Tuesday, October 31, 2006

:: Portland : Could the Blazers manufacture a massive turnaround? ::

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The Portland Trail Blazers finished last season 21-61.

Even the New York Knicks, the haven of all that is failure (if you belive the media) finished with two more wins than the Blazers. Third last? The Atlanta Hawks -- the team that everyone loves to lambust with talk of poor personnel moves and a lineup solely consisting of 6'8" swingmen. Atlanta managed 26 wins.

The media will have you believe that this off-season has been as with any other in Trail Blazer recent history -- unrest, upheaval, lawlessness and fractured personalities. These Trail Blazers might just surprise a few of the pundits.

Joel Przybilla is talking playoffs. "It's a change. I can tell. I can sense it. We've got a lot of talent on this team. There's no doubt in my mind we can make the playoffs. Why wouldn't we?"

He's right. Why wouldn't they?

There has to be good reason as to why Przybilla, a highly sought-after free agent this past Summer, didn't sign with San Antonio or Detroit (amongst others). He could have been combining with Tim Duncan or Rasheed Wallace and looking at instant title contention. Obviously he saw something more in Portland -- the chance to build something great with a team from the bottom up.

The building blocks are in place. The Blazers have the perfect coach to suit a young team looking for structure in Nate McMillan. His defense-first, strict approach will ensure that the wayward young minds of the future cornerstones of this team's success are put in the right places.

A young low-post scoring presence in Zach Randolph. Randolph has once again worked incredibly hard over the off-season in losing weight and honing his body into the 20-10 player he should be on a nightly basis. He has shown over the pre-season that he is ready to roll. Take all of the media hype surrounding late night sexcapades and police pulling his car over with a grain of salt. Media hype is often just that -- hype. The boy may have made some questionable decisions off the court, but he certainly has been working hard on it.

A potential superstar and rookie of the year in Brandon Roy. Roy's style perfectly complements the inside skills of Z-Bo with a pentrating, creative guard who is just as comfortable manning the point as scoring at the two spot. It's too early to expect too much from the rookie, but early indications have a lot of people excited in Portland. Numbers like 15-4-4 this season are far from outrageous estimates.

A solid stable of big men with differing skills to ensure that Portland will never be wildly outmatched down-low, no matter who comes to town. Przybilla provides a legitimate center who can block shots, rebound and knows his limitations. And as his off-season signing shows, he has commitment to the Trail Blazer cause and wants to make this team win. Jamaal Magloire's acquisition in the off-season from Milwaukee means a big body can be brought in off the bench with a scoring touch and an ability to rebound with the best big men. Magloire has proven that as a starter he is a double-double waiting to happen. He will get plenty of opportunity to prove himself in Portland. Raef LaFrentz's acquisition from Boston gives a different look again, as he can hit the outside shot. This gives either Magloire or Randolph to work in the low block, spreading the floor on offense.

LaMarcus Aldridge is the almost forgotten factor this off-season. The #2 overall pick in the NBA Draft, at 6'11" provides an exciting future for Portland. His shoulder injury and subsquent surgery is a setback to his start, but given the depth the Blazers have up front, this season is likely to be a learning process more than anything for him regardless. Most lottery picks are thrown in at the deep end with outrageous expectations, but Aldridge's tutelage will be more of a battle for minutes. His time to play will come in the near future and he will have had the right amount of 'on-the-job' training to be ready for it.

Martell Webster and Jarrett Jack are perhaps the two biggest unknown quantities on this team. Both will be given significant minutes -- likely as starters -- in which to shine. Jack's ability to handle the point will often determine how the Blazers fare from night to night. So far he looks like he will be solid. Just what this team needs. Webster's outside shooting brings a balance to the squad's inside power and similarly, his form will have a big effect on the Blazers' fortunes.

Darius Miles is another of the media's poster-boys for all that is wrong with the Blazers. He comes into the season injured, meaning that Webster and Travis Outlaw will take most of the minutes at small forward. When his head is in the game, Miles is a spectacular scorer. There is still every chance that the Blazers will look to trade him where possible.

