Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bonzi Wells : Patience doesn't always pay

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Former Trail Blazer and renowned bonehead, Bonzi Wells has finally gotten himself a contract. The Houston Rockets lucked out in the Bonzi sweepstakes as they ensnared the solid rebounding and scoring two-guard with a 2-year $5m contract. Many teams have sought the signature of Wells since he rejected a $37m, 5-year offer from Sacramento (with whom he played last season).
Wells is a solid addition for Houston, who are constantly seeking ways to support superstars Tracy McGrady (who has been "pushing hard" to get Bonzi to come to Houston) and Yao Ming. He provides an additional scoring option on the perimeter and can even move down into the low block to back down smaller guards, using his superior strength. He will certainly challenge new Rocket Shane Battier for minutes and a spot in the starting five if he keeps his head in the game. It appears certain that Bonzi will then try his chances again next Summer, in the hope of getting a bigger deal.

Aaron Miles invited to camp for Blazers

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The Blazers have announced on their site that Portland native Aaron Miles has been invited to join the team at camp, bringing the number of players on the roster at camp to 14. Miles, who played sparingly with Golden State last season is a fantastic passer and will be looking to get minutes at backup point guard. Given the injury-cloud surrounding Dan Dickau and the inexperience of Sergio Rodriguez, he may be given an opportunity to hit the court in some stints.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Dwight Howard guarantees Magic championship

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Well, Portland may as well give up any hope this season of a title. Dwight Howard has gone ahead and guaranteed that the Orlando Magic will win the championship THIS season. Perhaps Dwight has been watching some old tape of Grant Hill back in the day or heard his recent comments about coming back with a vengence. Then again, I'm not going to argue with that big boy -- at 270 pounds he's a formidable presence that is only going to get scarier in years to come (see Malone, Karl).
In light of this, it's lucky for the Dallas Mavericks that they have secured the services of Dirk 'Diggler' Nowitzki for another three seasons, so that they have a shot at a title in years to come (after the Magic win this one). The Mavs have not disclosed the amount of the deal, but it rumours are that they have laid $60m on him over the period of the contract.
Speaking of the Mailman, he has been cleared of any wrong-doing by a judge, after his business partner alledged a bribe offered by Malone to take the blame for an illegal elk hunting trip. I just love the mental-image of big Karl dressed up in his hunting costume. Even moreso, it leads my mind back to that incident where Karl Malone told Vanessa Bryant that he was hunting "little Mexican girls." Quality comedy, the whole scenario -- there's a good re-counting of it here.
The guys at Celtics Green asked me to write an article on Sebastian Telfair, for the benefit of Boston readers who are pumped for his input at the Celtics this season -- you can see it here. I hope for Bassy's sake that he can have that breakout season -- just not in the games against the Blazers...
Meanwhile, Pat Riley has confirmed that he's ready for another crack at the title. Will Miami do it? I don't know. Those big Diesel legs are another year older. Alonzo Mourning will similarly play even more of a backseat role. The Glove has some holes in it. On the other hand, D. Wade will be even better as he showed over the Summer at the World Championships and they still have a stacked roster of talent. Detroit has lost Big Ben and a lot of other teams have gotten a lot better -- leaving the East wide open this season.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

New balls please : the NBA updates its software

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The NBA announced recently that a new type of ball will be used this coming season. All of the players in the league have been given a ball to try out and get used to before the season starts. Apparently this new rock will give added grip. I have to admit I don't really like the look of it, but hey, the NBA didn't ask me.

I was reading over at True Hoop that Kwame Brown "hates" the new ball and basically thinks his overall performance will decrease with it. Look out Laker fans! If Kwame is going to become more unco-ordinated with this new ball, that's a scary sign.

