Wednesday, February 28, 2007

D3 Tourney Time, Baby

I love me some Division III hoops. Sure, I'm a little biased, having grown up in a D3 smalltown, and then having played a little JV ball for a D3 school, but I think it's a great game (as underrated as the D1 game is overrated).

And with my alma mater #6 in the country and blessed with a first-round bye, it should be no surprise that I'm fired up for the D3 Tournament, which tips off Thursday night.

As always, the definitive source for D3 basketball is the superlative site,

Here's this year's bracket:

The national championship will be televised live from Salem, Va. on CSTV at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, March 17. carried webcast video of the Final Four last year (quite good quality) - I'm not sure they'll be doing that again this year.

As always, I've joined the Pick 'Em bracket game, as always I've picked my alma mater to win it all - someday we're gonna do it, and I'll win this damn bracket game!

Here's my personal D3 bracket game philosophy:
1. Consult the computerized Massey Ratings religiously.
2. Pick alma mater (Amherst) to win it all even if it defies all logic (which it actually hasn't recently, as we've made two of the last three Final Fours).
3. When in doubt, pick the team from Wisconsin (Wisc. teams have won seven of the last 18 titles [past champions], and play in the toughest conferences in the country).

After all of that, I've got Amherst, Wooster, UW-Stevens Point (#1 in the country and Terry Porter's alma mater), and Va. Wesleyan (defending champs) in the Final Four.

I'm taking Amherst over Wooster, and UW-Stevens Point over Va. Wesleyan... and then I've got the Lord Jeffs reigning triumphant over the Pointers in the national championship game!

Let's get going on the Road to Salem, baby!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Road to the Finals

In this piece I wanted to examine the importance of road record on post-season success. The main impetus for the article centered on trying to determine what team will arise from the pile of mediocrity that is the Eastern Conference.

Some folks seem to be pushing the Bulls as the Eastern Champs, which I don't think is unreasonable even without Gasol, I am just hesitant getting behind the Bulls as the East representative mainly because of their poor road record.

Currently the Bulls are 9-18 (.333) on the road, which is tied with Orlando for the worst record for an Eastern playoff contender. The Bulls have had Nocioni absent from the lineup lately, but even when he was healthy the Bulls were struggling on the road. And before Noce's injury the Bulls had been quite fortunate avoiding injuries involving their top 5 (Kirk, Lil Ben, Big Ben, Deng & Noce). The Bulls' remaining road schedule looks like an even split of 5-6 winnable games (Celts, Grizz, Sixers, Hawks) to 5-6 tough games (Cavs, Indy, Wiz, & Det., twice).

I looked at the road records for NBA Finals participants for the last 20 years ('87-'96), and below is a few pertinent highlights:

1) No team has ever won a title in the last 20 years with a losing road record.

2) No Western Conf. Champ has ever had a road record under .500; The '04-05 Spurs had the worst record at 21-20. This is not good news for the Lakers, who are currently 11-16 on the road. Although, they had some injuries this year, but then again the '04 Lakers had their own injury issues & still had a winning road record.

3) Only 2 teams have ever made the Finals in last 20 years with a road winning percentage under .400--the '99 Knicks (.320) & the '02-03 Nets (.390)

4) The '02-'03 Nets had the worst road record for any Finals participant in a regulation 82 game season, 16-25. The Sixers were the only East team that had a winning road record that year. As everyone bemoans the lackluster East this year, don't forget it was not much better in the early 2000s, if not worse. That Nets' team would have struggled to get out of the Western 1st round in '03.

5) The 7 East Conf Champs with losing road recs: '87 Celts (20-21); '88 Pistons (20-21); '95 Magic (18-23); '99 Knicks (8-17); '00 Indy (20-21); '02 Nets (19-22); '03 Nets (16-25)

6) The team with the worst road record to win a NBA title: tie--04-05 Spurs & 05-06 Heat (21-20).

