Monday, November 27, 2006

Week in Review (Nov 20-Nov 26)

Analysis of the week that was in the NBA.

Hot Teams:

--Hottest team in the league with a 9-game winning streak. 4-0 this week with a big victory vs. the Spurs on the road. Whatever was bothering this team at the start of the season has been left behind. The defense seems to be getting back to where Avery likes it--held their 4 opponents to a combined 41.6% this week. Also, pounding the glass like last year: rebounding margin of +7 per game this week, and one of the top reb. teams in the NBA.

Pistons--Quietly re-establishing themselves as the class of the East conf. Although, that's not saying that much, seeing how mediocre the East is--it's like it's the NFC of basketball. But the Pistons have to be commended for going 4-0 this week & rattling off 6 wins in a row. Shot the 3-ball well this week--42.3%--and are one of the top 3pt shooting teams this season.. Also, continued to keep their TOs down (11.25 per) & held a +5 per game advantage in TOs this week. The Pistons avg. the least amount of TOs in the NBA.

Nugs--7-1 the last 2 weeks, 5 wins in a row, & 4-0 this week. Putting up points in bunches (lead the league) & shooting the ball at a pretty good clip overall. But still one of the worst 3pt. shooting teams in the NBA, and it's scary to think how bad this team's long-range shooting would be if JR Smith was not around. What's somewhat impressive, is Denver is doing so well while defending so little--near the bottom in Def FG% & Def 3pt. FG%. Although, they compensate by causing alot of turnovers and being one of the better rebounding teams in the league. But that outside shooting has to be cleaned up or the Nugs are going to have trouble getting out of the 1st round.

Suns--Like the Mavs, starting to resemble the team we expected to see at the start of the year. 4-0 this week, with the offense looking highly efficient like last year--49.7% overall for the week & a nice 42.3% from 3pt. On top of that, Amare seems to be getting his wheels underneath him, which should be a scary thought for the rest of the NBA. But here comes the same old refrain--the rebounding & defense need to be improved. The defense was not too bad this week, but the Suns have not been too good for the entire season. Also, the Suns are one of the worst board teams in the NBA, and the Suns were -3.8 on the boards per game this week & also gave up 13 off. boards per, as well. It is not a good sign when the Warriors beat you by 10 on the boards knowing that the Warriors are one of the weakest reb. squads in the league as well.

Not so Hot Teams:

--0-4 this week & lost 7 out of their last 8 games. A little surprising the Wiz are having trouble putting up points--scored less than 83 pts 3 times this week. The Wiz shot 39.5% overall this week & only 30% from 3pt. Arenas was a reason for this swoon by shooting 32.5% this week. Gil has been highly inconsistent this year. Although, I have not watched every Wiz game, it probably has to be connected with his customary horrid shot selection.

Clips--After a sharp start to their season, the Clips have started to struggle lately (0-4 this week). They did not look good today vs. the Nugs, but it was a back2back on the road. Their frontline has underproduced up til now, and now Kaman is out for a few weeks & Brand is complaining about fatigue leftover from the Worlds. Not a good sign when you have very little depth behind them. Dunleavy needs to establish Brand in the post more often, but it does not help that the Clips are one of the worst 3pt. shooting teams, which makes it more enticing to collapse into Elton's lap.

Nets--I probably could have devoted a spot for the entire Atlantic division, but I'm sticking with the one team I had hope for in the division. Had a real rough West Coast trip (0-4 this week). You can understand the road losses to the Suns & Lakers, but they were leading for most of each game with the Sonics & Blazers, and failed to put the teams away. This seems to be the M.O. in the most of the Nets' losses: they will come out in the 1st half looking good, especially on defense, then they just let the opposition slowly chip away at the lead in the 2nd half--it happened today, as well. It is sort of hard to explain why the Nets struggling so much. They have been shooting the ball well for the season & shot the ball at a 48% clip this week. Their defense was not great this week, but they have been one of the top defensive clubs in the league this season. They also outrebounded their comp this week by 7.8 per game. You can see the talent on the court--Carter, Kidd & Krstic have played well so far. Jefferson has been sidetracked by an ankle, & the bench has been pretty decent. Very perplexing. The one thing the Nets do have a knack for is poor execution at the end of a game. This was a major reason for the Nets losing Games 3-5 vs. the Heat, and it seems to have carried over to this year. Carter seems to me to be the biggest culprit--he's just way too carefree with the ball, likes he's playing in a pick-up game or something.

Players of the Week:

Dirk Nowitzki
--Gets my vote for MVP-o-week. Led his team to a 4-0 week & a big victory over the Spurs where he dropped 31 & 10. Averaged 28ppg, 11.8rpg, 3.3 apg & 58% shooting this week. Right behind Boozer for MVP of the season (so far).

A. Biedrins--Dropped 16.3ppg, 12.5 rpg, 3.8 bpg. Leading the league in FG% with 71.3%. & also one of the leaders in blocks as well. Went off for 31 & 10 on 14/17 vs the Nugs. Also, had a not too shabby nite vs. the Jazz with 14 pts, 17 rebs & 5 blks.

C. Boozer--Even with a terrible showing vs. the Warriors (4 pts), he still managed 25.5 ppg on 62.3% & 12rpg this week. That Warriors' game was a classic case of a back2back game on the road for the Jazz--Boozer had scored at least 30 pts for 3 games in a row, then fell off to 4 pts., while his team tumbled to combined 32.5%. Still the MVP of the season, but Dirk is gaining fast with the Mavs picking up steam.

Luol Deng--Seems to be emerging as the Bulls' primary scorer. Probably a good thing since Ben Gordon is just too erractic to be a #1 scorer. Averaged 24.6ppg on 58% & 6.3rpg. Nice little mid-range game with nice length that helps him rebound well for a SF.

Monta Ellis--Would be the favorite for the Most Improved Player if were not for the play of another 2-guard 80 miles away. Not sure anyone thought Ellis would be emerge this quickly--17.8ppg & 7.3apg this week--has scored in double figures in every game but one this season.

David Lee--Mentioned him in my shout-out to the Knicks' bench last week. Love the energy he brings off the bench. Pitched in 11 ppg & 10.8 rpg on 55%. Lee is currently 3rd in the NBA in FG%. Has a pretty ugly shot, but does most of his damage close to the basket with strong finishing ability.

Kevin Martin--Let's just anoint him as the new K-Mart. You bet I like pimping him since he was my fantasy draft steal-of-the-year, but he is making it very easy for me, so I don't feel so bad. 28.6ppg, 5rpg, 59% from the floor, & 9/14 from 3pt. for the week. 25ppg & 5rpg for the season on a sweet 54.5% overall & 49% from 3pt. for the hell of it.