Australia wins Womens World Championship

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A little delayed in the recognition, but I thought it was important to give a round of applause to the Australian Opals for winning the FIBA Womens World Championship of Basketball in Brazil this week. The Aussie girls, starring Lauren Jackson (top scorer in the tournament and second top rebounder) and Penny Taylor (third top scorer), defeated Russia in the Grand Final, 91-74.
Team USA defeated the home team, Brazil to take the Bronze medal in a walkover, emulating the medal achieved by their male counterparts.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Veteran backup point guard

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Nate McMillan is looking for a veteran point guard to back up and mentor Jarrett Jack as he is pushed in at the deep end this season. Word from the Oregonian is that Kenny Anderson has offered his services to return to the team -- he has been politely declined. Perhaps Kenny A is too much of a bad reminder of the bad times of the past. Or perhaps staff have been more enamoured with a younger candidate, such as Anthony Carter, who has been also rumoured to have been working out with the Blazers.
Carter would be a solid option. A career backup who has started when needed, he has played with Miami, San Antonio and Minnesota over seven part-seasons.

Shifting Randolph and Miles

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Jake Appleman at SLAM Online has come up with a trade idea. Zach Randolph and Darius Miles to Philly for Chris Webber. I have to say I don't like it.

Webber was a solid talent in this league. He still may have some talent in him. However, he doesn't have much.
The Blazers are a young team that are looking to build for the future. A player like Webber is someone you pick up if you are looking to add that last piece to the puzzle to win a championship now or very soon. In other words, he doesn't fit the Blazers.
Secondly, I think we can get more for Randolph and Miles. Sure, maybe they are in severe need of a good PR agent at the moment to improve their collective image, but these are talented players. Miles is yet to show the extent of his talent -- a ceiling which is sky-high. Unfortunately his IQ can not be similarly described. Z-Bo also has room to improve. He should be a solid 20-10 guy and potential all-star for the remainder of his career.
Buy high and sell low. Now is not the time to move these players -- you simply are not going to get even close to 100 cents in the dollar -- not with all of the negative publicity surrounding them. It's like calling collectors to a garage sale. They're looking to rip off little Tommy on the price of his G.I. Joe collection because they know his mother is forcing him to sell them.
Miles and Randolph need to play out this season and be given a chance to prove that all of the negativity this off-season was ill-founded. There is every chance that with all of the hard work Z-Bo has put in prior to and during training camp that he will have his best season yet. Miles may have his mid-season brain explosions again -- but that is the time that we will trade him (and him only). His value is not going to decrease any more than what it has.
I just hope I am not going to have to eat my words on that last sentence.