Two young backup point guards in Sergio Rodriguez and Dan Dickau, give the team some other options should Jack be unsteady. Meanwhile, the feel-good story of the off-season, Ime Udoka has made the roster for opening night. On the form he has shown in the pre-season, he may well be given minutes at the three. Canny scorer Juan Dixon provides another threat off the bench at shooting guard -- a luxury the Blazers may not need to employ too often if the youngsters are doing their thing.

All of this makes for a very well-rounded team. Are the playoffs out of the question this season? Not at all.

The Blazers may possibly manufacture one of the best re-ascensions to prominence in recent NBA history with a move from last place to a playoff berth in 2006-07. The way I see it, there is really one spot in the Western Conference eight that is up for grabs and Portland may just have their eyes set on it.

Orlando fan heckles Mutombo : receives death threats

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An Orlando Magic fan, Hooman Hamzehloui, heckled Dikembe Mutombo during a recent pre-season game between the Magic and Rockets calling him a "monkey." The fan, who accompanied the chants with corresponding physical gestures, was rushed by Mutombo, who viewed the heckling as a racial slur.
The fan claims that his heckling was not racially motivated, but rather an ignorant attempt to get up the Zaire native's nose. Well, it certainly worked. He got up the NBA's nose as well. After being ejected from the game, he has been banned from attending NBA games and his season ticket has been rescinded by the Magic.
Hamzehloui has since received death threats. The businessman, of Persian background, tried to make amends with an apologetic letter to Mutombo (which not so surpisingly got into the public domain), offering a $5,000 donation to any charity as well as not to turn up to any NBA game until Mutombo (or the Magic) say that he may. Well that choice has been taken away from him after the NBA's ban.
Magic fan reactions on their Forum are mixed. Many believe it was just an ignorant mistake. Others believe he should have known better and that it was clearly a racist attack, equated to the "monkey" chants which often haunt European soccer players of African origin. This take, from an Orlando Sentinel writer, claims that his attack is "indefensible." Either way, the NBA isn't accepting anything remotely racist in this era of "cleansing" of the NBA image.

Milwaukee : Bogut will suit up in season opener

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Andrew Bogut, originally suspected to be out for the season opener (Nov 1), has been cleared for action against Detroit on Wednesday.
The Australian Boomers Centre, sprained his lower leg after colliding with Steve Blake's knee during practice on October 7. Bogut said, "I did a full session Saturday and a full session today, and I'm feeling fine."
Given that the Bucks have Brian Skinner and Dan Gadzuric backing him up, the Bucks would be foolish to push him with too many minutes in the opener. Charlie Villanueva, acquired from Toronto for TJ Ford in the off-season, will be the starter at power forward and should provide solid minutes.
The other existing injury concern for the Bucks is small forward Bobby Simmons, who will likely be covered for at the three by former Blazer Ruben "the nanny-stopper" Patterson.

// NBA moves : Jalen cut // Warwick + West extended //

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// Jalen Rose out of NYC //
In a last second move before the regular season start, the New York Knicks have cut a large chunk of their league-leading payroll, with news that they have bought out Jalen Rose's contract. There had been cries from Knick fans of further management futility during the off-season when Isiah and co drafted Renaldo Balkman, in addition to signing Jared Jeffries from the Wizards. Many saw these moves, when combined with the existance of Quentin Richardson and Jalen Rose at small forward, as incompetence of the usual Knickerbocker variety.
There's nothing up at the moment, but I will be interested to see what Mutoni's take on the Rose move is, over at Bench Renaldo.
I definitely think it's a strong move for the Knicks -- perhaps one that should have happened sooner (read: last season a trade would have been a good idea). The Knicks have to realise that they are not going to win anything this year -- or the next -- and re-building with young players is the key.
//Grizz extend Hakim Warwick //
The Memphis Grizzlies have taken up the fourth year extension option on F/C Hakim Warrick.
As a rookie Warrick didn't live up to the glory that his College career suggested. In 68 games, Warrick averaged 4.1 ppg and 2.1 rpg. During pre-season play this year, after being afforded 29.4 mpg, he has upped his numbers to 12.4 ppg and 5.9 rpg. The Grizz will be looking for a continuation of that play, in addition to a display of his shot-blocking abilities -- otherwise Christian Laettner may have to go through with his threat of coming out of retirement...
// David West continues the good work in New Orleans //
The New Orleans Hornets have re-signed PF David West to a multi-year contract extension. As usual, terms were not disclosed. If not for the deal, West would have become a restricted free agent at the end of the season.
West led the Hornets in scoring and rebounding last season (17.1 - 7.4) and combined with Chris Paul to make for an exciting combination in New Orleans / Oklahoma City. His re-signing is a very smart move by the Hornets as a cornerstone of the franchise, particularly since his stock may rise even more in 2006-07.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Raef LaFrentz in a Blazers Uniform

