big man who hits the glass and has NBA range.

14-PHOENIX SUNS - DARIO SARIC, CROATIA:  Saric is a risky pick.  Oh, scouts love him but he recently signed a three year deal with a Turkish team (the third year has a opt out) which means he can't come to the NBA for two more years.  A team that picks him knows that and fans of that team better understand the wait.  The Suns can afford to do that.  They are a team seemingly on the rise with a bunch of cap room to get better now that way.

15-ATLANTA HAWKS - RODNEY HOOD, DUKE:  The Hawks are in a position to take the best player on the board and Hood, to me, is it.  He brings the Hawks a lengthy shooter who can bring scoring off the bench now and could develop into a Luol Deng kind of player.  Atlanta seems to be on the uptick and adding scoring is a good move.

16-CHICAGO BULLS - ELFRID PAYTON, LA-LAFAYETTE:  I know that this is a lot lower than most mock drafts have Payton and he probably will go higher than this.  But this is my mock draft and where I feel he should fall.  I will say that it is hard to predict anything the Bulls do.  Will they draft a guy they can stash overseas to clear up cap space for LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony?  You'd think they would.  Or they could just make this pick and then deal it away for a future pick just to clear the same space.  Just for the reality of the situation, Payton will at worst be a impact offensive talent to back up Derrick Rose ... or be a guy that has to take Rose's minutes if he still isn't himself.

17-BOSTON CELTICS - SHABAZZ NAPIER, UCONN:  Since Embiid will be the Celtics "stash" player, they'll pass on the Euros and take Napier, a guy who can has flown up the draft rankings and is a proven winner.  He is a guy that can step in if the Celtics do trade Rajon Rondo (they will at some point) and the fact that he played at nearby UConn doesn't hurt either.  Boston sees what Kemba Walker is doing in Charlotte and think Napier can be that type of guy.

18-PHOENIX SUNS - JUSUF NURKIC, CROATIA:  Another Croatian?  I like this pick here in nearly every scenario except the one that I have in this draft (they already drafted a player they'll have to stash.  However, he is a Marcin Gortat type of player which they loved when Gortat was in Phoenix.  And while Nurkic can be "stashed", they don't necessarily have to do so.

19-CHICAGO BULLS - T.J. WARREN, NC STATE:  The Bulls had trouble scoring last season.  Warren scores.  Again, the Bulls will most likely look to deal away one or both of their picks so figuring out their thinking is impossible.  However, keeping with the mock, Warren gives them what they need.

20-TORONTO RAPTORS - TYLER ENNIS, SYRACUSE:  Toronto needs this.  Not only is Kyle Lowry likely to be gone ... hey ... Ennis is Canadian!  That aside, Ennis brings the Raps a guy who exudes confidence as soon as he walks in the door and can run a team.  He may have some holes in his game right now, he has the kind of attitude to improve.

21-OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER - P.J. HAIRSTON, NORTH CAROLINA:  Hairston is a guy who can space the floor with already founded NBA range and NBA body.  With Thabo Sefolosha probably gone, Hairston can come in and fit the role as a three-point shooter and defensive stopper.  Add in the fact that he spent last season in the D-League, he has more NBA-type experience than anyone in this draft.

22-MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES - ZACH LEVINE, UCLA:  I think Levine becomes a guy who drops as well.  He's a nice combo guard ... in the other way (usually combo guards are small two guards and not big point guards) ... and one of the draft's top athletes.  The Grizz need depth, but their an analytic team and I'm not sure where Levine falls on their charts.

23-UTAH JAZZ - JORDAN CLARKSON, MISSOURI:  Since Utah went big with their first pick, I expect them to go small here.  He's a big point guard but could move over to the two-guard spot and play alongside Trey Burke.

24-CHARLOTTE HORNETS - CLEANTHONY EARLY, WICHITA STATE:  I think the Hornets want to get as many shooters as they can out of this draft.  If anyone from Warren, Hairston or Hood fall here, they'll pounce on it.  Since they are all gone, Early is a nice addition.  A great shooter and a mature player that will make for a nice addition for a team that made big strides last season and want to make bigger ones this year.