Friday, September 22, 2006

NBA Fantasy Basketball : Hints + Tips

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Fantasy basketball -- every armchair enthusiast's chance to be GM. But it's more than just being Elgin Baylor, it's personal. It's about beating your buddies. Rivalries that go on season after season.
The Basics
If you haven't gotten into Fantasy NBA already, now is the time to do it. Get a group of like-minded budding basketball experts together and start those battles which are going to bring that added level of interest to the NBA season.
The popular choice for most Fantasy Basketball veterans is Yahoo! Fantasy NBA. The guys at Yahoo! have been running FNBA for years now and the product is top quality and gets better every season. The actual "prettiness" of the interface has been a little lacking at times, but they have certainly upped that this season with the advent of the NBA's own entry into the Fantasy market. has noted the popularity of FNBA and how it attracts a new level of fandom to the sport, so have decided to bring this aspect of the game in-house. NFL and other sports run top-notch fantasy games from their own sites and now NBA is offering Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner. At this stage it's hard to say which one is going to be better, so if you're like me, you'll enter a team in both versions this season. If you just want to go for one, I would recommend Yahoo! purely based on their track record.
There are also various Fantasy games out there where you have to pay, providing you with extra features and prize money sums. I prefer to stick with the free one myself and make the wagers on the side with friends.
With the NBA season approaching and thus Fantasy drafts approaching, I thought it a good time to start with some tips for putting together a winning strategy for your team. If you want to analyse the full details of the rules, I recommend you go to one of the sites above and read up on their Help sections (which are quire useful). Rules do vary from league to league and can be adjusted by individual commissioners.
What I am going to discuss here are some key tips for getting over the line in your league. These articles will continue in the coming weeks as we wait for the season to start. Today's topic is potentially the most labour-intensive part of preparation: ranking players.
Ranking Players
No matter what type of league you are competing in, the key is that you need to put a spreadsheet together. That is of course assuming that you want to win. If you just want to select players that you like to add some enjoyment to the season, then do it. But believe me, you will soon grow bored of your fantasy team as it languishes at the bottom of the ladder and your co-competitors will not want you to join their league next season.
The difficult truth -- a good player in reality does not equal a top fantasy NBA player.
Most Rotisserie FNBA leagues involve the following categories: FG%, FT%, 3PM, REB, AST, STL, BLK, T/O (less is best) and PTS. The objective is for your fantasy team to rank highest in each of these categories with comparison to your competing FNBA teams.
Your spreadsheet needs to take into account the statistics from 2005/06 for every player. You then need to rank each of these players with respect to the average for the league in each category. For example, if Tim Duncan averages 20.0ppg for the season and the average ppg across the league is 11.0ppg, then Duncan is 9.0ppg above average. This increases his fantasy value. However Duncan also shoots significantly below average from the free throw line. This decreases his fantasy value.
The reality of this means that a player such as Duncan may kill your fantasy team in one category, despite the fact that he is highly useful in many others (blocks, rebounds etc). A player such as Shaquille O'Neal is a FNBA rookie mistake from this perspective -- he will absolutely demolish your chances of winning the FT% category. If you have him on your squad, you might as well give up on that category and get every other poor FT shooter in the league and concentrate on their other categories.
The techniques of ranking using a spreadsheet can get a bit daunting if you are not too keen on mathematics or use of Excel, but try to follow this analysis. In order to rank your players, you need to do the following:
1. Copy the 2005/06 NBA statistics for every player in the league in the categories listed above.
2. Make adjustments to the statistics to reflect what you predict the players to output during the 2006/07 season.
3. Insert rookies to the list and make conservative estimates of their statistics.
4. Work out the average for each category of all players (eg work out the average PPG, the average FG% etc).
5. Calculate the standard deviation for each category. Your spreadsheet software should be capable of doing this for you.
6. Take each player's output in each category, subtract the average for that category. Divide this number by the standard deviation.
7. The resulting number if ABOVE ZERO, is GOOD. If BELOW ZERO, is BAD.
8. Tally all category results as per 7 (remember that turnovers is a negative). This total determines the rank for each player - the higher the better.
That's enough to get you started in your preparation. More hints and tips to come in future posts!

NBA Injury News : Speedy Claxton

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The Atlanta Hawks have had a temporary setback to their plans with news that point guard Speedy Claxton has broken a bone in his hand. Claxton was the ATL's key signing for the off-season and is envisaged as being the missing link in the fast-paced Hawk offense which is full of swingmen such as Josh Smith, Josh Childress and Joe Johnson. Johnson, who spent the summer at the World Championships with Team USA, was forced to handle the majority of the PG duties last season. The arrival of Claxton sees him freed up to score more on the wing. The Hawks hope to have Claxton back not too long after the start of the regular season.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Grant Hill : still drinking his Sprite

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Remember when Grant Hill was the next Jordan? The next Magic? Thankfully for the most part the media has given up on those types of comparisons that never come true... after Harold Miner didn't become the next Jordan and Walt Williams didn't become the next Magic it became a bit futile. Well, we still do have the hopes placed on the next Bird, Adam Morrison. But I digress...
Grant Hill was absolutely massive. Sharing the 1994-95 Rookie of the Year award with Jason Kidd, every kid wanted to be like Grant. The ads on TV proclaimed, "Grant Hill drinks Sprite" and we wanted to do the same. He was a mild-mannered superstar along the lines of David Robinson -- a reputation (along with his multi-talented efforts on the basketball court) which made him the first rookie ever to lead the NBA All-Star balloting before then leading it again the following year.
His co-ROY, Kidd went on to a stellar career which is still for the most part in full-flight. Unfortunately for Hill, his flight never reached the lofty heights for which he was destined. He has shown the determination of a champion in getting through more sessions of major surgery than his most people have had hot dinners. But Grant fights on.
According to this article in the Orlando Sentinel, Hill is pumped for a big season. More than that, he is ready for many seasons to come by the sounds. Hill wants to make up for lost time. He's obstensibly had five seasons on the sidelines -- plenty of rest. For the sake of the old school good guy, I hope that there are no more setbacks and his career can be completed in the style which it started.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Kemp chance fizzles