Eric Dampier--Never thought I would see his name on this list, but has been surprisingly consistent the last 2 weeks--11.1ppg & 9.7rpg on 72%. Helped the Mavs with 8ppg & 8.8 rpg on 63% shooting this week, plus 11 & 9 vs. the Spurs. On top of that, he continues to provide a nice defensive presence in the paint & once again did the best he could vs. Duncan. Also, Damp is currently 2nd in the league in FG%. He can give this team some post points that are lacking because every other Mav loves the jumper so much. Can Damp keep this up? Well, Damp has never been known for consistent play before, but maybe Avery has finally gotten thru to him. If Damp can keep this up, he could be the X-factor for the Mavs to get out of the West.

Honorable Mention: Billups; Bosh; Bron; Deron Williams; Kobe; D-Wade; D. Howard; Redd; Duncan; Pierce; R. Lewis; J. O'Neal; Iggy; Willie Green; Iverson; Garnett; J. Johnson; Z. Randolph; Amare; Nash; Raja Bell; Tayshaun

Games of the Week:

Magic @ Jazz (Mon)
--Best team in the East vs. the best of the West. Will see if the Magic are as legit as their record.

Rockets @ Suns (Wed)--Two of the top teams in the West. Polar opposites in style--grind-out, defensive-minded Rockets vs. the speed-it-up, defense-less Suns.

Spurs @ Jazz (Wed)--Battle we been waiting for. Top 2 teams in the league right now.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

On Player Movement

I find it amusing how certain rumors about impending trades and free agency moves seem to take on lives of their own -- reported as conventional wisdom without people taking even a moment to note flaws in basic common sense underpinning the rumors.

These are currently my favorites:

All of the stories which swirl around Vince Carter's impending free agency seem to pivot on the question of whether Vince might be willing to opt-out and take a little less to go to Orlando (or possibly go to Charlotte).

Yet no one ever seems to probe this question: Would it really be a good idea for the Magic to sign him?

I certainly don't deny that the Magic could use a scoring wing, but this is a team building a strong young nucleus - is it really the best idea to sign a guy who will be 30 in January to a max or near-max deal? I can't imagine he'll be worth anywhere near that at age 34.

Also, I think Vince is aided greatly by the fact that Jason Kidd is NJ's unquestioned leader. I simply don't believe that Vince is a max-quality player is terms of being a guy who is a team leader with the mental toughness to carry a team deep into the playoffs. On such a young team, he would have to take on such a role. I think he could torpedo this young team's chemistry just as easily as his scoring could lift it.

One of my favorite notes this season was this quote that Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News-Tribune picked up from a scout: "I bet no player in the history of the league has gone to the locker room and come out again more than Vince Carter. In the history of the league."

I'm not saying that I definitively feel this would be a bad move for ORL, just saying that it seems there are enough question marks on even a surface analysis that it's worthy of being a topic. Just because you can doesn't mean you should.


I know, I know, you can't quite warm the heart of the rumor mill quite like suggesting that KG and Kobe might be united. And there's even some logic to it - Odom and Bynum would be some nice pieces for Minny to pick up.

But it all misses an obvious point: Kevin McHale despises the Lakers! If push comes to shove and MIN is forced into a Big Ticket trade, I would only imagine that McHale would do everything in his power to avoid moving the Lakers back toward championship contention. Beyond the deep-seated animus vs. the purple-and-gold, I don't think the Wolves would want to trade KG within the Western Conference. I think that, if he goes, he goes East.

[As a side note, I'd like to credit the Bergen Record with the first appearance of one of my favorite annual traditions - proposed trades by the New York media which are ridiculously one-sided in favor of the Knicks, conveniently avoiding even a hint of a suggestion that the trading team might not have any interest in such a deal. These things used to make me angry, but now they just make me laugh out loud:
    If the Knicks were to pursue a trade for Garnett (who's making $21 million this season and is due $46 million the following two, but can opt out after next season), it would almost certainly require dealing Francis ($15.1 million), Channing Frye ($2.3 million) and at least one other salary in the range of Quentin Richardson's $6.9 million or Jamal Crawford's $7.2 million.

    And if the T-Wolves did decide to move KG, it's likely they would demand that the Knicks (or any other team) take on the long-term commitments to players such as Marko Jaric (five years, $33 million), Troy Hudson (four years, $23.5 million) or Trenton Hassell (four years, $17.2 million) in a larger deal.]

I also have some random comments about moves or near-moves past:
When do the Bulls start questioning whether they'd rather have a 32-year-old Ben Wallace on the payroll for four years/$60 million instead of a 24-year-old Tyson Chandler for five more years/about $53 million?

Here are the numbers so far:
Wallace: 5.5 pts, 9.2 reb, 1.54 blk, .417 FG, .457 FT, 13.41 PER
Chandler: 5.8 pts, 11.5 reb, 0.85 blk, .667 FG, .364 FT, 14.94 PER
I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.
I know it's still early, but again, the age difference is *eight years*.

And now we have this story about Skiles benching Big Ben b/c he violated a team rule against headbands:,0,6478093.story
I can't decide if the most bizarre aspect of this story is:
1) That Skiles has a team rule against headbands
2) That Big Ben would so flagrantly violate a basic team rule
3) That Skiles would bench him for doing so
All in all, it don't seem like the coach and the max player are on the same page.

This feature on Brent Barry's mini-resurgence gave me a startling reminder:

The Spurs nearly acquired J.R. Smith from New Orklahoma City at the deadline in February before things fell through!

I know that Bones is playing great - 19.98 PER and shooting the hell out of the ball (.542 FG, .581 3PT, .917 FT) - but Smith would have been (in my mind) the perfect infusion of youth for this quietly aging team.

Again, it's all about the age - Barry will be 35 on New Year's Eve while J.R. just turned 21 and is sitting at 17.43 PER while draining a league-leading 3.0 threes a night on .388 3PT%. I love Bones, believe me, but who do you want on your franchise in three years (Manu's 29, don't forget) - 38-year-old Barry or 24-year-old Smith? Even though it didn't work out - what a smart organization.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Week in Review (Nov 13-Nov 19)

Analysis of the week that was in the NBA.

Players of the Week:

Carlos Boozer
--MVP of the season, so far. He slightly edges out Duncan & Bron in my mind. 17.3 ppg, 14.7 rpg, 5 apg & 56.4% shooting this week. 22 (10/16), 16 & 4 vs. the Suns & 16,15 & 7 vs. the Clips. Like I said last week, his passing might be the most impressive thing.