25-HOUSTON ROCKETS - KYLE ANDERSON, UCLA:  Who knows what the Rockets will do?  They believe they are in both the Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James sweepstakes.  Still, they have to draft someone and Anderson fits the bill.  He's a guy that will be coveted if they must deal this pick away and he'll fit in very well as a stretch four in this offense.  

26-MIAMI HEAT - MITCH McGARY, MICHIGAN:  Word is that Miami wants to draft Shabazz Napier because LeBron tweeted about his admiration of him during the NCAA tournament.  Napier isn't likely to drop here so Miami needs to focus on a guy that can help them.  McGary is a tough as nails guy with a decent jump shot ... kind of like a Udonis Haslem.  Miami's looking for depth here and they were killed in the Finals by a lack of point guard and center play.  McGary won't be an All-Star, but he won't be kicked around.

27-PHOENIX SUNS - K.J. McDANIELS, CLEMSON:  This is the Suns' third first round pick and the first two may not play a minute this season.  McDaniels isn't the big guy they may need, but he is an athletic wing who can fill it up.

28-LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS - JARNELL STOKES, TENNESSEE:  Stokes would bring the Clippers a tough guy that can crash the boards and do all the little things inside.

29-OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER - PATRIC YOUNG, FLORIDA:  Young is a big dude that does a lot of work inside.  OKC needs that since they have yet to find anyone who can take the job away from a fading Kendrick Perkins.  He is NBA ready and that's big for a team that fancies itself as a title contender.

30-SAN ANTONIO SPURS - NIKOLA JOKIC, SERBIA:  Don't question the Spurs methods.  Just go with it.

Again, it is stupid to make a 2nd round mock draft on a blog ... but this is a very deep draft and there will be several guys who will be drafted in the 2nd round that will have long careers.  The names alone can grab you:  Russ Smith, CJ Fair, Glen Robinson III, James Michael McAdoo, Bryce Cotton, Jerami Grant, Johnny O'Bryant and Spencer Dinwiddie.  Plus the plethora of foreign players that usually litter the second half of the draft as stash and develop guys.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

UNC Fan's Take On The Rashad McCants Scandal

I make no apologies about being a North Carolina Tar Heels fan.  I've written about then quite a bit on this blog and I've had my great times and my bad times talking about them.

This whole academic scandal is the worst.

The learn as much of the ins and outs you can, just Google it.  There's so much to digest and so much to sort out as lies and truths.  To be honest it just makes me sick.  Really, it does.  As a Heels fan, you always felt that the program was always held to a higher regard.  That other schools may resort to some shady business ... but not our Tar Heels!  Turns out we were wrong and the it isn't just that there was some rogue player, coach or agent that infiltrated the program, or the fact that it wasn't just that the programs itself was acting unethical -- it is the school.

Again, it makes me sick.  I'd love to believe that most of this isn't true, but I just can't.  We saw how this affected the football team.  Butch Davis was fired and the team was on a quick bowl ban.  A football program that hasn't really accomplished much on the field now looked like one of those that is depicted in a shady sports movie like The Program or Blue Chips.  While this was hitting the football team, the fact that this involved fake classes and fake grades, I honestly believe that this could extend over to the basketball team.  According to Rashad McCants, it did.

As for McCants, I can't put too much faith in his words.  He was a moody player, at best, during his three seasons in Chapel Hill (2002-2005).  Roy Williams didn't recruit him (Matt Doherty did) but Williams was his coach as a sophomore when McCants led the ACC in scoring and made him a National Champion as a junior.  McCants referred to his time at UNC as being in jail, which throws me off because now he's saying he didn't have to go to class or do anything and he was suddenly on the Dean's list.  Jail, huh?

McCants's attitude cost him an NBA career.  His third season in the League, with Minnesota, saw him average over 14 ppg.  But he just wasn't worth the drama for teams, so he bounced around before having to play overseas.

I'd love to keep on trying to debunk his claims by attacking his character, but the fact remains that these paper classes were there and I don't doubt if he took a few of them.  They were there and other athletes took them.  Why wouldn't basketball players do the same?