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Copyright 2006 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
Raef LaFrentz's line vs Utah (Oct 23) : 7 pts / 4 reb / 1 blk / 16min
Blazers 114 - Jazz 110

SLAM Covers : Big Ben & Amare

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Two great covers have been released by SLAM for the coming Issue 103, featuring Big Ben Wallace and the returning Amare Stoudemire. You can check it out here. I have to say that I think both look great.

Seeing Big Ben on the cover got me wondering: what expectations have Bulls fans set on him? Chicago has a recent history of being used to winning and the city is really looking for a return to that. That massive contract Wallace got comes at a price -- wins. So I thought I would ask the fans at Blog-a-Bull what their thoughts are. We'll see what answers come from it.

NBA : News & Notes

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Raef LaFrentz debut
Tonight against Utah will finally see the debut of LaFrentz in Blazers colours as he slowly returns from a torn calf muscle. According to the Oregonian, he is not at full strength and will no doubt take things slowly. However his return comes at an opportune time given the injuries to Darius Miles and LaMarcus Aldridge (both still yet to play in preseason action) and Martell Webster's recent soreness.
LaFrentz gives the Blazers a different look off the bench at the four and five spot, given his ability to knock down the three. He will compliment well the inside banging of either Zach Randolph or Jamaal Magloire when on court.
Jay Williams fairytale cut short
Sadly former Duke star Jay Williams' attempted comeback to the NBA with the New Jersey Nets has been cut short, as the Nets cut him from their roster. Williams had been looking for a role as backup point guard after sustaining major injuries in a 2003 motorcycle accident.
Eric Musselman DUI saga
Over the weekend, Sacto Kings coach Musselman was caught driving under the influence. A "teary-eyed" Musselman has apolgized over the incident.
Broadcast changes
There will be plenty of changes to ESPN/ABC broadcasts of NBA games this season.
Chris Andersen
The Birdman flies at SLAM Online! My favourite quote in the article from the Birdman regarding drinking alcohol, "I can put it down."
Celtics News
Sebastian Telfair had his $50k necklace stolen outside of a nightclub and Fabolous, who was shot on the night, is hiring a private investigator to find out the true story of the night.
Meanwhile our good friends at Loy's Place are trying to keep up with all of the Celtics roster positional changes -- very similar to the battles in Portland for playing time.

The Price is Wrong : Mark Price & Todd Fuller out

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Former Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star Mark Price has resigned from his duties as head coach of new Australian National Basketball League franchise, the South Dragons. After a lacklustre start to the 2006-07 NBL season, where the Dragons are yet to win a game, the pressure on Price in Melbourne appeared to be too much and he has decided to move his family back to the States. A move which the club appears to agree with wholeheartedly -- in other words, he was more pushed than anything.
Team Captain Shane Heal, a former San Antonio Spur and Minnesota Timberwolf, will become Head Coach/Captain for the remainder of the season. There is speculation that Heal had become tired with Price's coaching style early on in the partnership and potentially that disapproval of one of Australia's most successful ever players helped push Price on his way.
Former NBA journeyman Todd Fuller, who started the season as one of the team's two imports, was also released on the same day. Fuller had been solid, yet unspectacular. His production was likely slightly below what had been expected of him, yet the main reason for his departure was more likely his ties to Price -- after being recruited downunder by the former Cav. Fuller averaged 16.8 ppg and 8.2 rpg in the 5 Dragons losses to date.
It will be interesting to see if Price can revive his coaching career elsewhere. To date he is yet to prove himself with any meaningful coaching experience and this was one of the key questions asked about him when he was signed as the innaugural coach of the South Dragons.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

