Monthly Archives: April 2011

Western Conference Playoff Predictions: Grizzlies vs. Thunder

Haters gonna hate.

According to the Beef and our predictions, this matchup wasn’t supposed to happen.  However, now that it’s here, we gotta break it down.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder vs 8. Memphis Grizzlies

We had the Thunder losing to Denver in the first round.  The Nuggets were the stronger team with more depth and the better coach.  The Thunder pulled it out though and nearly swept Denver who barely won game four.

Likewise, we had the Grizzlies succumbing to the No. 1 seed in the West, the Spurs.  Again, San Antonio had the depth, experience and the better coach in Greg Popavich but Memphis took care of them in six.

Now, we have two of the youngest teams in the West matching up in a series that will truly state who is ready to be an upper-echelon team.

Key Matchups:

Zach Randolph has really risen to the occasion for this team.  It took some good playoff games for him to get the well-deserved raise that they offered him last week.  However, he isn’t done yet.  Now, this is his team and he is going to be willing to do anything to take them to the Western Conference finals.

That being said, it comes down to who the Thunder decide to put on him.  Kendrick Perkins sounds like the man for the job but in their last matchup, he wasn’t healthy.  Also, Z Bo has a lot more energy and ability in the post than Perkins can handle.  He scraps for rebounds and gets a lot of second chance points for the Griz.  Serge Ibaka will have to get in there as well and try to slow down Randolph who is proving to be one of the biggest surprises of these playoffs.

Kevin Durant was the leading scorer for the Thunder in every game in the first round.  Denver was unable to stop the Durantula who only scored less than 25 in one of the five games against Denver when they held him to 23 in game two.

They still won that game due to the performances of Russell Westbrook with 21 and James Harden with 18.  Since Memphis will have no chance of stopping Durant, it will be them defending the rest of the team.  The Griz get a lot of steals and lead the league with 9.3 a game and it will be up to Westbrook and company to take care of the ball and accent Durant’s unstoppable scoring.

X-Factors:

Marc Gasol and Darrell Arthur Will have to show up for this series.  Oklahoma City doesn’t defend the post well at all.  They give up 22 points a game alone to the leagues various frontcourts and really lucked out since none of the big guys for Denver showed up for the last series.  Perkins got into foul trouble quite a bit in the first round so that might be a good player for them to attack.

The Thunder need to get some points from their bench.  The second unit for Memphis includes Shane Battier and O.J. Mayo who can both put up some points.  Even Greivis Vasquez showed he can ball in their game six win that clinched the series against San Antonio.  Harden will have to show up and score which he has proven he can do but they are going to need a lot more from Eric Maynor, Deaquan Cook and Nick Collison.

Prediction:

Since we have gotten everything wrong when it comes to these two teams so far, we might as well take a risk.  Memphis will win this series in six games.  They are on an intense high from the Spurs series and if they stay hot, no one can stop them.  They were 3-1 against the Thunder this season and they seem to be playing for a lot more.  This is the first time Oklahoma City has been to the second round but it’s the same for Memphis.  The only difference is that no one saw the Griz doing this and we don’t think they are done surprising people.

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Golden Days Are Here Again

Are Joseph Lacob and Peter Guber ready to fix an ailing franchise?

Keith Smart may be out of a job and the Warriors may be shopping for a new coach but the situation out in Oakland is far from solved.

As you may know by now, Smart was fired after only one season coaching the Warriors.  New ownership brought him in during training camp after deciding to part ways with Don Nelson.

On July 15 of last year, franchise owner Chris Cohan sold the Warriors to Peter Guber and Joe Lacob for a record $450 million. The duo would not take complete control of the team until November. However, the two got busy really quickly by making the trade for David Lee and signed him to his six-year, $80 million contract with the then owners’ blessing of course.

Additionally, they fired Nelson and hired on Smart, a seven-year member of the staff, as his replacement with a one-year contract with a second year option.

Seems like a lot of work done by two men that hadn’t even taken complete control.  Yet, during an interview with Sports Illustrated on the day they bought the team, Guber was asked what his plan was as far as improving the team.  His answer:

“I wouldn’t be able to answer that even if I knew the answer,” Guber told SI.com. “We haven’t done the analysis. I honestly, truthfully don’t know the answer. That is the process of examination. There are a lot of forces at work. The collective bargaining agreement is looming. The issues of free agency and trades and all kind of things are going on. We have to transition and we don’t know how long this process will unfold.”