All in all, McCants got what he wanted: some shine.  He got to put his blame out there to Roy Williams and put his former school ... one known for always helping out former players ... on blast.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

No, the Bulls Would NOT Have Won 8 Straight Titles Had Jordan Not Retired

Would the Chicago Bulls have won 8 straight titles
if Michael Jordan didn't retire?  Would they even
had won a total of six?
It has been 20 years since 1994 and ESPN and other parts of the media has been looking back at the NBA Finals that year.  ESPN has dubbed them the "Forgotten Finals" and for good reason, even though the series went the full seven games with the Rockets beating the Knicks.

During Game 5 of that Finals (the series was tied, 2-2), NBC interrupted the game to show the infamous white Ford Bronco chase involving O.J. Simpson.  The game was shown on a split screen alongside the chase, but the game was in the smaller box and there was little to no audio.  Also, this series isn't given the credit it is due because many people felt the Knicks wouldn't have been in those Finals and the Rockets wouldn't have won them had Michael Jordan not retired.

That may be true.  But we will never know.  That also spawns the question that I'm actually curious about: how many consecutive titles would the Bulls had won if Jordan hadn't retired?

It is an interesting question.  I know it seems easy to say that the Bulls would have won those two titles that bridged their two three-peats.  They might have, but would that have been certain?  And would their titles in 1996 through 1998 even had happened if Jordan never left?

There is an obvious butterfly effect to any of these questions.  The Bulls would have won this game or lost that game they hadn't and it would've affected playoff seeding, draft order and the like.  It's hard to put all of that together and make an ultimately educated guess, but you can ask yourself if the franchise's path would have changed.

Remember that Jordan retired on October 6th of 1993 [ed note: I was at college at that time and was at the student activities center ready to order a personal pizza when the TVs were all on the announcement.  I lived in North Carolina at the time and it was quite the buzz] which means that the Bulls roster was pretty much set heading into the season.  The Bulls' newcomers were Corey Blount, a rookie drafted out of Cincinnati, Toni Kukoc who was a rookie after being drafted back in 1990, and Steve Kerr, a backup shooting specialist who mainly played for the rival Cavaliers.  Other than some minor role players coming and going, and the midseason trade that sent Stacy King to Minnesota for Luc Longley, this was pretty much the same team coming back.

You can debate whether the Knicks may have finally stopped the Bulls in the Eastern Conference playoffs.  You can assume the Bulls would advance like they always had, but these Knicks were talented, experienced and were thiiiiiis close to winning the title that year.  If you have them back in the Finals, you can also debate whether they would have beaten the Houston Rockets.  The Rockets finished with 58 victories during the season.  The Bulls without Jordan finished with 55.  That would've been a great series but I can't fault anyone for believing that Chicago would have won.

This is where the split of my argument begins.

Understand that in the summer on 1994, the Bulls ... unlike the previous offseason ... knew that Jordan would not be on the roster (and, ironically enough, he would come back to the team midseason).  So the Bulls and their players made decisions with that knowledge.  Horace Grant left for a young budding Orlando Magic squad that was nearing title contention.  Bill Cartwright left for Seattle.  The Bulls also signed Ron Harper to a big free agent deal to try to replace Michael Jordan's production at the off-guard spot.  Would any of this happened had Jordan never retired?

Who knows?  Would Grant have left a team that had won 4-straight titles and looking for more?  I mean, he did leave for the Magic as the apparent missing piece to their roster (Orlando would go on to the Finals that season).  Obviously Harper never would have been a Bull since they wouldn't have needed him nor would they have paid him.

Then, if Grant resigned with the Bulls, the Bulls would have had no reason to trade for Dennis Rodman in 1995.  People forget that Harper would be the de facto point guard for Phil Jackson's triangle offense alongside Jordan.  Neither would have been there for the second three-peat.  Could they have won titles without them?  That's definitely up for debate.

Then you must factor in fatigue.  There are reports that Jordan was talking about retiring as early as 1992 after the Dream Team run in that year's Olympics.  That fatigue, along with him achieving champion status and an all-time great had him ready to call it quits.  But he did play one more season, a season that saw the Bulls not have the home court advantage in either the Eastern Conference Finals or NBA Finals.  As we all know, the murder of his father shortly after the 1993 NBA Finals helped make his decision to hang them up.  Jordan may have retired after the 1994 season/championship anyway.  The drive that pushed him as people questioned him during his stint in baseball may not have been there.  His hunger may not have been there.  That's why it is rare for three-peats to happen and while anything past that has happened just once.