NBA Throwback : Buck Williams

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He was the guy that did the dirty work on the Portland Trail Blazer glory teams of the early '90s. Charles Linwood "Buck" Williams did not get the same recognition as Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter or even Jerome Kersey -- but he certainly was a key to the success those NBA Finals Portland teams.
The current prototype NBA power forward is long, agile and multi-talented. He's as comfortable bringing the ball up as making moves in the low post. He's probably also closer to 6'11" than the 6'8" that Buck stood. Williams was the prototype back in the day. He would rebound like a demon, get you enough points on second-chance baskets and would make sure he did it at a very high clip.
Williams started his career as a New Jersey Net after three years at Maryland. The 3rd overall pick in the 1981 NBA Draft, Williams went on to win Rookie of the Year after averaging a phenom-like 15.5 ppg and 12.3 rpg. From there, Buck toiled for the Nets and made the power forward position in New Jersey his own as he continued to average 11.9 rpg or more every season he was in Jersey. He made three all-star appearances as a Net: 1982, 1983 and 1986 -- a fact much forgotten by many fans who went on to see him as a complementary player in later years.

On June 24, 1989 the Blazers decided it was time to bring that interior toughness to Portland. The infamous Sam Bowie (yes, he could have been Michael Jordan) and a draft pick which ended up being Mookie Blaylock (whom NJ traded a year later to Atlanta for Rumeal Robinson) were sent to Jersey to gain Williams' services. I would argue that without that trade, you don't see Portland in the Finals in 1990 and 1992.
Prior to Buck's arrival, Portland had dipped out in the first round of the playoffs in four consecutive seasons. The results were immediate: three straight Western Conference Finals and the only thing between Portland and a title being the Detroit Bad Boys (1990) and a man named His Airness (1992).
Buck was famous for his trademark goggles -- and his regular double-doubles and solid field goal percentage. Battling down low for the Blazers in an era which pinned him against the likes of Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Charles Oakley, Dennis Rodman, Larry Johnson, Kevin Willis, Larry Nance, Horace Grant, Shawn Kemp, Otis Thorpe, Derrick Coleman and Wayman Tisdale, there was cetainly a challenge every night for Williams and without his presence the Blazers would have struggled on the boards.
Williams had a reputation as a tough but fair competitor, a clean reputation which earned him the position as President of the NBA Players Association for a period.
Primarily a starter for the Blazers, alongside Jerome Kersey and backed up by Cliff Robinson in the glory years, Buck left the Blazers as their all-time leader in FG% at .550.
In 1996 Williams moved to New York to play one and a half injury-interupted seasons with the Knicks which put to a rest an honourable career which saw him tally more than 16,000 points and 13,000 rebounds -- only 7 players have achieved that double.
Other honours: two time All-Defensive 1st Team, two time All-Defensive 2nd Team, one time All-NBA 2nd Team, NBA FG% leader (1991, 1992) and NBA Minutes leader (1985).
In recent times, Williams has spent three seasons as an Under 16s AAU Maryland Madness coach (coaching to a top 5 national finish in 2005) and has recently been announced as a 2006 inductee to the Rocky Mount Twin County Hall of Fame.
"It's not who jumps the highest -- it's who wants it the most." -- Buck Williams

Ime Udoka : Making the Most of Opportunities

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For the casual NBA observer, the name Ime Udoka raises not much more than eyebrows.
For Portland Trail Blazers fans, Ime Udoka represents a local hero looking to capitalize on a very tough situation.
Udoka received an invitation to training camp with the Trail Blazers in early October and the former Portland State swingman and Portland native has finally seen his opportunity to impress with the Blazers. But it sure came at a hard time for the 29 year-old.
Just before Udoka's first appearance with the team was due, against Golden State, his father passed away. Fighting through the pain of his loss, Udoka managed to play the following game, against the Jazz. Opportunity had knocked with a sore back ruling Martell Webster out of the game and Udoka put up 16 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in 31 minutes off the bench.
Saturday against Seattle, Udoka started and played 35 minutes, again producing 16 points along with 5 assists and 4 steals in the Blazers' first pre-season victory. When asked if the promise the local has shown will lead to a permanent roster position, Nate McMillan said, "he did a nice job... we can't say right now if he'll make the team."
Udoka's path home to Portland has not been a smooth one. After not being drafted, he played 4 games for the Lakers in 2oo3-04 and 8 games last season for the Knicks, giving him career averages of 2.5 ppg and 1.8 rpg. The return home would be a fairytale for the Jefferson High School alum. However a roster spot will be hard to come by.
At 6-6 and 215, Udoka has good size to play shooting guard however the Blazers already have Brandon Roy, Webster and Juan Dixon who all play the two. Add into the mix Travis Outlaw and the eventual return of the mercurial Darius Miles at small forward and it's a tightly contested area of the roster -- as it seems every position is for the Blazers this season.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Preview : Portland v Utah (Oct 19)

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After two strong pre-season tests, against Seattle and Golden State, next up is the Utah Jazz. If the Jazz's match-up with Detroit is anything to go by, this match may not be as useful a preparation as the previous two, with Utah coming in slightly undermanned. Both Andrei Kirilenko and Derek Fisher sat out the Detroit game with minor injuries.
PG: Deron Williams v Jarrett Jack
A quality match-up for Jack. Williams was highly impressive at times last season for Utah and much like Jack, is this season expected to break out and take over the point position as his own. Williams distributes the ball well, whilst Jack has proven a tendency for efficient scoring so far this pre-season. This should be fairly even.
SG: Gordon Giricek v Brandon Roy
Fans will be looking for the continued exciting play of Roy that we have seen to date. Giricek can realistically be described as one of the weakest starting SG's in the league, so this is hardly the match-up of a Ray Allen. Look for Roy to standout here -- particularly with his allround game, including ball distribution.
SF: Matt Harpring v Travis Outlaw
Harpring is a solid veteran who knows how to put some points on the board and could prove a handfull for Outlaw. The only real advantage that Outlaw holds is a large edge in athleticism, but the scoring of Harpring sees this as an area of strength for the Jazz.
PF: Carlos Boozer v Zach Randolph
Z-Bo has a chance to continue his impressive play against the hard-nosed Boozer. Based on the hard work Randolph has put in during the off-season, he should dominate against the Jazz with anything they can throw at him.
C: Mehmet Okur v Joel Przybilla
Memo's ability to knock down the outside shot makes him a threat which may draw Przybilla out from where he feels most comfortable and is most useful -- the key. Okur shocked many in 2005/06 with his strong season, where he translated a complimentary role with the Pistons into being more of a focal point with the Jazz. Similarly, Przybilla was impressive for the Blazers, particularly on defense, despite injuries limiting his season. The ongoing challenge with Jamaal Magloire for starters minutes will be interesting to watch here.
Key Bench Players
Utah: Randy Brewer, CJ Miles, Jarron Collins
Portland: Jamaal Magloire, Martell Webster, Dan Dickau
Brewer scored 15 points in a scrappy game against Detroit, whilst CJ Miles has shown promise at the 2/3 positions. The Blazer bench is clearly stronger however, with former All-Star Magloire pressing for more minutes and Webster's pure shooting looking more confident than ever.
The Blazers will be disappointed if this game ends in a loss, despite it being a pre-season match. This should be an opportunity to solidify some teamwork amongst the many new teammates in Portland.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Portland 120 : Golden State 124 (OT)

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The second pre-season game for the Portland Trail Blazers was a pleasing one, despite losing by 4 in OT to the Warriors. The Trail Blazers did not lead at any point during the game, but some inspired play from Zach Randolph and Martell Webster pulled the Blazers back to tie it up at 114. The Blazers had a chance to win it in regulation but a shot with 10 seconds to go missed. The Warriors went on to win in OT, after Webster, Brandon Roy and Jarrett Jack had fouled out.

A loss is by no means normally a positive for the team, but the way in which the Blazers finished OT, after being down by 11 with 6 minutes to go certainly bodes well for the character of the team. Key notes from the game:

- In contrast to the first pre-season game, Jamaal Magloire started at C (with Joel Przybilla on the bench). This was likely due to the smaller lineup the warriors had, running Troy Murphy at C and Mike Dunleavy at PF. It would still appear that McMillan's preferred rotation would involve starting Randolph and Przybilla at the power positions, with Magloire getting about 20 minutes off the bench backing up both and Zendon Hamilton getting the remaining scrap minutes (LaMarcus Aldridge to replace him when healthy).

- Magloire was largely uninspiring with zero FG attempts, 6 turnovers, 5 fouls and 3 blocks in 17 minutes.

- Despite fouling out -- and picking up a tech foul -- Jarrett Jack replicated his productive performance of the Seattle game with 16 points (5/7 FG, 6/6 FT) and 4 rebounds in 20 minutes.

- Webster came off the bench to play the majority of the minutes at SF (33 min) and did not disappoint. 25 points (6/11 FG, 3/6 3PT, 10/12 FT), 3 rebounds and 2 steals including a very strong close to the match before fouling out, inspired the Blazers and no doubt will do no harm to his playing time heading into the regular season.

- Roy seemed to play exclusively at SG during the game, despite bringing the ball up on occasion. With Jack, Sergio Rodriguez and Dan Dickau totalling about 72 minutes on court, there was no great need for the star rookie to switch to the point. Offensively Roy showed a strong all-round game once again, with 19 points and 9 rebounds, displaying leadership and ability to get to the rack along the way.

- Randolph was impressive. 27 points on 10/17 FG and 7/8 FT, to go with 12 rebounds and 3 assists showed that his off-season conditioning work has paid off. He certainly looks like he has slimmed down and toned up, regardless of any off-court distractions reported in the media.

- Travis Outlaw played a solid yet unspectacular complimentary role, starting and playing 36 minutes. His 12 points and 6 rebounds is likely what the team needs, but I'd like to see more on the defensive end from him, as I'm sure McMillan does.

- Juan Dixon appears to be well and truly on the outer. He only entered the game in OT after Jack, Webster and Roy had fouled out and a shooting guard was needed. McMillan definitely wants to promote the future of the team and sadly for Dixon, who was a good scoring option for the Blazers last season, he doesn't fit the mould. Whether he stays around past the all-star break will be interesting.

Boxscore here.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Stephen Jackson : Paternal Instinct

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Stephen Jackson has explained the events of October 6, which saw him fire a pistol into the air a number of times outside of a strip club. Jackson claims that he was protecting his teammates when the incident happened, after a brawl had broken out in front of Club Rio. Jackson certainly seems to have an instinct for protecting his teammates. He was the first one into the crowd to protect Ron Artest in the Detroit 'massacre' for which he is still on probation.
I witnessed another such incident when Jackson played with the Sydney Kings in Australia's National Basketball League. In a pre-season game at Sutherland Stadium, Kings teammate Ben Melmeth was hit with a hard foul. Jackson was the first player to join the fight in 'protecting' his teammate from the unnecessary roughness of the play -- a teammate he had only known a short time. Jackson was injured not long later and did not manage to contribute much to the Kings before joining the Spurs in the NBA.
Worringly for Jackson and the Pacers, prosecutors in Detroit have now said that they will pursue jail time for the shooting guard, should he be found guilty of violating his probation. I wonder if they wish they'd held on to Fred Jones now, who incidentally is looking quite promising in pre-season form for the Raptors.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Deng for Maggette trade unlikely / Pacers resemble Blazers of old

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Sam Smith today floated the idea of a Luol Deng for Corey Maggette trade in order to improve the Bulls. The main thrust of Smith's idea is sound: the Bulls have a solid defensive core in place with Big Ben and PJ Brown on the roster, as well as numerous other nice pieces in Kirk Hinrich, Chris Duhon, Ben Gordon and Andres Nocioni, but need more of a scoring punch to take them over that hump.
The problem with the idea if I was the Bulls' GM: those knees of Maggette. The last thing you want is to pick up a guy who has had constant injury problems hampering his promising career. Maggette relies on his athleticism to get to the hoop and pick up the trips to the three throw line which score him a large number of his points. Deng is a solid forward who will never be a superstar but had a strong body and will be a constant contributer for years to come -- ala Xavier McDaniel. Thus a trade I wouldn't make if I were the Bulls who seem to be onto a good thing at the moment.
Smith also went on to mention the newest saga with the Indiana Pacers. If you didn't catch it, Stephen Jackson fired a gun in the air in public after he was hit by a car -- apparently in self-defense. The rest of the Pacers have rallied around Jackson in support. Reggie Miller does not agree with this approach. As Reggie said, "You shouldn't stand behind a player that is someone slapping you guys in the face during the middle of training camp being out at a strip club at 3 o'clock in the morning shooting it up like it's the Wild Wild West." I have to say I agree.
Smith compared the Pacers' current situation to the 'Jail Blazers' of old. The similarities are strikingly similar. A team full of talented players with questionable personalities that management is trying to turn a blind eye to in -- the ostrich's head in the sand approach -- which is destined for a disappointing conclusion. You would think that a guy like Jermaine O'Neal, having witnessed the Blazers' problems from the bottom up, would have some solid advice for his teammates to put an end to this sort of behaviour. Well, any sensible person would have thought that the problems had stopped after the biggest brawl in professional sports. But of course that is the opinion of someone living in the real world -- not in the world of seemingly unlimited money and glittering fame which goes to one's head.

Steve Patterson : Finally the Blazers' GM

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The Portland Trail Blazers have finally removed the "interim" tag from Steve Patterson's General Manager role with the team. After orchestrating roster-shaking moves in the off-season the move seemed to be the most logical for the Blazers.
Kevin Pritchard was elevated to Assistant General Manager on the same day.
The stability brought about by confirming these front office moves can be nothing but good for the team.

Luke Walton smokes too much

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In the past week we've heard LeBron James come out and say that the Cavs can win the championship this year. Seems a stretch, but vaguely possible -- this is LeBron after all. We also heard Dwight Howard say the same thing. Well, the Magic do have a pretty decent squad.

Now Luke Walton has come out and said the the Lakers will be in the finals this season. "I expect to be in the Finals this year. We could've done it last year," said Walton. Comments like that make you wonder how much weed Bill Walton smoked when he conceived young Luke. Maybe call it the misguided confidence of youth. Need I remind Luke that the LakeShow is still going into this season with Kwame Brown as its starting power forward and with Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom as its only viable scoring options. Surely he hasn't fallen for the Andrew Bynum hype too? When his dad is commentating on the games and screaming "Get the ball to the big guy!" who will they be throwing it to? Certainly not Brian Cook or Chris Mihm I hope.
Looking at the team that stumbled through last season, living and dying by the sword known as the hand of Kobe, the only additions are Vladimir Radmanovic (a nice outside shooter, but not a game changer) and rookie Jordan Farmar ( a guy with potential but at this stage likely to be similar in game to Reggie Jordan rather than Michael). So Luke's comments may be a little too soon. Another year and a quality big man and then the Lakers can start talking Finals.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

NBA News : Around the traps

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The New York Knicks have once again maintained that they are not making any moves prior to the season starting to re-jig their roster and thin out the backcourt logjam. Mention is made of the non-completed rumoured Darius Miles trade with Portland.

Alonzo Mourning is ready to go for the coming season continuing to fulfill his fate, destined as he has been since he was drafted second in 1992, backing up Shaquille O'Neal. There was speculation that Zo would retire at the end of last season with the Heat's Championship success, however that Zo competitive spirit does not allow him to quit. Mourning is definitely a key to the Heat's title defense as he provides a solid backup when Shaquille increasingly plays less minutes with age, in addition to his value as a replacement starting centre when the inevitable injured pinkie toes come along for the Diesel.

Over at ClipsNation, they've analysed the ill-fated moves of Clippers draft picks in past seasons.

I thought it was worth a look at the history of the McDonald's Open (otherwise known as the World Club Championship) which pits top club teams -- including NBA and Europe -- against each other to determine the top club team in the world. To date, the NBA squads have been perennial winners. However given the tidal shift in world basketball, I would venture to say that it is only a matter of time before a non-NBA team goes on to win the Open.

NBA Europe Live : Barcelona defeats 76ers

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Barcelona Winterthur became just the second European team to defeat an NBA squad, as they beat the Philadelphia 76ers 104-99 in Barcelona on Thursday.

There is a highly detailed report of the match here:

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Vin Baker a T-Wolf

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Continuing the old-school feel of late, Vin Baker has been signed by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Recent news has seen Shawn Kemp (almost) try out with the Chicago Bulls, Christian Laettner talk about a comeback with his new investment -- the Grizzlies -- and Kenny Anderson attempt to get a look-in with the Blazers. Now Baker has signed a deal in Minneapolis, backing up Kevin Garnett. It will be interesting to see how he performs, though I'm sure the T-Wolves are not expecting too much from the 8th pick in the 1993 Draft, who did not see much burn last season with the Clippers.

Grizzlies sale : Laettner weighs in

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We noted here a couple of days ago that a 70% controlling stake in the Memphis Grizzlies was to be bought out by former Blue Devil, Brian Davis. As it turns out, his College teammate Christian Laettner will be partnering Davis in the purchase. The former Dream Teamer may look to insert himself in the lineup as part of the purchase, according to Davis. Laettner retired at the end of the 2004-05 season with Miami, but the power forward may look to join the Grizz for the up-coming season.

Eva Longoria is single

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I was just reading over at this German blog, HoopNation that Eva Longoria and Tony Parker are no longer... as Tobias, the author said, he has always wondered why someone as ugly as TP had a woman like Eva. Well, wonder no more. This of course is an opportunity for some gratuitous Eva Longoria photos, so here goes.

NBA Europe

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In case you hadn't noticed, the NBA has hit Europe this month. As part of their NBA Europe Live Tour, the Spurs, Clippers, 76ers and Suns will play against European club sides in Barcelona, Lyon, Moscow and Cologne.
To coincide with the games, the NBA has announced a range of products being released in Europe, including special edition NBA jerseys of the teams, NBA Live '07 with covers featuring European NBA stars and the sale of the new NBA ball.
Speaking of the new ball, Shaquille O'Neal has been the latest player to voice his disdain with the new leather that will be used in the NBA this season. Shaq maintains that the ball becomes slippery when wet and "feels like one of those cheap balls that you buy at the toy store, indoor-outdoor balls." I have to say, that was my first impression on seeing images of the new ball too, it does look like a composite leather ball rather than the real deal and just doesn't have the 'genuine' look of the leather balls that have always been used. Shaq thinks that shooting percentages will go down and turnovers will increase -- and I think that the ball will revert back to the old leather style in 2007-08.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Aaron Miles fails physical

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The search for a third/fourth-string Blazer point guard continues, with Aaron Miles having failed his physical due to a sprained ankle, as reported by this Blazer press release:
The Portland Trail Blazers announced today that due to a mid-ankle sprain, Aaron
Miles did not pass his team physical today and therefore the club is unable to
tender him a contract at this time. Miles is expected to make a full recovery
within two weeks.

The most sensible option at this point would be to try and snare an experienced backup like Anthony Carter. Stay tuned for what happens next.

The Logo may be out of a job

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NBA great, Jerry West may be pushed out of his position as Team President with the Memphis Grizzlies after it was announced that former Duke Blue Devil, Brian Davis is to buy out a controlling 70% of the team. West's position would be eliminated as a cost-cutting measure, reports ESPN.
Upon purchasing a team, I can't understand why you would want to remove an icon of the league and an element of respectability such as the Logo. West has made some solid moves for this team and transformed them from an expansion team into a squad which has caused some headaches for other teams in the west.