In summary, right now the conference title hopes look shaky for a team with such a low road winning percent like the Bulls or the Lakers. Only the '99 Knicks had a worst road winning percentage then the Bulls currently possess, and '99 was a truncated season. And the Knicks were definitely aided by the Best-of-5 opening round setup, and not to mention a miracle bounce.

The Bulls really only have 2 road wins that are semi-impressive: They pounded a disinterested Heat team on opening night, and a recent win vs. the Suns without Nash, Diaw, & Kurt, still a decent win nonetheless. The Bulls do play the Cavs tonight & the Pistons on Sunday, so this could be a huge weekend on the road for the Bulls to prove themselves. The one positive the Bulls do have going for them--only the Pistons currently have a winning road record in the East. So maybe the Bulls can take advantage of a subpar East like the '02-'03 Nets team did. And if the Bulls get Gasol, then things definitely shift in their favor.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Team Needs (West Contenders)

Last week I covered the East contenders, and below is a look at the team needs/adjustments for Western Conf. playoff contenders. With the tradeline on Thursday, I wanted to examine what each team needs to do to improve their squads for the playoffs.

Mavs--Really don't need to do much. The defense is good, rebounding is great, & the offense ain't too shabby. The only minor nit-picky thing they could possibly use is a player who can get some post-up points. This team is still pretty jumpshot-centric, and this can cause some problems in the playoffs & it sometimes led to the Mavs' offense bogging down a few times last spring.

Spurs--Need to find a consistent 4th scorer. The defense is fine, it's not quite as good as has been in the past, but still one of the best in the NBA. All this talk of their defense being the main problem is off-base. After the big 3, they just have not gotten enough scoring punch. Barry & Finley have been alright, but neither has been consistently productive enough. If they could find a young wing who can average 12-15ppg that would be ideal. If they can pry Maggette from the Clips, they should not hestitate to make the deal.

Rockets--This team still needs to find an athletic 4 (who's 6-10 or bigger) in the worse way. Juwan Howard is playing surprisingly well now, but the Rockets really don't have anyone to guard the elite PFs out West. In the playoffs do you want Juwan having to check the likes of Duncan, Amare, Brand, and to a degree, Dirk. Did not think so. The Rockets are devoid of any athleticism on the frontline. Chuck Hayes is nice for 15 minutes a game but he is way too undersized which leads him to be a foul machine. But I am not really sure who they could dangle to entice another team. Maybe Bonzi, but I think Houston might need him as a 3rd option on offense down the road. I love what Luther Head brings off the bench, and would not want him dealt. So the options look pretty slim for the Rockets to bring in a PF.

Hornets--Had to add this team to list at the last minute. Pretty stunning that Bryon Scott still has this team scrapping for a final playoff spot with all the major injuries this team has had to endure. This team could always use some more help at the wing positions, preferably a SG since Mason is in the last year of his deal. Otherwise should just sit tight and be happy that they are sniffing the playoffs considering their injuries woes.

Suns--Still need a 6-10 or bigger guy who can provide some rebounding & defense. Still have to feel uneasy about their interior defense & defensive rebounding--the two things that have been their major bugaboo the last 2 years in the playoffs.

Lakers--Even though Smush has played solidly lately, I have to imagine the Lakers' brass still feel their PG spot is unsettled for the playoffs. Similar boat as the Cavs--the Lakers need a PG who can stick the jumper. They really don't need a playmaker since Kobe & Odom are there & the Triangle does not really call for that type of point. All sort of rumors flying around LA, JKidd's name being most prominent, but if I was the Lakers I would want to get my hands on Bibby.

Clips--This team has basically no back-up post guys. Tim Thomas can slide to the 4, but he really is a 3. Also, they could look to improve their 3pt shooting, something that was a problem last year. If they are going to deal Maggette, it would be a good idea if they received a big in return. Maybe Maggette for Magloire & spare parts would not be a bad deal for either team. The Clips would get a back-up big with an expiring deal and maybe they can pry Martell Webster away from the Blazers to aid their outside shooting issues. The Blazers' biggest need is at the SF, so Corey makes sense & has a reasonable contract.