As I have said, there is a butterfly effect to Jordan's decision that would will never be able to quantify.  But that's the point.  To think that everything would have happened after October 6, 1993 if His Airness never had that press conference is a bit naive.  Heck, the Bulls may have never won a total of six rings had he didn't retire the first time.

Either way, it is a fun debate.



Monday, June 2, 2014

Spurs 'Dynasty' Is Harder To Define

Are these Spurs a true dynasty?
In my experience ... sports dynasties are usually easy to define.  Sure, they can be tough while you are in the middle of them.  Yes, several are open for debate (the Bills of the 1990s).  But, for the most part, dynasties distinguish themselves and become universally recognized.

In no sport is that truer than in the NBA.  The NBA, for whatever reason, seems to have more defined dynasties.

- In the 1950s, it was the Minneapolis Lakers.  They won five titles in that decade including four in five years from 1950 to 1954.

- In the 1960s, it was the Boston Celtics.  From 1957 to 1969, the Celtics won 11 titles and went to the Finals 12 times.  Included in that is their record 8 straight titles from 1959-1966.

- In the 1980s, it was the Los Angeles Lakers.  They won five titles in the 1980s and went to nine Finals from 1980 to 1991.

- In the 1990s, it was the Chicago Bulls.  They won six titles in two separate "three-peats".

- In the 2000s, it was the Los Angeles Lakers.  The Lakers won five more titles from 2000 to 2010 and went to seven Finals.

Though there are some smaller dynastic periods mixed in there, those are pretty much agreed on as the main dynasties in the NBA.

That makes what the San Antonio Spurs are doing a bit more curious.  The Spurs, of course, are set to face the Miami Heat in the Finals this week.  The Spurs are looking for their 5th NBA title and perhaps stopping the Heat's own run at a dynasty.  Only the Celtics, Lakers and Bulls have won more titles than the Spurs current total of four.

This Spurs "dynasty" isn't as clean as the others.  While I mentioned the dominant nature of those other team's runs, the Spurs don't really own that.  The Spurs four titles spanned from 1999 to 2007.  That is pretty dynastic -- four titles in nine years.  Again, only three other franchises have done anything close to that.
However, the Spurs have never repeated as champions.  Until this year, they hadn't even followed up a Finals appearance with another one (and they are coming off a Finals loss).  Those five dynasties listed above had a repeat (Lakers 1987-88), several three-peats (Lakers 1952-54, Bulls 1991-93, 1996-98, Lakers 2000-02) and an eight-peat (Celtics 1959-66).  The Spurs haven't done that.

Even if they won it this year, that would mean that dynasty period would be five titles in 16 seasons.  Not really total domination.  Not to mention that feeling of someone doing it better while you were doing it.  The Lakers also won five titles during this span and they did so in a tight 11 year period.

That's like the NFL having the Redskins of the 1980s playing second fiddle to the 49ers dynasty.  Or the Cowboys, Dolphins and Raiders in the 1970s taking a back seat to the Steelers.

This isn't at all to slam what they've done.  The consistency that Greg Popovich and Tim Duncan have had over their 17 years together has been remarkable.  Winning a title would cement the legacies of Pop and Duncan as five-time champions and place them truly of the elites of the game ... not that they weren't there already.  This is a class organization that routinely takes players that may not be household names and turn them into guys they can use in their system.  They are the franchise others are emulating.

Enjoy the Finals.  Either way, we will hear a lot of talk about the winner becoming a dynasty.

The "Big East-ing" Of The ACC Is Nearly Complete


We all know and are having to accept the changing landscape of college sports.  Whether it is your favorite school switching conferences, your favorite conference adding or losing schools or rivalries all over the place dying out ... it has been quite the adjustment.

It is hard to find a group of schools that have had to deal with a bigger adjustment than the ones that comprise the current ACC.  There are the six remaining 'original' schools that have been in the league and rivals for over 60 years.  Then you have Georgia Tech (1979) and Florida State (1991) that have been members for decades.  Now you have seven schools that have been added since 2004 that used to call the Big East home.  A lot of changes to a lot of schools.