Sort of an odd answer from a guy that just worked a deal for Lee and Dorell Wright.  Not to mention the risky signing of Harvard standout Jeremy Lin and all before the sale was even finalized on November 13, 2010.

However, in the same SI interview, Guber stated that he is an impatient man and it’s pretty apparent now.  This season, the Warriors were 36-46, a 10-game improvement from last season.  Smart kept Golden State in the playoff hunt until a six-game losing streak in March knocked them out of contention.  They ended the season strong with a three-game streak with wins over Dallas, Portland and LA but even that wasn’t enough to convince them to retain Smart.

To some it may seem like a surprise that the team has decided to part ways with Keith but again, ownership declared that he was a transitional coach.  The mentality of this is odd considering that transitional period took up an entire year but the cards are still in the Warriors’ hands.  The only starter up for free agency is Reggie Williams and the only decent bench player up for it is Al Thornton who had the worst scoring season of his career.

Additionally, with the trades that sent both Deron Williams and Carmelo Anthony to the Eastern Conference, right now is probably the best time to rebuild in the West.  Utah, Phoenix and Houston all missed the playoffs and are in their respective transitional periods as well.  Last season, Oklahoma City was the eight seed with 50 wins.  This year, Memphis made the playoffs with 46.

The new ownership is a breath a fresh air for the Warriors who dwelled in the mediocre shadows of the NBA for 15 years with Cohan.  They made the playoffs only three times under him.  Sports Illustrated rated him as the fourth worst owner right behind Michael Heisley (Memphis), Cablevision/James Dolan (New York) and Donald Sterling (LA Clippers).  It’s a rating he deserved too for keeping around Don Nelson who he even sued years ago for jumping ship for New York.

Chris Cohan, an absent owner.

The Warriors only had a handful of winning seasons under Cohan as he made bad decision after bad decision.  The 1996 draft featured players such as Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, Jermaine O’Neal, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Antoine Walker, Peja Stojakovic, and Marcus Camby. Cohan selected Todd Fuller.

Last season, they sent Stephen Jackson packing for an injured Raja Bell.  Before that, they traded Tim Hardaway and Chris Gatling for Bimbo Coles and Kevin Willis.

Do we really need to get into the Latrell Sprewell incident?

Off the court, Cohan hasn’t made the best decisions either.  In 2007, the IRS accused him of tax evasion.  He was sent a letter of Deficiency by the Department of Treasury stating that he and his wife, Angela, owed $95 million in taxes and $66 million in penalties.  He was accused of purchasing several tax shelters that are tied to a New York-based organized crime investigation.  While he wasn’t part of the criminal investigation, Cohan had his hands and money tied to some shady business practices.

Now, the new ownership is determined to move on from Cohan’s mistakes and they aren’t wasting anytime.  Smart was only a temporary solution but now that Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are going into their first, full offseason with the team, they will be able to make a more methodical decision as to who they wish to hire as their head coach.   In an ESPN report, even Lacob admitted they moved very quickly:

“At some level, and certainly I know some people will say this — that [Smart] deserved another year, that he didn’t have a full roster, and there’s some truth to that,” Lacob said. “But we felt that we could be better. I think to some extent ownership wanted more so to have their guy in.”

They knew it was time to move on completely and have even stated that the new coach will retool the entire staff if he wishes.

Several names have started to swirl around from Jerry Sloan to Jeff Van Gundy. Other names include former Cleveland Cavs coach Mike Brown and Lawrence Frank who is Doc Rivers’ assistant in Boston where Lacob previously held a small stake in the team.

While it is still unknown who the job will go to, one thing is for sure, he will have to be a player’s coach.  Ownership was impressed with how Smart related to the players and promised to place his own stamp on the team.  He even shook every player’s hand in the locker room on day one and made this promise.

However, he juggled Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry poorly and even benched the rookie Curry late in a few games.  His hardline approach strained their relationship but he still had the support of the team.

Larry Riley (left) and Bob Myers (right) have a long offseason ahead.

Bringing in Bob Myers as the new assistant manager is a step in the right direction for fixing this team.  Myers is a former agent who represented Kendrick Perkins, Brook Lopez, Antawn Jamison, Brandon Roy, Tyreke Evans and current Warrior Dorell Wright.  When he took the job earlier this month, he forfeited his position under Arn Tellem, one of the most powerful sports agents in the game and assumed a position that puts him right under current GM Larry Riley.  However, Myers is expected to replace the 66-year-old Riley who was brought in back in 2009 to replace Chris Mullin.

Ownership believes that bringing in Myers will give them the edge since he knows the ins and outs of player management from his time as an agent.  He is also a former player that won the NCAA Title in 1995 with the UCLA Bruins and even grew up in the Bay Area.

It was a risky decision to bring over someone without any experience as a GM especially when the likes of Steve Kerr and Kevin Pritchard are possibly looking to return to front office positions.

The Warriors have stated that they are not shopping Ellis or Curry unless the offer was too good to resist.  However, they are very unhappy with starting center Andris Biendrins and state that he has to work for his position back with the team.  They have stated that they would be willing to move Lee over to the five position or simply give it to Ekpe Udoh.  They will also have the option to see who is available in free agency.

Myers will be given a large amount of power to retool both the team and offices. The Warriors’ director of player personnel, Travis Schlenk, and director of basketball operations, Kirk Lacob, the owner’s son, are the only other two names that are guaranteed jobs.  Those four, along with the owners, have the daunting task of putting the right people in place to get Golden State back in contention.

When Don Nelson left the Warriors, it meant that his style of fast-paced ball was on its way out as well; however, the team is still moving quickly but in a different way.  New owners are scrambling to fix a broken franchise that has been run into the ground by mismanagement and a revolving door of talent.  With the right people in place, glory will return to the Bay Area.

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The Cowbell Tolls for Thee: NBA to Maloofs – “Stay in Sacramento”

Kings may just stay.

The saga of the Sacramento Kings has jumped all over the place since the Maloofs came up with the idea to relocate the team due to their bad financial decisions four years ago. In the beginning it seemed all but certain that the team was going to be moved out of Sacramento this summer. Las Vegas and Louisville were rumored destinations for the franchise but in the end Anaheim won out as the choice destination for the Kings. Anaheim had everything the Maloofs could hope for, an arena, a large television market with a potentially lucrative television deal, and a man, Henry Samueli, who was willing to help bailout the Maloofs financially in order to get the Kings relocated to the Honda Center. Things were looking great for the Maloofs…that is until the city of Sacramento got in the way.

Boy, how the Maloofs wanted to move! They could see the bright lights of Disney Land in the distance. But, “not so fast,” the NBA told them. David Stern granted them a second extension to file the necessary paperwork with the league to relocate the team but that was because the league wanted to send a fact-finding committee, headed by Clay Bennett, to both Sacramento and Anaheim to assess for themselves the feasibility of the franchise either relocating or staying in Sacramento.

Sacramento had raised money, lots of money ($410 million), from local businesses in the form of sponsorships and box  suite ticket sales for the 2011-12 season. Since the NBA is a business itself, it also likes money. Not only that, but Sacramento now has a viable plan to build a new arena. Stern likes shiny new arenas.

Due to Sacramento’s efforts to keep the Kings, spurred on by Mayor Kevin Johnson and the grassroots “Here We Stay” campaign, owners around the league, who would be the ones voting to approve the Maloofs request to relocate, are not so keen on seeing the team depart just yet. “…It appears unlikely at this point that team owners will come to a conclusion before Monday, the day set by NBA officials as the deadline for the team to request permission to relocate to Anaheim for next season,” the Sacramento Bee reports.

The article goes onto state that, “NBA executives in recent days have indicated they are interested in seeing the team stay in Sacramento at least one more year, which would give the city a last chance to finance an arena to replace aging Power Balance Pavilion.”

If the Maloofs do decide to move forward with the relocation vote from the NBA’s Board of Governors, which must take place by May 2, they will need at least half of the owners consent to move the team to Anaheim. At this point, however, it appears as if those votes may be hard to come by.

It looks as though Sacramento may be given a one year reprieve. Yet, they need to use that year wisely. The NBA wants to see progress on a feasible plan to build a new arena in the short-term future. That is what everything hinges on. If the city and voters cannot come to an agreement on the issue then everything that was fought for this year will be for naught. Sacramentans must understand that Anaheim will not stand pat for a year, they want the Kings too and will do what they can to improve their offer in an effort to entice the NBA and the Maloofs yet again.

Keeping the Kings in Sacramento next season will be easy, the battle seems won at this point. Where the real challenge lies is in building a new arena. Sacramento, you must be in it for the long haul, the war has yet to be won.

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League Greed

Sometimes marriage counseling fails.

Monday’s ruling in the NFL antitrust lawsuit could have a significant impact on the looming NBA labor discussions.

With U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson ruling that the NFL lockout is illegal, the NBA Players’ Union is ready to decertify if (read: when) the lockout arrives.  There are immense problems within the league’s financial parity that have led to this situation, but the threat of a lockout is the main threat that the owners have in order to corral the short-sightedness of the players, and the ruling is a prime example of how players’ have wrested control from the hands of the owners and the league itself.

The difference between the NBA and the NFL in this situation, is that the NFL is immensely profitable while the NBA, yeah, not so much.

Judge Nelson’s ruling essentially halts the NFL lockout, because while the players are not getting paid, they are still essentially under contract.  If this spreads to the NBA, there will be problems, because the way the NBA currently operates is unsustainable.  Small-market teams, like the Hornets and Kings (as well as the Sonics before them), are going extinct like it’s the end of the Permian period.  Revenue sharing, along with a hard salary cap, can help these small-market teams to make it through rough economic periods like we’re currently experiencing.

In comparison to the other major sports leagues, the NBA has been much more willing to allow franchises to suffer because of the dominance of the larger markets.  Even in baseball, which is devoid of a salary cap, smart teams are still able to turn profits with low ticket prices due to revenue sharing and support from Major League Baseball itself.

While the NBA seems to support the owners, David Stern truly only focuses on the larger market teams.  The largest problem, from the league’s standpoint, with revenue sharing is the money it would then take away from Stern’s golden franchises.  The commissioner has shown repeatedly that the success of the Lakers, Bulls, Knicks and Celtics far exceeds the success of the league as a whole.  The “superstar” franchises get preferential financial treatment, just like superstar players do.  The league is losing its smaller market teams, because it simply doesn’t care enough about them.

If Sonicsgate was as bad as it was, imagine adding the Kings, Hornets, Raptors, Cavs, Grizzlies, and Pacers to the list of small market teams to be contracted.  But the players’ (and most likely our generation’s) sense of entitlement is at least as harmful as the league’s preference.

NBA superstars are marketing items and are treated like gold.  After this past offseason, the “Summer of Collusion”, the league ceded even more power to the key superstars, and acted lopsidedly against the owners and even less-popular players.  David Stern smiled and threw up his hands at the Heat’s statements about planning to join forces years in advance, Mark Cuban was hit with that $100,000 fine simply for saying that he’d like for Lebron to play for the Mavs.  When Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul (imagine them both on the Knicks, cha-ching!) both requested trades from their teams, they were not fined, yet Rudy Fernandez was hit with a couple fines for saying he wanted a release from his contract because he was homesick (allegedly having family issues in Spain).

Take the money and run.

Take the money and run (or jog in Curry's case).

NBA players have salaries that eclipse that of their forebears.  Last year, Eddy Curry’s salary was equal to that of Michael Jordan’s combined salary through the entirety of his first three-peat.  In comparison, Curry’s played in 10 total games in his past three years, for which he has been paid $31,754,998.  For those playing along at home, that averages out to over 3 million dollars a game.  While much of that blood falls on the hands of the owners, it also shows how NBA salaries have exploded, far surpassing the increases in revenue.

The NBA has seen the profitability that a legendary superstar can bring the league through Michael Jordan, yet Jordan is unique.  As fans, we expect our teams to each have at least one franchise player, yet there simply aren’t enough people with the correct combination of both talent and determination available.  Then, typically, a team’s best player gets the tag heaped upon him and a fat contract that he will never live up to; here we have the Danny Grangers, the Andrew Boguts.  These players will never lead their team past the first round of the playoffs without an additional pseudo-franchise player.

Now, the ruling against the NFL’s ability to hold a lockout seems to give even more power to the players, setting a precedent that lockouts themselves can be deemed illegal.  To take away lockout threats is not dissimilar to taking away a worker’s right to strike, it is a vital threat to keep the players from ruling.

While we have to recognize that the players have their rights and freedoms to protect, the owners are their bosses and have to be the grownups.  They pay the bills, and the players should realize that without the NBA, most of them are simply unskilled laborers with 7-foot wingspans.  The league, the owners, and the players need to set aside their greed so that they might actually turn a profit.

– Travis Austin Huse. Contributing writer.  

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Chauncey Billups returning to Knicks

More money, more shooting problems

The New York Knicks have answered one question pertaining to the future of the organization. According to a report by Chris Sheridan, the Kinckerbockers will pick up the option on Chauncey Billups’ contract for the 2011-12 season. New York will pay Billups $14.2 million dollars over the final year of his contract.

The Knicks had until Friday to decide whether the team wanted to spend the money on the 13-year veteran point guard or buyout his contract. The buyout would have only cost the team $3.7 million.

Billups only played in one of New York’s playoff games and just 21 regular season games with the team. Apparently, that was all the Knicks need to see. He averaged 17.5 points, 5.6 assists, and 2.9 rebounds as a Knick in those 21 games. However, those numbers do not tell the whole story.

After joining the Knicks, Billups’ shot selection became abysmal. With New York, he was taking almost two more shots per game than he was with Denver. This did not translate into increased production, though. His shooting percentage dropped from 43.8 percent with the Nuggets to 40.3 percent with the Knicks.

Worst of all was his tendency to take low percentage three-point shots while with the Knicks. With Denver, Billups averaged 4.7 three point attempts during a game and connected on 2.1 of them for an average of 44.1 percent. As a member of the Knicks, he upped his shot attempts from behind the arc to six per game while only making two. His averaged tumbled to 32.8 percent. That is almost a 12 point drop. Mr. Big Shot needs to find a new nickname.

Nonetheless, Billups, who will turn 35 in September, will remain in New York for one more season. One question answered, many to go.

Now the Knicks can focus on whether to pick up the option on General Manager Donnie Walsh’s contract. Rumors have been floating around that the two sides are close to a two-year extension.

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Bay Area goes dumb, Warriors dismiss Keith Smart

That smarts

It seemed smart to hire Keith Smart at the start of the season after the Golden State Warriors parted ways with Don Nelson. Smart was, after all, an assistant coach with the team for the previous seven years. Now, after being the head coach for just one season, he is out of the job.

Smart led the Warriors to a record of 36-46 during the 2010-11 season. That mark was a ten game improvement over the previous season, but now the team is moving forward (hopefully, that is the direction they are moving) without him. All of this is part of owner Joe Lacob’s plan to move the team away from any semblance of Nellie Ball.

Lacob had this to say in the team’s official press release:

“It’s never easy to make difficult decisions, especially when it involves someone that we have a great deal of respect for like Keith Smart,” said Warriors Owner Joe Lacob. “After meeting extensively with Larry Riley and Bob Myers, we came to the conclusion that a change was necessary at this particular time. I think Keith did an admirable job this season and he should be commended for many of the positive things that transpired both on and off the floor. The team showed improvement and their effort was never in question. However, we’ve elected to pursue a new path and we wish Keith the very best. He’s a quality person and we thank him for the time he invested with our organization.”

As Matt Steinmtz of CSN Bay Area points out, Smart was transitioned to the role of head coach before Lacob took full control of the team and Smart’s contract was not fully guaranteed for next season. Clearly, Smart’s position with the team was tenuous at best.

Now the Warriors join the growing list of teams on the hunt for a new head coach. Hopefully, their search will be slightly more tasteful than the circus act the Houston Rockets are putting on.

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Kobe Bryant dunks on Emeka Okafor

Do not let Reggie Miller’s “Kobe Bean” statement ruin this for you. Kobe is playing on a bad ankle.

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