Warriors--I guess you can't totally discount the Warriors chances of getting the 8-seed. Like with the Wiz, I don't know if a few tweaks in personnel will make a difference, because I think their defensive issues can be traced back to their coach. So Warriors Fans, as long as Nellie's around expect the defense to suck. Are one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA, and getting rid of Murphy & Diogu did not help things. So I guess if they have to make a move, how bout a big who will defend & rebound.

Kings--Have played better of late and the recent upswing has seemed to coincided with Artest's improved play. I really thought this team would be better defensively under Musselman's control, but they have underachieved in my mind. The Kings are lacking size upfront and still have no defensive presence in the painted area. Like alot of teams, they could use a guy 6-10 or bigger who can provide some defense & shotblocking. The Kings do have the expiring deals of Corliss & Potapenko to use as trade bait.

Jazz--If there is one thing the Jazz could change internally that would be for the better, is to stop fouling so much. This really ends up killing them on the defensive end. The Jazz have a solid Def. FG% & top-notch rebounding but they basically neutralize this by leading the league in fouls. But I think it might be tough to change their style now because it's an embodiment of Coach Sloan. The 2-guard spot is a little unsettled, and Fisher would be better served coming off the bench. The Jazz's outside shooting has been subpar for the 2nd year in a row. I thought it would improve this year, but Fisher & Giricek have not shot the ball up to their usual standards.

Nugs--Probably will not make a move. But still need to address a problem that has killed them for 2 years straight in the playoffs--outside shooting. The situation is not quite as dire as last year because JR Smith has shot the ball well, but after him their ain't much else (The Nugs are currently dead last in 3pt%). You might see a steady diet of zones thrown at the Nugs, and you put alot of pressure on JR to be the lone guy to spread the defense so Melo & AI can go to work. Free Agent Keith Van Horn could be a nice fit , and I believe is currently living in Colorado. It would be good idea to look him up.

Wolves--Need to exchange some of their surplus of combo gurads for some frontcourt help. But the problem for the TWolves is they are saddled with an array of difficult contracts. If they could move Jaric for Nazr that could help somewhat. But I can't see how the Wolves can really make a significant upgrade right now because they just do not have enticing trade bait around Garnett, besides maybe Davis & Foye. And I doubt they are parting with Foye. So I think the TWolves are short on options to make a serious playoff push, and I now expect them to move KG in the off-season.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Night at the Key

Well, I'm not going to be able to enjoy too many more of these before the Sonics move somewhere further than walking distance from The Painted Area's West Coast headquarters, so here we go:
Sonics 114, Suns 90, in pictures.

STAT (Standing Tall And Talented) Stoudemire takes it to the goal. He gives Collison a good shot here, but on this night, Nick (22/15) got the better of Amare (18/13) overall.

The "Key Arena Ballerina" does his thing. I'm just reporting the facts, people. I will note that this fellow was light on his feet, and received several high fives on his way off the court. Again, I'm just reporting the facts.

Loren is very proud of the T-shirt he grabbed away from a little kid. I gotta give him credit - he was patient and played the deflection well before pouncing on the loose ball... and stealing it away from the little kid.

No Nash + no Diaw + no Krazee-Eyez Kurt + LOTS of Pat Burke = what Marv calls "extended gar-BAGE time". In this photo, you may notice immortals such as Sean Marks, Mike Wilks and Jumaine Jones all on the floor.

I was very excited for the Sean Marks sighting UNTIL I realized that Jalen didn't even get into the game until about 2 minutes after him. That really hurt me.

KeyArena has a pretty unique atmosphere when the Suns are in town. Steve Nash took over the funding of B.C.'s province-wide youth basketball program after the previous benefactor, the Grizzlies, skipped town (courtesy of the gross general managerial incompetence of Stu Jackson, it should be noted).

Anyway, when the Suns visit Seattle, busloads of kids from the program and their families come down for the game, and the crowd ends up split pretty evenly betweem Suns fans and Sonics fans (which is not really saying much in this era of Sonics basketball, frankly).

Postgame, Nashy generally addresses his fellow British Columbians, as he did last night.