From my standpoint, this has been tough.  I'm an ACC fan (a North Carolina fan, to be specific).  I am one of those people who loved the league for the round-robin schedule.  I loved those rivalries.  I loved the pretty much tight geographic nature of the league.  I enjoy the small town atmosphere of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro.

Don't get me wrong.  I know that in this world of survival, the ACC had to add on to its membership.  I mean, this league will not only have North Carolina and Duke but now has Syracuse and will be adding Louisville in a month.  This is a league that pretty much owns the eastern coast major college haul.  The league expands as far north as Boston, as far west as Notre Dame and as far south as Miami (before that, Maryland was the northern school, Georgia Tech was the furthest west and Florida State was the furthest south).

The new ACC is not only expanding its membership, but changing nearly everything.  The ACC tournament will be in Brooklyn in a few years.  It has taken over Big Monday ... which used to be the Big East's thing.  Very soon, the ACC will also take the Big East tournament's time slot on ESPN and hold their championship game on Saturday night.

What used to be the biggest difference between the ACC and Big East is the style of play.  The ACC was more of a finesse league with athleticism and smooth play while the Big East prided itself on a rough and tumble approach.  This past ACC champion?  Virginia who employed a defensive style that saw many final scores in the 50s and 60s.

To many long time ACC fans, the Big East-ing of the league is nearly complete now that the new logo ... shown above ... looks a lot like what the Big East had at the end of their run.

I like this new ACC.  I loved the old one.

Like I said, I like having UNC, Duke, Syracuse and Louisville in one league together.  I like having Notre Dame, Pitt, Miami and Virginia Tech.  Even Boston College ... who seemed totally out of place when joining in 2005 ... has grown on me.  I hate not playing everyone twice.  I hate the ACC tournament taking (it seems) two weeks now.  I hate that Maryland left.

The league has already become fractured.  Just like most of the other huge conferences, there are varying interests and varying agendas.  Just one year into the new setup, the ACC meetings were filled with drama as members were split on an 8 or 9 game football schedule.  There has been grumblings about the amount of time between meetings on the gridiron.  That's what happens when half the members have been together for such a long time and had to make additions just to keep their conference together ... and when the other half was uprooted from their traditions and comfort to keep a little of their way of life.

I hate that the charm of the league is gone.

Not to wax nostalgic, but that's why college conferences were formed.  Schools from a close geographic area who held the same agenda.  They held a bond.  Boston College, a northern Catholic school, doesn't have that much in common with southern schools like a Clemson.  However, they do have the biggest of shared interests -- to make a ton of money off intercollegiate athletics.

That drives change.  

The funny thing is that sports has always been like that.  Sports is the one thing where change always happens.  In college, players graduate.  New recruits come in.  In the pros, rookies enter the league and the old guys retire.  Innovation in sports always occur.  Rules changes.  Uniform changes.  Expansion.  Relocation.  It always happens.

But college sports traditions are among the most precious and it always stings when those either end or dramatically altered.  And that's how the ACC fan feels right now.

Friday, May 23, 2014

I'm REALLY Warming Up To NBA Draft Wheel

Cleveland again?  Ahhh yeah!  Again and again!
The Cleveland Cavaliers get the No. 1 overall pick.

Again.

Yes.  For the 3rd time in 4 seasons, the Cleveland Cavaliers will have the top pick in the NBA Draft.  That is amazing on so many levels.  It is their 4th top pick since 2003 and their 5th top pick since 1986.

This isn't the NFL where being the worst grants you the top pick.  In fact, there were 8 teams worse than the Cavaliers this past season but Cleveland won the all important draft lottery.  Cleveland finished the season just five games back of the final playoff team in the Eastern Conference, the Atlanta Hawks, and now begin the offseason with the top pick.

There has been a lot said about whether the draft lottery is a good thing.  If it even works.  If it is fair.  In the NFL, the worst team gets the top pick ... but there rarely is any talk of tanking.  In the NBA, that is certainly true.  In fact, there was a running storyline of who was and wasn't involved in tanking this season.  From massive salary dumps in Boston to Philadelphia's 26-game losing streak to Milwaukee's complete lack of talent to the Lakers fielding a D-League team every night.  You can even speculate that the Utah Jazz were trying to be bad so they could draft Duke's Jabari Parker, who also happens to be Mormon and a certain superstar in that market.