LaMarcus Aldridge--So much for an adjustment period. 11 ppg & 5 rpg on 18/24 shooting in 4 games this week. Has already displaced Magloire in the starting lineup after only being active for 5 games. With Brandon Roy's status uncertain, Aldridge could be the Blazer of choice for the Rookie of the Year award.

Emeka Okafor--Has been a dominant force in the paint on both ends. 23.3 ppg, 11.3 rpg, & 4 bpg this week. The defense & rebounding does not phase me, but his scoring has caught me off guard. I really could not foresee this guy ever being more than 18ppg guy at best, but he has looked strong early. The key to his success has been his shooting percentage--he is shooting 57.6% this year, & a sick 70% this week. This has been always been his sorespot--43.9% career FG%--and the key difference between himself & Dwight Howard. If Okafor can keep this shooting up, we may need to put him back in the same class as Dwight.

Deron Williams--2nd week in a row on this list. Playing like a Top 5 PG, only C-Paul & J-Kidd are playing as well. 22.7 ppg & 9.7 apg on 50% for the week. Dropped 25 & 14apg on the Suns. Is averaging 18.7 ppg, 9 apg & 51% shooting for the season. 3rd in the league in assists.

Carmelo Anthony--Leading the league in scoring and will need to keep up this production with the injuries & lack of shooting surrounding him. 33.7 ppg, 4 apg, & 6 rpg this week. Melo has scored over 30 points for the last six games.

Paul Millsap--The Jazz might have found themselves a gem in the 2nd round. I thought Millsap would be able to translate his college rebounding numbers over, but that would be it. The rookie has averaged 11 ppg & 7.3 rpg on 60% shooting this week in only about 22 mins per game. Dropped 18 & 10 on the Suns on 5/6 shooting (8/10 fts). Right now, this two-headed PF monster of Booz & Millsap is an embarrassment of riches in Utah.

Ryan Gomes--Seems to have established himself as the 3rd option for the Celts. Had two double-doubles this week, to go along with his triple-double from last week. Huge in win vs. the Knicks with 22 pts & 14 boards. Versatile forward who can go inside & out and play off of Pierce nicely.

The Knicks' bench--You have to love the energy this group brings. Jamal Crawford brings the instant offense, while David Lee brings hustle in the interior & Nate Robinson is basically a human pinball. Also, Renaldo Balkman has been resourceful providing the dirty work. These guys have repeatedly kept the Knicks in games after the starting unit usually gets off to an uninspired start. This week, Crawford averaged 19.5 ppg, Lee had 11 & 8.5 rpg, & Nate added 13 ppg.

Honorable Mention: R. Allen; C. Bosh; Duncan; D. Howard; LeBron; Kev Martin; R. Lewis; C. Paul; Z. Randolph; M. Redd; Amare; Wade

Hot Teams:

--Seem to be reinvigorated after Sports Guy slams Doc Rivers--rattled off 3 wins in a row after article (3-1 this week). Pounded the Pacers & the Blazers, then held on for a 122-118 win in MSG in a very entertaining contest vs. the Knicks. Pierce & Wally have started to get more steady support from the youngsters. Gomes had two double-doubles this week, Kendrick Perkins has shown signs of life with some boards & blocks, Rondo has been showing some of his pre-season promise, and Delonte West has picked up his pace. What's surprising is that maybe the Celts should have been this good from the start because they have alot of positive team numbers: The Celts are 7th best in Def FG%, Def 3pt % & rebounding. Also, the Celts are #1 in 3pt%. Maybe it was the turnovers keeping them down, which are still too high.

Magic--All of sudden the Magic are 7-3; they sort of snuck up on me. Went 3-0 this week, but have had a somewhat favorable schedule so far this season. I was surprised at some of their team numbers--Tied for 1st in FG% (50%), 4th best Def. FG%, 2nd best 3pt FG%, and not surprisingly 3rd in rebounding.

Mavs--Starting to round into shape. 3-0 this week, have won 5 in a row after starting 0-4. Granted, they got to play Memphis twice this week. The Mavs are starting to look like the title contender they were predicted to be. Although, their defense has not totally turned the corner, but I have faith in Avery getting the ship in order quickly.

Warriors--Off to a fast start like last year. 3-0 this week, 7-3 for the season. Don't get to carried away just yet--they've been helped by a very favorable early schedule. So far, 7 home games (6-1), 3 road games (1-2), and the next 5 out of 6 games at home (For November, 12 out of 16 games at home). Two of the better wins came at home vs. teams on the second night of a back2back game. Although, the one encouraging thing has been the shooting percentage, which is 4th best in the league. This is something I thought would be a problem this year, but so far the Warriors have done a better job, especially Baron Davis. Will see if they can keep this up; I am a little skeptical. Their defense is a little better than I expected, but I can't see that continuing with Nellie at the helm. If Baron & Co. can keep their shot selection under control, this team can maybe sneak into the playoffs, but as I stated in my season preview, they will not last long because their defense & rebounding will be not up to snuff--the Warriors are currently the worst def. rebounding team in the NBA.

Jazz--Best team in the league. 3-0 this week, with victories vs. the Clips & Suns. Held on for an overtime win vs. the Suns (although no Nash). Who would think the Jazz would be leading the league in ppg? (Even ahead of the Suns) Also, tied for 1st in Off. Fg% (50%) and still #1 in rebounding. Although, their defense fell off a little this week--maybe something to do with an absent Kirilenko. Something scary to think about is the Jazz are doing this with their best all-around player not at full-strength/injured.

Not so Hot Teams:

--In the midst of a brutal road trip and had to do the dreaded Texas Triangle this week, then the Lakers on Sunday. 0-4 this week with 3 more road games to go. We knew the offense would struggle to find its way, but the vaunted defense has been few & far between. Right now, the Bulls are 7th worst in Def FG%. Although, I thought they looked great today vs. the Lakers, and you can see the natural defensive talent which should not be worried about. But on the other hand, the offense was rough to watch today. They were downright brutal vs. the Lakers. And the problem is there is not much in the way off natural offensive talent to build around. Something to worry about.

Hawks--Slowly coming back down to reality. 0-2 for the week, to make season record 4-4. But not totally ready to ride them off yet. They lost by only 2 vs. Bucks & 5 vs. Miami. What is really stunning is they have the 2nd best Def. FG% in the NBA, only behind Charlotte. Yeah that's right, Atlanta & Charlotte are the best in Def. FG%. I just can't see this holding up for either team, and thusly, the Hawks should return back to normal. Also, I can't see Tyronn Lue giving Atlanta this type of production very long. Still get a hearty chuckle now that Deron Williams looks nearly as good as C-Paul, and Billy Knight had both guys sitting in his lap.