A whole lot of Canadians in the house. Nashy dished out some platitudinous advice for the youngsters before taking a little Q&A from the kids. He noted that he thought Dirk deserved the MVP, and also announced that he'd be expanding his program across Canada next year (big news for the scores of Painted Area readers in Halifax, I'm sure).

My favorite question was from a kid who stepped up to the mic and bellowed, "Last year, I asked you how it felt to be a hero to all Canadians, and this year I want to know how it feels now that you're going to be a THREE-TIME MVP!!!" He really put a lot into it - Nash complimented him and asked if he'd been rehearsing it. All in all, the MVP sure seemed like a good bloke.

Good night from Seattle, everybody.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Team Needs (Eastern Contenders)

The trade deadline is closing in fast and many contending teams are looking to fill holes to strengthen their rosters for the stretch run. Here's a quick look at team needs/adjustments for the Eastern Conf. contenders:

Raps--Should just hold tight with what they have. This team has alot of leeway this season since not much is expected, and I don't think Colangelo will or should take on a long contract. Just making the playoffs is more than enough this year in my mind.

Nets--Their prognosis is tough because I'm not sure which way Thorn is going to take this team. Is he going to blow up the roster & rebuild with youth, or is he looking to make a run at the playoffs with his vets? The Kidd-to-LA rumor is floating out there (although be careful, it's coming from Vecsey) and Vince seems to be in alot of trade talk, as well. But if they plan on holding onto their two All-Stars, they can always use more help on the frontline.

Knicks--Can't be counted out in the Sh-Atlantic. If Isiah could just get this team to play halfway decent defense & cut down on the turnovers, they could make a hard push for the division. If Isiah could rid himself of Francis or J. James, he quickly would, but both of their contracts are not nice. The Knicks could always use more reliable frontcourt depth.

Pistons--Looking pretty good of late, and clearly do not need frontcourt help. Probably could use a combo guard who can spell Billups--this was supposed to be Flip Murray's role but he seems to have fallen out of favor. If they can still pull off that Jaric/Nazr deal, they definitely should. Jaric can play minutes at all perimeter positions.

Cavs--Obviously, if they could somehow upgrade their PG spot that would be nice. But quality PGs are not easy to find. Heard some rumblings about Hughes being shopped. Not a bad idea in my mind--he seems like an uncomfortable fit with Lebron--you need a better shooting 2-guard next to Bron. The Cavs just have not gotten enough consistency from their backcourt this year and they really need to find a solution to take pressure off LeBron. Maybe they can bring back Flip Murray who did a nice job for them last year.

Bulls--No secret, post scoring. The heavy rumor is Gasol headed to Chicago, and he would be perfect. PJ Brown's $8 mil salary will be the core of the deal with Deng, Gordon, Ty Thomas & a possible draft pick being involved in some combination. If I was Paxson and if you're going to have to part with either Gordon or Deng, I would try to keep Gordon. I like Deng, but losing him will not hurt the Bulls too much with Nocioni still around. I think if they get Gasol, they become the slight favorite in the East.

Pacers--They really could use a true 2-guard in their lineup. Asking Granger or Dunleavy to try check 2-guards is not a good idea. It also would not hurt for them to get someone who can slash to the basket. They maybe could also use a another point guard considering that Tinsley's health is always precarious and Armstrong ain't particularly young.

Wizards--This team needs to change their defensive identity internally--I don't think just adding a renown defender or two will change things much; it's a team defensive problemm. Still, I would try to search for a defensive-minded role player in the trade market. Also, this team could use a true PG on the bench, someone with decent defensive ability if possible. I imagine the Wizards would like to use Etan Thomas in any trade talks since Etan & Haywood can't stand the sight of each other.

Magic--Scoring. This team just does not have the requisite scoring talent to be a serious contender right now. They need a dynamic scoring option on the perimeter. Either a 2 or 3, doesn't matter, Hedo is 15-point guy at best and Redick will never be more than 15-point guy himself. Grant Hill's contract is a big bargaining chip, but the Magic have to decide if they want to just let Hill's contract expire or try to use it to grab a scoring wing. If they let it expire they have the ability to be a major player in free agency this summer, so maybe they should just hold onto Grant.