This all started talk of possibly having a NBA Draft Wheel down the road.  The concept is that the wheel is a 30-year rotation of picks.  Everyone at some point would get the No. 1 pick.  Everyone at some point would get the No. 30 pick.  And everyone would once get every pick in between.  It is an interesting concept because it would already set the draft order and there would be no need for tanking.

At the time it was thrown out there, I had some concerns.  First, it could hurt the smaller markets.  If you were LeBron James coming out of high school and you knew the Sacramento Kings were set to have the No. 1 pick this year but the New York Knicks were set to have the No. 1 draft pick next year ... would you go to college or overseas for a season to keep from going to Sacto?  Would trades be harder to come by due to the fact that dealing draft picks would be more of a certainty?  You may not want to trade a player for future draft picks if you know those draft picks aren't very high.  Plus could the wheel spin where an elite team ... say the Miami Heat this season ... happens to get the No. 1 pick and would have an embarrassing amount of talent?

Sure.  But that's the nature of the beast.  After all, is it fair that the Cavaliers get to have the No. 1 pick three times in four years?

Think about the draft lottery, which began in 1985.  Here is the list of teams that won the draft lottery:

4-Cavaliers*
3-Clippers, Magic*
2-Spurs, Sixers*, Nets, Hornets/Pelicans, Bucks, Bulls, Wizards
1-Knicks, Kings, Warriors*, Rockets, Raptors, Trail Blazers

Notes:
*Sixers traded their pick (1986) to the Cavaliers prior to the draft
*Magic traded Chris Webber (1993) to the Warriors and he never played in Orlando.


That is 30 drafts and only 16 different franchises got the top overall pick.  Thinning that out means that the Lakers, Celtics, Heat, Pistons, Mavericks, Sonics/Thunder, Pacers, Jazz, Suns, Hawks, Nuggets, Grizzlies, Wolves and Bobcats/Hornets haven't had the No. 1 overall pick in the lottery era.  Of this group, only the Lakers, Celtics, Pistons and Hawks even had a No. 1 overall draft pick prior to the lottery era.  The other 10 teams have NEVER had a top overall pick.

Of the 30 teams who had top overall picks in the lottery era, they have won a combined FOUR NBA Championships in seasons after they acquired their top pick.  All of those four belong to the San Antonio Spurs who drafted both David Robinson (1987) and Tim Duncan (1997) and then won four titles.  The Bulls six titles happened prior to them drafting Elton Brand (1999) and Derrick Rose (2008); the Rockets two titles happened before drafting Yao Ming (2002).

Of course, top overall picks did mean a lot to five of the Lakers seven titles (Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Shaquille O'Neal), the Rockets two titles (Hakeem Olajawon) and two of the Heat's three titles (LeBron James) and two of the three Pistons titles (Mark Aguirre).  All were either drafted prior to the lottery system or were drafted by other teams.

So it is hard to say if the lottery works or not.  Only four times did the team with the worst record win the lottery and the top overall pick.  Those picks were Danny Manning (1988), Derrick Coleman (1990), LeBron James (2003) and Dwight Howard (2004).  None won a title with the team that drafted them, though James and Howard did take those teams to the NBA Finals.

Let's look a little deeper.  Here is who the team with the worst record drafted each year:

1985-Wayman Tisdale (Pacers)
1986-Kenny Walker (Knicks)
1987-Reggie Williams (Clippers)
1988-Danny Manning (Clippers)
1989-Glen Rice (Heat)
1990-Derrick Coleman (Nets)
1991-Dikembe Mutombo (Nuggets)
1992-Christian Laettner (Wolves)
1993-Jamal Mashburn (Mavericks)
1994-Jason Kidd (Mavericks)
1995-Antonio McDyess (Clippers)
1996-Shareef Abdur-Rahim (Grizzlies)
1997-Antonio Daniels (Grizzlies)
1998-Raef LaFrentz (Nuggets)
1999-Steve Francis (Grizzlies)
2000-Darrius Miles (Clippers)
2001-Eddy Curry (Bulls)
2002-Mike Dunleavy Jr (Warriors)
2003-LeBron James (Cavaliers)
2004-Dwight Howard (Magic)
2005-Marvin Williams (Hawks)
2006-Tyrus Thomas (Blazers)
2007-Mike Conley (Grizzlies)
2008-Michael Beasley (Heat)
2009-Tyreke Evans (Kings)
2010-Derrick Favors (Nets)
2011-Derrick Williams (Wolves)
2012-Michael Kidd Gilchrist (Bobcats)
2013-Victor Oladipo (Magic)
2014-(Bucks)