Sonics--Guess who is dead last in the league in Def Fg%? Yep, the same old Sonics' defense. It does not help that Seattle is near the bottom in protecting their def. backboard, which just adds to more pressure on the defensive end. 1-3 this week, and can't see the future looking bright on the court, which is compounded by the troubles off the court. Sorry Vanilla Thunder, there is always the Huskies & the T-Birds.

Grizzlies--See my Mid-Week Jamboree post.

Games of the Week:

Suns @ Warriors (Mon)
--The Suns vs. the Phoenix wannabes. We'll see if the Warriors are for real, but might not be quite the test since Nash appears to be gimpy. Can't wait to see who does a worse job protecting their def. glass.

Clips @ Lakers (Tues)--1st meeting of the season. Nowadays a must-see affair.

Nets @ Suns (Fri)--Kidd vs. Nash (hopefully healthy) always a great show. Can the Nets' lumbering frontline keep up with the Suns' interior athletes?

Mavs @ Spurs (Fri)--Best rivalry in the NBA right now.

Jazz @ Warriors (Sat)--Second tough challenge at home in a week for G.S. Although, second of a back2back for both teams, so take outcome with a grain of salt.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Mid-Week Jamboree

Just some quick thoughts rattling around my skull:

The Nugs--Here come the injuries once again. It was already tough enough to move Kenyon & his putrid contract, now there is little to no chance they will ever move him until the last year of his deal. Who's going to take him now that his knees are heavily suspect? Even the Knicks, the only team that would have entertained the idea of taking on KMart before the injury, are not that dumb & desperate, especially with David Lee playing well. Also, Nene is already scuffling with injuries as well, and it's only a matter of time before Camby misses his obligatory 20 games. If the Jazz can stay healthy, they should cruise to the NW title.

Also, this team continues to shoot the long ball poorly--25.7% from 3pt, dead last in the NBA. JR Smith is the only guy who's decent (39%), the rest of the team is shooting a combined 19% from 3pt. They have to try to move Joe Smith ($8 mil expiring deal) for some more shooting.

By the way, I thought the Kenyon deal was dumb at the time, not after the fact. They already had Nene, and they struck out at getting Manu or any other 2-guard and Kiki could not sit on his money, like he should have. If he just sits on the money, he could have been a big player in 2005 when the 2-guard crop was nice--Joe Johnson would look pretty nice next to Melo, huh Kiki. Then they just couldn't sit on their money the next summer & decided to get a 3rd PG, not to mention their second PG named Earl, for no reason and eventually dealt him mid-season for Ruben Patterson.

Kiki Vandeweghe--Speaking of Kiki, who signed him to a studio analyst gig? It's not that he is that bad, or obnoxious, or annoying, it's just something about his voice & personality that would be more suitable for children's programming. Like he should be hosting Blue's Clues or Sesame St., you know what I mean. Just listen to him. Maybe Kiki could be the nouveau-Mr. Rogers, where he wears a buttoned-down sweater with the old-school Nuggets jersey with the Tetris-style skyline underneath. Not really sure why the ESPN brass cut down on Legs & Greg Anthony, thought they were very good in the studio. Their pure basketball analysis is better than Chuck & Kenny's.

The Pacers--I knew I was reaching when I picked them to win the Central, but to get blown out by Celts is unexceptable. I had higher hopes for their offense with the add of Harrington & Carlisle's insistence that he would loosen the reins on the offense. But they still look like the team that bogs down for long stretches as always. They are only shooting 43% from the floor & 34% from 3pt. Lucky their solid defense has carried over from last year, although they were surprisingly bad vs. the Celts. Have to find a way to infuse more fluidity into the offense. One way is to deal Stephen Jackson. He just holds the ball too long and has a habit of firing up ill-advised shots, like he does off the court.

Kevin Martin--Can't say enough about him. Feel even better about this since I grabbed him in the later rounds of my fantasy draft. I felt I had a steal who would give me 15-16 ppg, but no idea he would explode like this--23.8 ppg on 54% shooting & 40.6% from 3pt. Loved his poise in the playoffs last year, so this is why I felt losing Bonzi was not a big deal. Just miss the modified high-top fade he was rockin' last year.

Dwight Howard--Been saying this since last year--Dwight needs to be getting more shot attempts. Only averaging 8.6 attempts per, last year he only attempted 10.7 per. The dude is shooting 60% this year & he shot 53% last year--Brian Hill needs to get him touches now. Not sure if Dwight is reluctant to look for his shot or Brian Hill just is not finding ways to get him involved. Dwight needs at least 15 shot attempts per game. He comes out of the gates with a monstrous first game where he decimates the vaunted Bulls' interior defense, and then has only two other games where he attempts over 10 shots; I don't get it.

The Grizzlies--I guess I am a little disturbed when the Sports Guy lumped the Grizz & Fratello in with Doc Rivers in his latest article, and I felt the Grizz & the Czar needed to be defended. I am not sure why alot of people are so down on the team & Coach Fratello.

How could you expect much at all from this squad. Who is exactly suppose to score for this team? Mike Miller is a 15 ppg guy at best, who struggles to create his own shot. Chucky Atkins is their crunch-time scorer right now. Chucky Atkins!! Fratello has no choice--who on this team can create their own shots? I felt this was a problem going into last year's playoffs: outside of Gasol, where's the scoring punch? I mentioned in my season preview that Rudy Gay is their best pure scorer with Pau out, but he's still a rookie.

I think Fratello has done a pretty good job with the hand he was dealt. I thought the Grizz would keep games close and they have--their 6 losses have been by an average of 6.5 pts. That's all Fratello and his emphasis on defense.

Fratello has always been an underrated coach--his teams usually defend well. The Grizz were 4th in the West last year without much secondary scoring punch behind Gasol. I understand Fratello could be gone because of the new ownership, who probably have Quin Snyder or Johnny Dawkins lined-up for the gig. (Personally, I have my fingers crossed for Greg Koubek.) But Fratello is not the issue, it's the personnel he's been dealt. So people need to be realistic with the Grizz.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Salary List-O-Rama

Hi folks. Sorry for the silence - life got a little hectic for the Thunder (if I may go Karl Malone on myself) the last couple weeks. Here's a quick post for now:

David Moore of the Dallas Morning News broke down salaries - both player and team - in his column on Sunday.

A couple points:
- Only Charlotte, Atlanta and Toronto are under the salary cap of $53.1M.
- The true cap appears to be the luxury tax threshold of $65.4M - most of the league hovers around that number, and only 6 teams pay more than $1 million in tax.

I offer a bunch of links below to the Dallas Morning News, but it's worth noting that no one does salaries as well as the indispensable, which breaks them out in tables looking ahead to 2010-11 - a must-bookmark for the NBA junkie.

Here are the highest-paid players in the league:
1. Garnett $21M
2. Webber $20.7M
3. S. O'Neal $20M
4. Finley $18.9M (including pre-amnesty money)
5. J. O'Neal $18.08M
5. Kidd $18.08M
7. Bryant $17.7M
8. Duncan $17.4M
9. Iverson $17.1M
9. Marbury $17.1M
Complete player list
Top 25 players

Here are the top 10 team payrolls (includes amnesty players):
1. Knicks $117.0M
2. Mavericks $91.2M
3. Lakers $77.1M
4. 76ers $75.2M
5. Blazers $74.6M
6. T-Wolves $67.5M
7. Nets $66.9M
8. Spurs $66.4M
9. Nuggets $66.2M
10. Warriors $65.8M
Complete team list

Looking ahead, John Hollinger -- in his column on the top 25 '07 free agents (subscription) last week -- noted that the following teams should have significant cap room next summer:
- Milwaukee (a lot of room)
- Memphis
- Charlotte
- Atlanta
- Seattle
- Orlando (depending upon what they do with Darko)

Here are the Top 10 of his 25:
1. C. Billups
2. V. Carter
3. R. Lewis
4. G. Wallace
5. D. Milicic
6. M. Bibby
7. G. Hill
8. A. Varejao
9. Mo Williams
10. A. Nocioni

While we're on the subject of lists, for no particular reason, here are the top 5 most improved scorers, through Monday, from
David DuPree's column
1. Kevin Martin, Kings: 23.8 ppg (+13.0)
2. Hakim Warrick, Grizzlies: 14.5 (+10.4)
3. Quentin Richardson, Knicks: 18.5 (+10.3)
4. Zach Randolph, Blazers: 27.3 (+9.3)
5(t). Joe Johnson, Hawks: 28.8 (+8.6)
5(t). Luke Walton, Lakers: 13.6 (+8.6)


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Week in Review (Nov 6-Nov 12)

Analysis of the week that was in the NBA.

Hot Teams:

--The Jazz continue to look sharp for another week & have been one of the most impressive teams of the early season. Their only set-back was a close loss on the road to a solid Nets' team. The Jazz are 2nd in the league in FG% with 49.7% & 4th best in Def FG%. They are also the 2nd best rebounding team right now. Watching the Jazz play, I've been impressed with their ball movement & overall fluidity on offense. Boozer has been superb for 2 weeks & his frontcourt partner, Memo Okur, has been strong, as well. Another player who has really stepped up is Deron Williams. I am really impressed with the way he uses screens & vs. the Nets he was displaying a sweet step-back jumper. Wily vets Derek Fisher & Matt Harpring have provided great contributions off the bench. The scary thing is Kirilenko has not really played all that well yet.

Spurs--Same old, same old. Duncan's been Duncan--although, his free throw shooting is still problematic. Parker has been outstanding. He has been hitting his outside jumpers with more consistency. They have gotten solid play out of their center position with the two-headed combo of Elson & Oberto. Oberto has been doing his dirty work detail, but was also huge in the Suns' game with 22 pts on 11/11 shooting. Oberto is as good as anyone at "getting lost" & finding the open space--he's been doing it for years on the Argentine national team. A mild surprise has been the play of Brent Barry. Barry seemed to be the odd man out last year with Finley aboard, but he has been given more minutes this year & has responded well.

Clips--Have slipped under the radar going 5-1 on the West Coast. Doing the same thing as last year by doing a good job on the defensive end & a solid job on the boards. Done pretty well with their frontline underachieving, although Brand has picked up the pace the last few games.

Rockets--Was not a pretty game vs. Miami today, but they rode Yao's dominance to a victory. Yao has been their go-to-guy and he has delivered, especially today by taking it to Shaq & the Heat. McGrady has not quite been up to par in the scoring department, but has been doing a nice job facilitating the offense.

Not so Hot Teams:

--After being one of the "teams of the week" last week, the Sixers came back to reality real quick by losing all 3 games this week. Iverson continued to play great this week, but he's not getting much help outside of Kyle Korver's surprising play. Chris Webber's 20ppg days look to be over because he can't move at all. I expect the Sixers to continue on this downward path, unless CWebb's legs can magically repair themselves.

TWolves--I felt if this team did not get off to a hot start things would turn sour. I think were getting pretty close to the time where we hear major issues arising in the T-Wolves locker room. Worse than we hear right now. It has been obvious since the summer that Minny needs frontcourt help--no surprise they are getting beat-up on the glass--and a trade has to be made using one of their surplus of combo guards.

Celtics--When your only victory of the season is a 2-point OT decision to the Bobcats, at home no less, I would say things are not looking so hot. Basically, has been the Pierce & Wally show, and very little else. Ryan Gomes has looked solid, but this team has gotten nothing from their center position (something I felt would be an issue) and the PG play has been uneven. The Celts are leading the league in turnovers, and on top of that, are dead last in the league at causing TOs. One encouraging note was they played the Jazz tough & got a solid performance from center Kendrick Perkins.

Players of the Week:

Kevin Martin
--Wow. When I scooped him up in the later rounds of my fantasy draft, I thought I had a minor steal who would give me about 16 ppg, but no idea he would take off like this. I did not think the loss of Bonzi was a big deal because I liked what I saw of Martin in the playoffs where he played with such poise. But to say I expected this type of production, no way.

Carlos Boozer--Has to be the MVP of the season so far leading the Jazz to a 6-1 start. 22.7 ppg, 10 rpg, 4 apg & 59% shooting for the week. Most impressed with the way he is moving the ball.

Vince Carter--I slipped Vince's name into my list of MVP candidates because I felt too many people glossed over him, and he has not disappointed. He scored at least 30 pts in all 3 games this week. Also pitched in with over 4 apg & 4 rpg. Always been an underrated passer. Dropped 30 pts on the Wiz sunday, including a buzzer-beating 3pt. (5/8 on 3pt for the day) to send the game into overtime. Although, Vince should thank David Stern for the win, since he got a very friendly bounce from the new ball.

Mike Redd--A 57-point night vs. Utah automatically gets you on this list. Redd has been off to a smoldering-hot start this year averaging 32.4 ppg on 52% shooting & a blistering 47% from 3pt.

Tony Parker--Quiksilver point has been nearly unguardable in the first two weeks. Tony's outside jumpers have been dropping which has thrown off the idea of sagging off Parker. Will see if Tony has really turned the corner as a perimeter shooter or if this is an early aberration. Tony averaged 28.7 ppg on a sick 62% from the floor with 7.3 apg for the week.

Joe Johnson--Looking like a MVP candidate in the early going. Been the key to Atlanta's surprising success. Averaged 29 ppg, 8.67 rpg, & 4.3 apg this week. He's going to need to keep up this type of production if the Hawks want any chance of keeping up this early success.

Deron Williams--Looks like a 10-year vet out there. Really understands how to use screens & looks to have developed a nice mid-range jumper--saw a few sweet step-back moves this week. Deron dropped 20 ppg & 10 apg this week.

Carmelo--The Nugs were looking like they could be in a little danger with an 0-3 start & injuries already for Kenyon & Nene. But Melo's play has been the one constant with the Nugs--34.6 ppg on 52%, 4.3 apg, & 4 rpg this week, which helped the Nugs pick up 2 wins in a row.

Yao--Put a hurting on the Heat, and badly outplayed Shaq. Sunday could have been the passing of the torch; but I'm not quite ready to make that official, because we know how Shaq coasts thru the reg. season. Yao dropped 29ppg on 55.7% & 11 rpg this week. He looks comfortable as Houston's go-to-guy while McGrady still seems to be feeling his way back.

Fab Oberto--Have to throw my boy a bone. This nod is only for one game, but it was a huge performance vs. the Suns--22 pts, 11 rebs & a perfect 11/11 from the floor. Not to mention a few great passes. This is the type of performance I've seen him do for the Argentine nat'l team for years. This guy has always been a great passer & he usually shoots a great % in int'l play. In 2003, he went 8/9 vs. the US and always played Duncan tough. And no one gets "lost" like Fab: he's great at sneaking to an open space, he's been doing it for years on the Arg. nat'l team.

Honorable Mention: Duncan; Ray Allen; Rashard Lewis; C. Paul; A. Jamison; Z. Randolph; C. Bosh; Al Harrington; Iverson

Games of the Week:
Spurs @ Rockets (Tues)
--In-state battle. Possible conference finals preview. Both teams playing well. Will see how the Spurs defend Yao: will they use some Duncan or strictly a Elson/Oberto tag team. Also, who will guard Duncan? A 6-6 Chuck Hayes can't last long on Timmy.

Clips @ Jazz (Tues)--Two of the best teams in the league thru the first two weeks square off in Salt Lake. Game could be determined by who wins the battle of bruising PFs from Duke, Brand or Boozer.

Cavs @ Wiz (Sat)--Cavs-Wizards games seem not to disappoint lately. A rivalry is brewing between these two Eastern upstarts & their two stars, LeBron & Arenas.

Suns @ Jazz (Sat)--The Suns try returning the favor by taking a game at Utah's place after the Jazz's 4-point win in Phoenix last week.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Roundup

MAVS/SUNS: Mavs 119- Suns 112

-Western shootout. It was not like the Suns' defense was really to blame, the Mavs were just drilling tough jumpers all nite long. Dirk, J-Terry, & Stack all shot the ball great--the Mavs shot 54.8% from the floor, mostly on mid-range jumpers. Stack was particualrly hot tonite, iso-ing up high when Dirk was not iso-ing & just burying pull-ups all over. Dirk basically did the same thing.

-Dampier did a nice job defending the pick/roll, sagging in the paint not allowing Amare to dive with a head of steam for the rim. Also, Dampier was tough on the glass, especially with 4 off. boards.

-The Suns did not really give up easy looks in the paint, which was encouraging, but for the second nite in a row they could not protect their def. glass (14 off rebs for Mavs). Particularly, the Suns got hurt by 3 off. rebs by the Mavs late in the 4th. This is nothing new for the Suns, and has to remedied if they want to get deep in the playoffs.

-Amare looked pretty good once again & had a few nice finishes. Barbosa continued his blistering play with 30 pts (5/8 on 3pt)--he might be soon supplanting Raja Bell in the starting unit. Nash had an off nite where he forced passes into tight spaces all game which led to 10 TOs--but he looks to be hurting, so stay tuned.

- 100% agree with what Chuck Barkley said about the Jalen Rose acquisition. Much ado about nothing. This signing will have little effect on the Suns in the long run. He's overkill and he will siphon minutes away from Diaw, Bell, or even Kurt Thomas. The Suns do not need anymore offensive help--they need someone about 6-10 or bigger who will focus on defense & rebounding, period. This is not like Tim Thomas last year--you had no Amare & Kurt Thomas at the time, which opened up more minutes & Thomas was perfect because of his 3pt shooting prowess; Jalen's not that great from deep. Jalen might help a little if Marcus Banks struggles, and you can maybe play Rose with Barbosa in the backcourt for limited minutes.

-I am not real worried about the Suns turning things around soon--they've played the Clips (twice), Spurs, Mavs, Jazz, Lakers so far. And they played the Spurs & Mavs close on back-2-back nites, so they should be fine for the reg. season. But like I've said too many times to count: the rebounding & defense has to be addressed if they want to get out of the West.

BULLS/CAVS: Cavs 113- Bulls 94

-No surprise, but the Bulls have difficulties putting up points. I don't think it's such a hot idea to have someone as streaky as Ben Gordon be your top scorer. This is why I thought the Ben Wallace signing was slightly overrated--it did not address the glaring need for a low-post scorer.

-One bright spot for the Bulls was the play of Kirk Hinrich (20, 11 asst, 1 TOs & 3/4 from 3pt), who's game is slowly looking like Steve Nash's everyday. I mentioned this in the spring with his play vs. the Heat, and he continues to progress. Kirk is probing the defense, keeping his dribble alive like Nash and has the ability to finish at the hoop. But one key difference is Kirk actually plays some defense. Right now he just needs to keep his shooting % in check. Swiss import Thabo Sefolosha impressed me in limited minutes once again. Heady player with long arms with a good handle & passing skills and also the potential to be a defensive force; this kid could turn out to be the steal of the draft.

-Drew Gooden continues his strong early play with 20 & 9 rebs on 10/13 shooting. Drew helped the Cavs keep their great rebounding rep intact--Cavs' 47 to the Bulls' 30. The Cavs also got an encouraging game from Sasha Pavlovic (16 & 6 rebs), --they are going to need his shooting later in the season. Back-up PFs Varejao & Marshall both pitched in with 15 pts. LeBron only took 13 shots, but dished out 12 assists to go along with his 19 pts.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Week in Review (Oct 31-Nov 5)

Analysis of the truncated opening week that was in the NBA.

Players of the Week: (Listed some of the usual suspects & some nice surprises)

Carlos Boozer--Looks like he's recovered from the injuries. Best player on the best team of the week--20.7 ppg & 15 rpg.

Allen Iverson--Tri-player of the week with Odom & Boozer. 34 ppg & 10 apg leading the Sixers to a 3-0 start. This is definitely an encouraging sign for a team that had as much pessimism surrounding their season as any team. Will see how long the good vibes can last in Philly.

Lamar Odom--With Iverson & Boozer, probably the 3rd nominee for player of the week. Showcased his multi-faceted game by averaging 23.8 ppg, 8.25 rpg, 6 apg, 10/15 on 3pt. & 53.6% from the floor. Has been the centerpiece of the Lakers' strong 3-1 start and working wonderful in the Triangle with his sharp post moves & passing ability.

Ronny Turiaf-- I know he wants to be called "Ronny" this year, but he will always be a Tender Roni to me. I've been pushing for Ronny to get more playing time since the spring & the preseason. Two great games this week--great energy, boards, and a capable post game. Great vs. Sonics on Fri., especially late in the game with two big back-2-back blocks & some huge boards. Hopefully Phil keeps his minutes up even when Mihm & Kwame come back.

David West--Someone who flew under the radar last year and might continue this year since he plays in New Orleans/Okla City. Led the Hornets to an 3-0 record with 20ppg. The Hornets are going to need this since they get very little offense from Chandler & there is not much bench help for the Hornets.

Wally Szczerbiak--Wally has been providing a little bit more scoring production than expected (24 ppg on 53.5%). This might be needed for the Celts to make a playoff push if their frontline continues to provide little assistance.

Sam Cassell--Old man still has a few bullets left in the chamber. Some were worried he would fall off, but I was not worried too much because his game has never been predicated on speed. 25 ppg this week, dropped 35, 6, & 6 on Denver with his array of crafty, mid-range shots off the dribble.

Anthony Parker--Solid play from the seasoned vet. Seems to have established himself as a viable secondary scoring option after Bosh. 14.7 ppg on 54.5% & 4/8 on 3pts. and a nice showing vs. the Nets where he was solid on both ends of the court with his heady play.

Brandon Roy--Off to a pretty fast start--18 ppg, 5 apg, & 4.3 rpg. If he's keeps this up, should have very little trouble holding off Morrison, who should only come close in points, for the Rookie of the Year.

Hot Teams:
--Probably the most impressive team this week. Blasted the Rockets by 30+, took care of business by crushing the Warriors, and scored a big victory over the Suns on the road. Got great overall contributions from many players, especially Boozer. Have owned the boards in every game, but then again they played board lightweights like the Suns & Warriors. The defense has been superb, as well. I wavered back-n-forth over the Jazz & the Kings for the #8 seed out West, went with the Kings, but now think the Jazz will at least get the #8 and the Nugs should not assume they have the #4 wrapped up.

Sixers--The win in Orlando was impressive, but the Hawks' win should happen & they beat the Heat with Shaq sitting & Mourning only playing 15 mins. because of foul trouble & only Posey as the only viable bench option. So, Philly fans should not let go of their negativity toward the Sixers just yet. Plus, good vibes & Philly fans just don't mix anyways.

Hornets--Mildly surprising. But always thought Byron Scott was an underrated coach, did a great job with the Nets, & was the Coach of the Year last year in my estimation. Beat the Rockets (although a back-2-back for Hous), & beat a solid Pacers team on the road. But don't think they can finish better than 4th in the Southwest--the bench is too shallow.

Not So Hot Teams:
-- Not too surprised. Was not on the "Nellie is a Savior" bandwagon. Badly want to emulate the Suns--they get the bad rebounding & defense part right--but the highly efficient offense is no where to be found & I am not surprised (mentioned this in my Season Preview). The Warriors shooting 43% overall & 30% from long-range looks similar to last year. I know it's only 3 games, but the trend of poor rebounding & shooting/shot selection is a continuation from last year, that's why it's worrisome for Bay Area fans. Rebounding will only get better if Nellie abandons the emphasis on SmallBall, but the shooting/shot selection is going to be tougher to change, especially with Baron at the helm.

Suns--Can't say I expected a 1-3 start. But the same old trends are killing them--outrebounded by 12 per game & a 48% Def. Fg%. I thought the defense would still be a problem, but I figured the rebound margin would be closer this year with Amare back & Marion moved to the 3, but as we see, Amare is not ready. So expect the piss-poor boardwork to continue. Have lost to pretty good teams & the Clips' game loss was a back-2-back game on the road, so I am not too worried about them in the reg. season, but they will not get to the NBA finals without improving the boards & the defense. And even having a 100% Amare by playoff time does not necessarily solve those problems.

Mavs--Ok, you can deal with the loss to the Spurs, but to get blasted by the Rockets, and it was not a back-2-back, is somewhat perplexing. Not too worried right now, just a little surprised they got rocked by Houston that bad.

Games of the Week:
GS @ Dall (Mon.)
--Coach Nellie returns to Dallas. It seems that the relationship between Cuban & Nellie is more contemptuous then realized, and some believe that Cuban waited to raise the West. Conf banner to rub it in Nellie's face. Stay tuned.

Suns @ Spurs (Wed.)--Will see if the Suns can show any signs of holding their own in the interior defensively vs. Timmy. Possible preview of the West Conf. Finals.

Mavs @ Suns (Thur.)--Another possible preview of the West Conf. Finals. Will see if Dirk gets his rear down in the post more often to take advantage of the soft underbelly of the Suns. 2nd nite of back-2-back games for both squads, so this game should not be judged to harshly.

Rockets @ Heat (Sun)--Yao vs. Shaq always makes for an intriguing matchup. But with Shaq already sitting out a game with injury, maybe not so much juice to the matchup. Also, Wade vs. McGrady provides intrigue on the perimeter. Could come down to whose supporting cast can hit their shots better.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Friday Roundup


-A game that could have huge significance as a tiebreaker since these teams could very likely end up finishing with the same record--although, the home-court advantage did not mean much last year, so will wait & see

- The Mavs' defense continued where it left off last year, by doing a great job helping & recovering to shut off driving lanes. They did not allow much deep penetration from Parker or Manu at all. And Diop did another commendable job on Duncan, just like he did in key parts of the Conf. Semis. & also Diop added 6 off. rebs.

- The Spurs seemed to have made the decision this year to guard Dirk with a big instead of Bowen--Oberto, Duncan, Elson & Horry were assigned Dirk. Elson was their best option with his athleticism.

-I think what ultimately hurt the Spurs in the playoffs was when they had Bowen on Dirk, they could not cross-match their center onto Josh Howard so they went with Finley instead. But this led to the Spurs getting hurt on the boards, which to me, was the deciding factor of the series. Now if they can get away with their center on Dirk, then they can hopefully keep the board battle tight, which is an encouraging scenario for the Spurs.

- Manu looked great overall--16, 4rebs, 5 assts, & 2 steals; this is why he's on my fantasy team. Granted, he forced a couple shots (something you live with), but he had a great all-around game & looked spry--evidenced by him skying for a couple boards.

- The Spurs kept the rebound margin even, but still gave up too many off. boards (13, 6 to Diop). This is something that came back to haunt them in the Conf. Semis, so they have to concentrate on this vs. the Mavs.

- Steve Kerr needs to re-examine the fact that he's adamant that teams can't go under screen/rolls or generally sag-off Parker. He's falling into the same trap that alot of media people have made lately that Parker is an improved shooter evidenced by his great shooting %. Sorry, Parker was getting most of his shots off of runners & lay-ins, and I believe was one of the leaders of pts in paint. This is one instance where you get in trouble just looking at the stats. I'll keep sagging off Parker all day--he wasn't knocking down outside shots in the playoffs all that often.

- Elson was a nice surprise on both ends, I don't ever remember him showcasing any off. skills in Denver. He could be the X-factor for the Spurs to return to the Finals, especially if he can hold his own defensively vs. Dirk


- A rather ugly game, filled with sloppy turnovers & plenty of missed shots.

- Surprise, Surprise....the Nugs' outside shooting killed them once again--4/23 from deep, all 4 makes from JR Smith. JR Smith's play was encouraging, but like I've been saying since the summer, the Nugs need multiple shooters besides JR. They have to move one of their bigs soon in exchange for backcourt help, hopefully someone who can shoot.

- Camby was superb on both ends of the floor--basically providing the the Nugs with only the outside shooting threat besides JR Smith. Camby drilled a few shots that were slightly farther than is normal 15-foot range.

-Denver's defense on the whole was very active & disruptive, led by Camby who I've always felt was an underrated defensive force; I think he guards Duncan better than anyone, although Diop is rising. Denver's rebounding kept them in this game (56 rbs to 38 for the Clips) while their outside shooting kept the Clips in the game. Also, Tim Thomas's 5/11 from 3pt. range was a nice additon to Cassel's 35 pts.

- Cassell was vintage Sammy (35 pts, 6 assts)--using savvy & guile to create space for his jumpers. Some people worried that his age would be an issue for the Clips' success this year, but I wasn't too concerned. Sammy's game has never been predicated on speed--he plays like a 50-year old at the YMCA who knows all the tricks & angles.

Friday Games to Watch:

Nets at Heat--rematch of Conf. Semis that was much closer than most people realize. The Nets played the Heat as tough as the Bulls in the playoffs, and had great chances to win Games 3-5. Two teams who have a legit shot at East Conf. crown & could meet in the East Finals. Will see if the Heat come out with some fire after having 3 days to stew over their ass-kicking courtesy of the Bulls.

Cavs at Spurs--Possible NBA Finals match-up. See if Cavs can take advantage of the Spurs playing on back-2-back nights. Will see if Bowen & Finley's legs can recover enough to hopefully contain Bron.

Jazz at Suns-- Contrast in styles--the uptempo, finesse Suns vs. the methodical, grinding Jazz. Interesting to see if Sloan chooses to pound the post with Boozer to take advantage of the interior defense-less Suns.

Game not to Watch: Knicks at Hawks--do I need to explain why.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Opening Night Review

A few quickhitting tidbits from Tuesday's Night TNT coverage:

- I've always loved Smush's center-part, one of my fav hairstyles in the NBA--Glad to see it's back this year--Ho Grant must be smiling

-Is it me or does Nash look bulkier in the upper body? He must have hit the back-bacon & poutin over the summer to pack on some extra size to his guns and of course washed it down with some Molson Ex or maybe he's a Labatt's kind of guy.

- Healthy Amare or not, the Suns have to prove they can play some semblance of interior defense. This has killed them last two years in the playoffs. Kenny Smith made the point that Amare is/was a very good defender. What??? Sorry, Jet but Amare was never a good defender, he will occasionally blocks some shots, but for the most part he stands around with his arms down by his side, not helping his teammates, & having no clue where to be--he even admitted a year ago his defense needed alot of work. I think the most important thing that Amare can bring the Suns this year is not his offense, but give the Suns someone who can consistently protect the painted area & the rim on defense.

-The Suns interior defense was terrible in the '05 playoffs. The Suns reg. season numbers were middle of the pack in 04-05, and they could not come close to translating that into the playoffs that year. I know they did not have Kurt Thomas in the playoffs last year but he gives up too much height, so I am not sold on having him back insures your defense will be solid in the playoffs

-To me, the Suns still have to prove that they can defend when it matters, especially provide a modicum of interior defense. This is why I think this smallball revolution is overrated--because you usually end up getting beaten on the boards & getting owned in the paint--it eventually catches up with you the deeper you go in the playoffs. Now if you can find a way to keep the rebound margin close (which I think the Suns can do with having a SF who can get 10 rebs per game), & defend adequately in the paint, you could possibly win with Smallball. But the Suns must prove they can defend in the middle before we hand them the West Conf. crown, even if Amare is 100% healthy by April.

-the Lakers/Suns game looked like a repeat of their playoff series where the Suns come flying out of the gate, then they bog down during the middle quarters, and the Lakers just methodically pound the post with a variety of guys.

- Bynum was mighty impressive. Not a great athlete but showcased much improved footwork & some nice passing instincts--it seems Kareem has rubbed off

- Lakers are very deep & versatile--they have better shooting around Kobe & Odom this year with Radman & Evans to go along with Cook--They have multiple guys who are adept in the post (which is vital in the Triangle)--Odom, Walton, and now its seems Bynum all have nice footwork & passing ability. Also, Turiaf is a underrated post option, that still needs to play more.

- I don't think you take too much away from the Heat/Bulls drubbing besides that the Bulls' defense certainly will be amazing this year & something I pointed to in my season preview--they have great depth & versatiltiy like the Lakers. Impressed with how well the Bulls moved the ball throughout the game. The whole team was very active at both ends. Skiles had the team playing with fire, not surprising from one of the best coaches in the league

- Hinrich is the 3rd best PG in the East after Billups & Kidd (Sorry, I don't count Arenas as a point). But he will probably soon overtake Kidd. He's got good size, he can shoot, & he has shown signs of Nash-like probing ability, but Kirk actually plays defense. And the Bulls signed him to a extension today which was imperiative--you don't let a young PG of his caliber walk

- Basically, the only Miami guy who came to play was Wade, everyone else was going thru the motions. Shaq looked like he did not even have preseason-game intensity. And he needs to lose weight again. Riley might have his toughest motivational job of his career this year.

- I would have to say the Bulls & the Lakers are the two deepest teams in the NBA--when Thabo Sefolosha & Ronny Turiaf are your respective 12th man, you're in pretty good shape