Heat--If they have one area of uncertainty it's at the PG. Jason Williams has had difficulties staying healthy this year and Payton is playing on fumes. With the recent addition of Eddie Jones, the Heat have more leeway in possibly using Posey's expiring deal as trade bait. Also, if the Heat can unload Ant Walker's cumbersome contract, preferably for a traditional PF to team with Haslem, you make the deal.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Week in Review (Jan 29-4) Part II

Hot Teams:

--2-1 this week without the Booze. Get extra credit for beating both the Spurs & the Suns on the road. And the loss was 1-point game where the Nets needed a buzzer-beater 3pt. by Vince to win. Okur was superb this week and Deron Williams continues to play like a savvy, 10-year vet & is now on the same level as Chris Paul, contrary to what Hollinger says. I am not really sure why John keeps saying Paul is considerably better than Deron, their numbers are very close across the board, and I love the way Deron runs the offense & understands how to use screens.

Pacers--3-0 this week. Most people will point to the trade as being the impetus for this recent winning, but I think it might have to do as much with the Pacers' schedule leveling off. I actually thought the Pacers overreacted with the need for the trade, becuase at the time they had played 6 more road games than home. Their schedule for the month of February is extremely favorable--they play their next 8 out of 9 games at home. So be careful showering praise on this trade, and take into account their schedule. Maybe the Pacers should have waited for the trade deadline to better assess their situation because the deadline would've coincided with the end of a 6-game home stand.

Raptors--Arguably the biggest overachieving team of the year. Currently 2 games over .500 & leading the Atlantic. Right now, I have Sam Mitchell for Coach-o-Year with the way he has his team playing with a variety of newcomers to integrate & the steady improvement on defense. 3-0 this week, with an average margin of victory of 11.3. Nice win vs. SE division leader, the Wiz, by 10 points. Very underrated bench with Bargnani in the running for R.O.Y., Mo Peterson averaging 11pts & 4 rbs, and Calderon being one of the best back-up points in the NBA.

Mavs--4-0 this week. If you have to power rank teams, they are #1. And they were #1 before the Suns' 2 losses this week since they beat them both times they played.

Not Hot Teams:

--What the hell is going on with this squad? They just finish a 5-game West road trip where they played inspired ball with 2 big wins in Utah & Denver, and lose the 3 other games in the last seconds. They get pounded by the Pistons at home, then get pounded on the road by a Magic team that is reeling of late, and finally top off the week with another back-breaking loss at home to the Hawks; a game they should not lose. They seemed to have reverted back to their early season form of not be able to string any consistency throughout the entirety of a game. I know they have injuries, but this team has chances to win games and they just can't find ways to execute well late in games. Don't forget late-game execution cost them last year vs. the Heat in the 2nd round. Some of this inconsistency has to be laid at the feet of Larry Frank.

Celts/Sonics/Bucks--My best advice is to just keep losing. There's really no reason in trying to win, none of these 3 teams have the requisite talent to get far in the playoffs even when everyone is healthy. I know tanking does not guarantee the top pick, but it sure makes your chances pretty good, and this is the year to tank.

Games of the Week:
Warriors @ Pacers (Mon)
--This game is really only interesting because of the subplot of Harrington & Jackson returning to Indy after the trade. Will see if there is extra motivation for Al & Jack or if Lil Dun & Murph want to show Nellie what he's missing.

Suns @ Nugs (Mon)--Will see if the Suns can respond after a tough loss at home. Expect a track meet. Not sure if Iverson is gonna play, so might put a minor damper on this game.

Rockets @ Mavs (Fri)--Two of the top defensive & rebounding teams in the league. Where the Mavs have the upper hand is with a more efficient offense.

Raps @ Pistons (Sat)--This game was probably not circled on your viewing schedule in November, but now it is an intriguing game between division leaders.

Spurs @ Heat/ Lakers @ Cavs (Sun)--Doleac vs. Oberto! Pavlovic vs. Brian Cook! Ok, maybe that will not be ABC's tagline for the Sunday double-header, but the Spurs-Heat tilt has more juice now that Shaq is back.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Week in Review (Jan 29-4) Part I

*--I decided to split this up this week into 2 parts--Part I deals with the players, Part II with the teams & upcoming games.

Players of the Week:

--Tri-MVP. To me, Kobe & Wade are starting to pull ahead of Arenas & Bron in the MVP race, and Kobe is making a push on Nash & Dirk. 34.7, 6 rpg, 6 apg, 2.3 spg & 11/21 from 3pt. 43, 8 rbs, 8 assts & 7/9 from deep in a win in Boston. Also, 39, 6, & 6 in a pounding of the Wizards in D.C. where he seemed to never force the action like his counterpart Arenas.

Okur--Tri-MVP-o-week. With Booze out, Memo took the reins of the club & led Utah to 2 huge victories over some Western heavyweights. First, he dropped 31 & 11 on 10/14 shooting to hold off the Spurs at home. Then on Saturday, he was huge down the stretch vs. the Suns, hitting tough jumpers from all over to seal a big win on the road (Memo had 29 & 12).

G. Wallace--Tri-MVP. Someone who's sneaking under the radar, but has been superb the last 2-3 weeks. Gerald was vital toward the Bobcats' 3-1 week averaging 26, 10.8 rpg, 3 apg, 2 spg, 2 bpg & 55.4% shooting. He's sort of a poor man's Marion for his ability to fill every stat catergory & shoot a good percentage. A fantasy owner's dream. Dropped 42, 8 rbs, & 3blks in a win vs. the Knicks. Also, was huge in a mini-upset on the road vs Denver--25, 13, 2 stls, & 2 blks.

Bosh--Led the Raps to a 3-0 week & a big victory over the Wiz. Chris laid down 34 & 8 on 15/19 shooting in the 10-point win vs. the Wiz. Bosh averaged 28.3, 8.3, 3.7 apg & shot 62%.

Joe Johnson--Joe led the way for the Hawks' 3-1 week with 33, 5 rpg, 4.8 apg, 16/35 from 3pt. & 50% overall for the week. I picked him as one of my All-Star reserves over Rip, but can't really quibble with the Coaches' selection of Rip since not much separates Rip & Joe in my mind.

Iggy--Was the most natural fit to step in as the Sixers' main option, and has taken to the role quite nicely the last month. Has Pippen-like potential with his ball-handling & physical gifts. 22, 8 apg, 7 rpg, 1.7 spg on 50% for the week. 25, 13 assts, 10 rbs, & 3 stls in a tough 1-point loss to the Warriors. Still needs to tweak his jumper if he wants to take his game to the next level.

Artest--Ronnie has seemed to turn on the "focus" switch in his head for the month of January. After being the usual mercurial Ron for the first 2 months of the season, Ron has been tuned in the last few weeks--averaging 22.3, 7.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2.4 spg over the last 2 weeks. Also, did a tremendous job smothering Melo on Sat. But Ron still loiters around the perimeter too much on offense looking to shoot perimeter jumpers. He needs to get his posterior down low where no SF in league can stop him (a fair amount of PF have trouble with him, as well) & he can draw fouls like crazy. I think he should be getting to the foul line much more.

R. Allen--You can't blame the Sonics' failures on Ray because he's producing as well as he can. Ray continues to make a strong case for a Western All-Star replacement bid (and maybe should be on the team instead of Parker)--Ray averaged 33.3, 5.3 apg, 4.3 rpg, 2.3 spg on 47% for the week, which pretty much mirrors his production for the last few weeks.

Arenas--33.3, 6.7 apg, 5.3 rpg for the week & 36, 11, 7 rbs in a big win vs. the Pistons was the good part. But showcased his patented dubious shot selection this week which led to 39% overall, including 9/29 (3/15 from 3pt) in a misguided attempt to show Kobe who's the man vs. the Lakers.

M. Miller--Probably could have put Mike on here earlier, but really made my job easy this week by averaging 28.3 ppg, 3.3 apg, 3.7 rpg, 17/33 from 3pt, & a blazing 57% overall. Colangelo needs to be giving Miller a call for Team USA before J. Kidd.

Garnett--Typical KG this week--26, 11.5, & 3.5 apg. But really gets high praise for the 44 & 11 in a big win vs. the Suns, which snapped their 15-game winning streak.

J. Calderon--Has been one of the more valuable back-up PG in the NBA this year, and has really delivered the goods since being inserted into the starting lineup after Ford went down with injury. Always loved his savvy play in int'l play, and has adjusted to the NBA slightly better than I expected. Finishs at the rim surprisingly well. Showed Arenas a thing about steady decision making in the Raps win vs. the Wiz--Jose put up 24 pts, 11 assts to only 1 TO, & shot 10/13 overall. This is one thing that is pleasing about Jose's game, low turnovers. He has a 5/1.4 asst-TO ratio & only averages 21 mins a game. Maybe it is something about Spanish coaching, because Sergio Rodriguez keeps his TOs low & has a nice asst/TO ratio in limited minutes. Jose averaged 16, 9.3 apg, 1.7 TOpg & shot a sizzling 64.3% from the field. One area where Calderon has made significant strides in is shooting percentage--52.4% for the year, basically 10% points higher than last year.

Honor Mention: Amare; Baron; Wade; Brand; K. Martin; Jermaine; Felton; D. Williams; Vince; Mo Williams; Josh Smith; Curry; Gasol

Friday, February 02, 2007

All-Star Picks

These would be my All-Star selections if it was solely up to me (which I'm petitioning to Papa Stern to happen). I am a firm believer in not missing too many games for consideration, so I am not up in arms right now that Melo is not on the team. Same goes for Mike Redd's situation.

Eastern Conf Starting Lineup:

G- Arenas
G- Wade
F- James
F- Bosh
C- D.Howard

Comments: No real surprises here. Sorry, but Shaq doesn't make my team for basically missing the whole season. Dwight has scuffled the last few weeks, and I considered Jermaine & Okafor instead, but I stuck with Dwight. Bosh barely made the team since he missed 12 games.

East Reserves:
G- Kidd
G- Billups
F- C. Butler
F- J. O'Neal
C- Okafor
WC- J. Johnson
WC- Carter

Comments: My last 2 spots came down to a 3-way battle between Vince, Joe, & Rip Hamilton; not much seperates them in my mind. You can make a good case for any of them, and I can't really quibble with the Coaches' pick of Rip. Again, like the cry for Melo, I think the complaints for Redd are overblown--Redd has missed 13 games as of right now & he is currently hurt at the time, so how do blame the coaches for leaving him off.

On the bubble: Hamilton; Deng; Jamison; Gordon

West Conf Starting Lineup:
G- Nash
G- Bryant
F- Dirk
F- Garnett
C- Duncan

Comments: Obviously, I disagree with the fans' pick of McGrady over Nash. Also, Yao's been out too many games & last I heard he will not be ready for action until early March. Duncan gets the nod for center, since he's basically a center.

West Reserves:
G- Iverson
G- McGrady
F- Josh Howard
F- Marion
C- Amare
WC- Brand

Comments: Boozer would have been on my reserve list if healthy. I just decided to leave Melo off because he missed 15 games. If Stern wants to put him on as a replacement, I don't have big qualms, but for all the people who think he got robbed they need to settle down--dude missed 15 games, plain & simple. Tony Parker got my last nod just barely nudging out Baron, Deron Williams, & Allen. Parker's shooting percentage was helpful in my mind & being nearly as important as Duncan to the Spurs' strong record, but I think anyone calling for Ray Allen instead is justified. Although Brand has not been quite good as last year, he still is having a very efficient year (21ppg on 56%) & is an underrated defender.

On the bubble: D. Williams; Baron; Randolph; R. Allen; Okur; Camby; K. Martin