Some years it actually worked out.  The Heat did better with Glen Rice than the Bullets did with 1989 top pick Pervis Ellison.  Jason Kidd had a more significant career than Glen Robinson (1994).  You can certainly argue that the "worst team" made out better with Michael Conley, Steve Francis and Dikembe Mutombo.  Or course, you have to feel for the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1992 who missed out of Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning and got stuck with Christian Laettner.  The Sacramento Kings sure would have loved to see Blake Griffin in a purple and black uniform.  Imagine Derrick Rose in a Miami Heat uniform.  The Bobcats would rather have seen John Calipari hand over Anthony Davis to them than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.  Chris Webber in Dallas?  David Robinson a Clipper?  Patrick Ewing a Pacer?

You think Yao Ming in Houston was huge?  How big do you think he would have been had he been a Golden State Warrior?  That would have happened had there been no lottery system.

Maybe the Grizzlies would still be in Vancouver if they had Tim Duncan?  They may not have even gotten a chance to draft him had they been able to draft Allen Iverson the prior season.

When you look at it that way, the lottery seems rather unfair.  But it is what it is.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Clippers-Thunder Late Game Call Shows Where Replay Actually Hurts



There has been a lot of "thunder" about the above play towards the end of the Oklahoma City-Los Angeles playoff game last night.  A quick recap: Reggie Jackson was driving to the basket, Matt Barnes slapped the ball out of Jackson's hand by actually slapping Jackson's hand, the ball goes out of bounds.  The refs didn't call a foul but instead gave the ball to the Thunder out of bounds.

That's when the replay system kicks in.

Looking at the replay, Jackson was the last to touch the ball before it went out of bounds.  However, the refs ... citing lack of indisputable evidence ... didn't reverse the call of the court and kept it Thunder ball.

Everyone was shocked and Clippers head coach Doc Rivers was livid.  It was the Clippers, remember, that had a very similar call go against them in their first round series with Golden State.

That's where the replay gets a bit too correct for me.  Like it or not, the NBA does have makeup calls.  For pretty much ever, a ref is more likely to let a play like that be called an out-of-bounds play instead of calling a foul.  While technically a foul, it was a bit of a close one and refs would rather you just take the ball out.  That's the way anyone who has really watched the NBA knows it works.  The players knows that's the way it works, hence not the complete outrage by guys like Chris Paul.  Diehard fans have accepted it.

But with replay hooked into it, it makes it tougher for these make-up calls to happen.  The only way to fix this would be to allow the refs to retroactively call a foul after viewing the replay (like they could have done in the Chris Paul-Draymond Green play in the earlier round), but that too could become a slippery slope.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Ranking The No. 2 Overall NBA Draft Picks Of The 2000s

Kevin Durant is by far the best No. 2 overall
pick in the 2000s
The 2000s were an interesting time for the NBA Draft.  It was the time when we saw the first (and as of now only) set of high schoolers selected with the top overall pick.  We also saw several foreign only players taken with the first overall selection.  We saw the one-and-done implemented as well as the D-League created.

There have been some solid top overall selections like LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Yao Ming, Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose.  The No. 2 picks in the drafts of the 2000s have certainly left something to be desired.  Only two would be certified super stars and only one is staring at a certain Hall Of Fame status.  That's a far cry from the 1990s where guys like Alonzo Mourning, Jason Kidd, Kenny Anderson, Gary Payton, Antonio McDyess, Marcus Camby and Steve Francis were selected with the second pick.