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Sadly, as we should have expected (and many did), Shawn Kemp's last chance looks like it has expired. Kemp did not turn up for his try-out with the Chicago Bulls yesterday. Travel problems were the excuse given -- and given the Reignman's keenness to impress, I don't doubt this is true. It's just a real shame.
In other news:
- NBA stars bowling.
- Melo's going to be a father.
- A 2005/06 NBA Draft recap here at

Monday, September 18, 2006

Positive signs for the Blazers in camp

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The positive outlook this offseason for the Trail Blazers continues. As reported by the Oregonian, coach Nate McMillan has been pleased with the number of players who have voluntarily turned up early to training camp. In particular it is heartening to hear that young guns Martell Webster, Jarrett Jack and Travis Outlaw are amongst those pounding away.
What is disappointing, but sadly expected, is that Darius Miles is not one of those players working out. Perhaps Miles has a valid excuse -- perhaps not -- either way, given the trade rumours all off-season and Miles' attitude last season, I didn't expect to see his name as the first on the list working out.
After his tireless workouts in the off-season, it is good to hear that Zach Randolph is in camp. As the guys at SLAM pointed out in their recent write-up of the Top 50 players in the NBA today, Zach may get himself into some stupid positions off the court, but there is no doubting his work ethic on the court.
McMillan also pointed out that the Blazers have to be "a physical team" this season. The arsenal that the team has up front, with the drafting of LaMarcus Aldridge and the acquistion of Jamaal Magloire certainly would dictate that. This inside presence, coupled with the outside abilities of rookie Brandon Roy and Martell Webster are positive signs for the Blazers.
In other news, the NBA has launched compulsory cardiac screening for all players after the sad death of Jason Collier and other recent scares. This can only be a good thing and something other sports should consider following.

NBA 2K7 : Demo release

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2K Sports has released a demo version of its newest offering -- NBA 2K7. After taking the lead in the NBA simulation market last year, following poor output from the guys at EA Sports, 2K7 looks to continue that. There has been plenty of NBA Live '07 coverage on this site, due to the amount of news that EA has been releasing, but 2K7 certainly is mouth-watering.
A full list of features of the game is available here at the official site, however the key comparisons with NBA Live can be summarised as follows:
- 24/7 : Next -- replicating the increasingly popular style of games such as NBA Ballers, this mode allows you to take your own baller from the streets and prove that he belongs with the pros, something Live does not offer.
- Franchise Mode -- features such as multiplayer franchise, 3 team trading and progressive fatigue give a different look to the Dynasty mode provided by NBA Live (which has definitely stepped up its game this year with new features of its own).
- Stunning graphics -- as the final version of both games have not been released, it is always fatal to comment here without playing a copy for oneself, however the screenshots released certainly are impressive and realistic. If nothing else, next-gen consoles have done wonders for realism on our screens.
For XBox 360 owners, the demo version (playable for 4 minutes) is now available through Marketplace for download. Comments from those that have tried the demo out would certainly be welcome!

36th Carnival of the NBA

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Check out the Nugg Doctor for the 36th Carnival of the NBA -- a collection of links on what is making the NBA Blogosphere rotate at the moment.

The Reignman : Can he do it this time?

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Everyone out there wants Shawn Kemp to make it. Every guy on the street, whether they were a Sonics fan or a Bulls fan barracking against him back in the day, wants a glimpse of the excitement he used to provide on a nightly basis.
Freaks of nature like Kemp are what make the NBA exciting. Windmill dunks over three guys in traffic are the reason we watch. We all saw the downfall from those exciting days, when his stints with the Cleveland Cavs and with our Blazers were less than inspiring -- but we remember the good times. When news broke some months ago that Kemp was hoping to make a comeback to the league, that he had been working his butt off and had lost a whole bunch of weight in preparation for a return to the Sonics or any team that would take him, it piqued interest.
Kemp attended the Denver Nuggets free agent camp, then was supposed to attend a tournament to showcase his skills -- then disaster struck again. In July Kemp was charged with possession of drugs. He claimed that he was totally off the habit and that the drugs were old. Either way, the punishment will likely not be severe should be found guilty. The Reignman has shed pounds and is pushing to make it back.
The lastest news has Kemp trialling for the Chicago Bulls' final roster spot. Here's hoping he makes it this time and we can see if he's still got it. This old article (and interview) from SLAM online is a fair indication of the mind of the man -- he just needs that shot.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Mason a Blazer?

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The Oregonian has blown wild speculation out into the Portland winds with the idea that Desmond Mason, a free agent at the end of this season, could become a Blazer in a years' time. It's a nice idea -- Mason is extremely athletic and would be a great fill at the small forward position, assuming we have gotten rid of Darius Miles by that time -- but I'd prefer to leave that speculation for the time being. You've heard the old saying that 2 minutes is a long time in the NBA, well a year is an even longer time...
Former Blazer Derek Anderson has been waived by the Miami Heat. Anderson only played 23 games for the Heat last season after arriving from Houston and did not appear to feature prominiently in their plans. It's another interesting speed bump in the career of DA and at this stage it's uncertain where he could land next. Anderson once had a very promising career as a first/second option scorer in his early years with Cleveland and Portland. I hope he lands somewhere that gives him a chance to progress.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Start the season, already!

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As a Blazers fan, after such a flurry of off-season moves, it's like the calm after the storm now. It's such a let-down to have to wait to see how this re-tooled squad pans out.
There isn't much news relating to the Blazers to report of late and hence nothing to write about here. Here's what we know to expect this coming season:
Brandon Roy will be exciting
Based on his Summer League play, everyone is expecting big things from the rookie guard. He'll likely spend most of his time at shooting guard and put up a lot of points, whilst also lead the team from the point at times. The poise he has displayed to date will be what every Blazer fan wishes and hopes for. Here's some more hype on him, if you haven't got enough. I guess the big question will be, how good will Roy really be? As a rookie will he be an 18-4-4 guy? Many are suggesting this. I would venture to say he may well come close to these numbers -- but let's not put too much pressure on him just yet -- this is a best case scenario. He's more than likely to fall a bit short of these heights. The problem of late is that the precedents set by LeBron James and Chris Paul are expecting Rookie of the Year to mean instant superstar. That is not always the case.
We will have to wait a bit to see LaMarcus Aldridge
...but when he does return, he should be another exciting attraction of this season. LaMarcus is a different postion to Roy in that he will be competing for time with established veterans Zach Randolph, Joel Przybilla, Jamaal Magloire and Raef LaFrentz -- in what makes for a very crowded frontcourt. Fortunately this means that he will be given every opportunity to develop slowly without the pressure heaped upon other high picks of the past. See: Kwame Brown.
Dramas are a constant in Blazer City
The Zach Randolph pre-season sex-drama is just the norm. We know this. We also know that it is just the first of the speed bumps to come on the highway that is the NBA team previously nicknamed the Jail-Blazers. There is still to be resolution on the status of Darius Miles -- who many tipped to be traded during this off-season. For now, let's assume that he'll be around to see out at least the first half of the season. Will Miles or Randolph explode again? Will there be gripes over playing time in the loaded frontcourt? Will there be further rumours of sale of the team? Will front office personnel be finalised soon? We await this and more.
How will Jarrett Jack and Martell Webster perform?
They're not rookies any more. In the case of Jack in particular, responsibility will be passed in his direction. Bassy and Blake are gone. Jack will be given the reigns of the team and told to lead. It will be interesting to see if he flourishes, if Roy is given a lot of the PG duties or if another option is taken altogether. Continued development from Webster will be expected. A lottery pick last year, return on investment is expected. He will be sharing minutes with Juan Dixon, Roy, Miles and Travis Outlaw at the swingman positions -- who gets the minutes will no doubt depend on form.
Where does Juan Dixon fit into all of this?
I don't know if it's just me, but I don't see Dixon staying too long with the Blazers. With the emergence of Roy and Webster, I doubt a young team like Portland can afford many minutes for an undersized veteran SG such as Dixon. That said, he provided a solid second/third scoring option last season when noone else would. What happens is uncertain. I still think he goes.
There's no doubt that the nucleus of the team is an exciting one. We can't expect big things or even the playoffs as a given, but there will definitely be many reasons to watch the Blazers ON the court this season. Bring on November.