Here is the rankings of the No. 2 picks in the NBA Drafts of the 2000s decade:

#10  2002-Jay Williams (Bulls):  Picked directly after Yao Ming, Williams was supposed to be the man in the post-Jordan era for the Bulls.  Williams had a promising rookie campaign averaging 9.5 pts and 4.7 asts but shooting just below 40% from the field.  In the offseason, Williams was severely injured in a motorcycle accident and never played an NBA game again.  You can debate if he was a bust or not, but he netted the Bulls just one less than mediocre season.  Career: 9.5 ppg, 4.7 apg

#9  2009-Hasheem Thabeet (Grizzlies): Thabeet's best season was his rookie season.  That year he averaged 3.1 pts and 3.6 rbs so that should tell you how his career has gone.  The only reason he isn't last on this list is the fact that he is actually functional for more that one season.  Career: 2.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg

#8  2003-Darko Milicic (Pistons):  This may be the worst pick of the entire list.  It wasn't just that Milicic was selected 2nd by the Pistons (who would go on to win the NBA Championship that season) it was who Detroit didn't pick instead.  Milicic was selected instead of Carmelo Anthony (#3), Chris Bosh (#4) and Dwyane Wade (#5) and after LeBron James.  Milicic certainly is nowhere close to the level of those guys and has become a punchline.  He fashioned out a niche career as a decent defensive center but nothing more.  Career:  6.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg.

#7  2000-Stromile Swift (Grizzlies):  The sophomore forward from LSU had a rather pedestrian career in the NBA.  Drafted by the Vancouver Grizzlies in one of the worst drafts in recent memory, Stro Swift's best season was in his 2nd year when the Grizzlies moved to Memphis where he had career highs in points and rebounds.  His NBA career fizzled out in 2009.  Career:  8.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg

#6  2005-Marvin Williams (Hawks):  Williams was coming off a freshman season at North Carolina where he won a National Championship.  Williams has had a decent career, but hasn't developed into much more than a tweener forward who pretty much sticks to his career average.  He has since been traded to the Utah Jazz and hasn't shown much improvement there.  Considered a bust since the Hawks passed up on selecting Deron Williams and Chris Paul, who were picked directly after him.  Career: 10.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg.

#5  2008-Michael Beasley (Heat):  Beasley was supposed to be a guy to help Dwyane Wade get the Heat back to the Finals but it didn't turn out that way.  Some off court troubles as well as some on court issues made it easy for the Heat to deal Beasley to the Wolves to clear cap space to sign LeBron James and Chris Bosh.  Beasley performed admirably in Minnesota but injuries kept him from reaching his potential.  More off-court problems marred his time in Phoenix before him resigning with the Heat in a very limited role.  Career: 13.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg.

#4  2004-Emeka Okafor (Bobcats):  The first ever Charlotte Bobcats pick, Okafor did win the Rookie of the Year award.  His best scoring season was that first one but he was always near the top of the league in rebounds with the Bobcats.  Since being dealt to the Hornets in 2009, Okafor has been a solid defensive player (sound familiar?) who can get you double digit scoring.  Career: 12.3 ppg, 9.9 rpg.

#3  2001-Tyson Chandler (Bulls):  Chandler was selected right out of high school and right between Kwame Brown and Pau Gasol by the Clippers but was traded immediately to the Bulls.  Chandler didn't do a lot with Chicago outside of being a solid defensive player.  Once he got to New Orleans, he became an elite rebounder and his scoring went up.  Chandler's biggest moments were winning an NBA title with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 and winning the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award in 2012 with the Knicks.  He hasn't been dominant, but he's been a solid defensive player for his career.  Career: 8.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.3 blk.

#2  2006-LaMarcus Aldridge (Trail Blazers): If the 2006 Draft was done again, Aldridge would be the No. 1 pick.  While getting off to a solid rookie campaign, Aldridge quickly turned into one of the elite scoring forwards in the NBA.  He's been an All-Star for three straight seasons and had career highs in scoring and rebounding this season.  Career: 18.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg.  

#1  2007-Kevin Durant (SuperSonics):  Kevin Durant won the 2014 NBA MVP award and a four-time scoring champion.  He, along with LeBron James, are the best players in the NBA and will carry the league into the next decade.  If there was an entire draft for the 2000s, Durant may be the No. 2 pick of that draft.  Career: 27.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg