Monthly Archives: January 2013

NBA Mid-Season Awards

Thunderstruck might not win any awards, but Durant likely will

Thunderstruck might not win any awards, but Durant likely will

The NBA is just past the mid-point of the regular season so the Kobe Beef decided to jump on the bandwagon and list our selections for who is deserving of an award thus far.

Coach of the Year

Ben Gooding: Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls

I’m sure you guys like Mark Jackson.

Travis Huse: Mark Jackson, Golden State Warriors

“Mama, there goes that man!”

After years of hearing Mark Jackson spit his catchphrases beside Jeff Van Gundy on ABC, I could have never envisioned that he would be the man to lead the Golden State Warriors back to the playoffs. But now with Monta Ellis gone, The Warriors can now play Stephen Curry at the 2, and allow Jarrett Jack to handle more of the distribution duties. Once you factor in Klay Thompson’s advancement and the return of Andrew Bogut, it is evident that the Warriors might just be the beginning of a perennial playoff team.

Doyle Rader: Mark Jackson, Golden State Warriors

It was a bit premature for Mark Jackson to declare that the Warriors would be playoff-bound after he was named head coach last season. However, he was only off by a year. Barring a collapse on the level of the 2007 Mets, Golden State will reach the playoffs for the first time since 2007 as they have already topped their win total from last season. Jackson has melded his rotations well and rode the chemistry that David Lee and Stephen Curry have developed to this point. Not to mention this team is all buckets everything. They shoot 45.6 percent from the floor, and lead the league in 3-point shooting percentage with a mark of 38.8. The Warriors are also the only team to have defeated the Thunder, Heat, and Clippers. Now the team has Andrew Bogut back which will only bolster their roster. His handling of Curry’s recent ankle tweak, by sitting him, also shows that he is not risking his team’s future for one game.

Most Improved Player

TR: Paul George, Indiana Pacers

This award is not even up for discussion. To begin the season, Indiana looked like a sure lock on winning the Central Division, but were derailed by Danny Granger’s knee injury and disappointing play from Roy Hibbert. George has filled the superstar role nicely, and the Pacers now have a serious chance to overtake the Bulls in order to land the 3rd seed in the East by the time playoffs roll around.

DR: Greivis Vasquez, New Orleans Hornets

Vasquez’ play this season has been nothing short of superb. He has quarterbacked a bottom feeding team as well as anyone could imagine and has already set career numbers in points, assists, rebounds, and 3-point shooting percentage and he has done it all in ewer total minutes than he played all of last season. New Orleans has a +/- of -7.9 and a Net Rating of -8.1 when Vasquez is on the bench.

Defensive Player of the Year

BG: Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls

Chicago is 27-17 and Derrick Rose has not set foot on the hardwood all season. What could be even more astonishing? That the Bulls have that record by only scoring 93 points a game (that’s 27th in the league, folks).

How are they doing it? Defense and Joakim Noah is leading the way. Midway through the season, Chicago is only giving up 90 points a game (3rd in the league) and they are gathering 44 rebounds a game (6th in the league).

Noah is gathering 7.2 rebounds a game and 2 blocks. He’s gathered 15 boards or more eight times this season. His energetic style matched with stingy defense all over the court, is allowing the Bulls to bide their time before Rose returns.

TH: Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls

The Bulls’ success in the absence of Derrick Rose speaks volumes about the work of head coach Tom Thibodeau, and the way he has managed to keep this team performing at an elite level without his MVP point guard just might be his biggest success to date. But with the defensive identity of this squad is the glue that holds them together, and Noah has been phenomenal as a defensive leader, in a capacity similar to Kevin Garnett’s role on the Celtics.

 DR: Larry Sanders, Milwaukee Bucks

Larry Sanders may be an odd choice for Defensive Player of the Year. Yet, I cannot get past a few aspects of his game that let me to select him. Sanders is by no means a household name. He has scrapped for playing time in Milwaukee, a team laden with forwards, but now seems to be coming into his own as a defensive presence. Sanders currently has the second best defensive rating in the league, 95.9, behind only Tim Duncan and leads in every block category. The most striking statistic being that he blocks nine percent of all the shots taken when he is on the floor. NINE PERCENT! JaVale McGee is second with 7.9. Opposing offenses only shoot 52.7 percent, a dreadful number, from the restricted area when Sanders in patrolling the paint. He also pulls down 8.2 defensive rebounds per 36 minutes and sports a defensive win shares rating of 2.3.

Sixth Man

TH: Jarrett Jack, Golden State Warriors

Jarrett Jack is just one of those players who can really rally a second unit, and I am pretty damn unsure as to why he hasn’t managed to secure a starting spot on an NBA team. At any rate, he has helped out many a crappy team (looking at you, Chris Paul and Chris Bosh) while being buried under talented starters, and you just have to enjoy him.

[Editor’s note: Jack was the starting point guard for the Portland Trail Blazers during the 2006-07 season. He started in all 79 games that he played.]

DR: Jarrett Jack, Golden State Warriors

One of the reasons that the Warriors have been so successful this season, aside from their coach, has been the willingness of Jarrett Jack to accept his role as the team’s sixth man. Not only has he accepted this position but he has excelled in it. This is Jack’s first season coming off the bench since he backed up Chris Paul in New Orleans. Now he comes off the bench to spell Stephen Curry or play alongside him. He has posted a win shares rating of 3.6 to go along with a true shooting percentage of 56.2 and 7.1 assists per 36 minutes. The Warriors are a deep team with many good bench players, Carl Landry especially stands out, but it is Jack who has contributed the most.

Rookie of the Year

Unanimous: Damien Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

BG: Portland won 28 games last year. So far this season, they are 22-22. May not seem like a lot but it is when you consider how cursed this team has been with rookies (Sam Bowie, Bill Walton, Greg Oden). Seems like all they needed to do was stop drafting centers to break the curse.

Regardless, no one expected to see what we have already seen from Lillard this season. A 37-point game and six double-doubles so far this season are just a few things padding his resume.

TH: I have tried all season to believe in Anthony Davis. I drafted him too highly on our fantasy league. I bought into all the hype about his “NBA readiness,” and I am still trying to believe that he will pull off winning this award.

 With the passing of each day, it becomes more and more unlikely. The Hornets have been very careful with their franchise prospect, and Eric Gordon has finally returned, taking some of the scoring load off Davis.

 Lillard, though, has crafted an amazing year, finally giving the fans in Portland a capable distributor. He is smart with the ball, and he has been willing to shoulder the burden of a leadership role right out of college. When was the last time the Blazers had that? He maximizes the performance of teammates LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum. Blazers GM Neil Olshey certainly drafted himself out of the hot water that he was in after matching Batum’s $46 million, four-year offer sheet from Minnesota.

DR: When I saw him fearlessly attack and harry Steve Nash during the preseason, I was sold.

Most Valuable Player

Unanimous: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

BG: It’s hard not to see him winning MVP at this point in the season. The Thunder have only lost two games in a row once this season and one of those games was to the Heat. He leads the league in scoring (29.6 ppg) on one of the best teams in the league (2nd in the West and league, OKC with 34 wins).

While its just as easy to mention LeBron James in this conversation, it’s an award that belongs to Durant. We never expected Durant to be what he is now while the media, fans, and the league completely set the stage for LBJ.

His stat sheet includes over seven rebounds and four assists a game. That matched up with shooting 91 percent from the free throw line and 42 percent from past the arc, spells out history. Only Dirk Nowitzki, Reggie Miller and Larry Bird have maintained the 40-50-90 line throughout a full NBA season.

TR: Even though Lebron James is the best basketball player in the world, the Miami Heat haven’t particularly shined this season, and that will hurt his chances of hoisting a fourth Maurice Podoloff trophy. Instead, I opt for Kevin Durant, who looks driven and determined to win a ring. His team has managed to maintain such a high level of play even though they traded away James Harden, and Durant is poised to take home his fourth straight scoring title. While Durant has lived under Lebron’s shadow the past few years, this is Durant’s time to shine.

DR: Kevin Durant is in rare form. He is currently a 50/40/90 player, meaning that he shoots 50 percent on field goals, 40 percent on 3-pointers, and 90 percent on free throws. If he can maintain this through the rest of the season he will join the ranks of Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Dirk Nowitzki, and Steve Nash as the only players to finish a season shooting at such a level. Not only is his shooting impressive but he is averaging 7.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game to go along with his league-leading 29.6 points.

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Memphis and Wiz, Slow Your Roll

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Staying put… for now.

This past year, Washington D.C. looks like the worst place to be a young athlete. Stephen Strasburg benched, Robert Griffin III sidelined with injury and John Wall missing a huge chunk of this year’s NBA season. Now that Wall is finally back, looks like the Wiz have already made an attempt to dump their Rookie of the Year candidate.

Wait, what?

Yes, after just one Washington game with both Bradley Beal and Wall in the Wizard’s backcourt, trade rumors are swirling around the young rookie out of Florida who was taken third overall in the 2012 draft. Sources are reporting this morning that Wiz GM Ernie Grunfield apparently sent an offer to Memphis for Rudy Gay.

Memphis has put it out there that they are shopping the starting forward in his seventh season out of UConn and already fallen out of a possible trade with Toronto. Problem with that trade: the Griz were asking for too much. The deal would have potentially sent Jose Calderon, Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross to the city of Graceland.

In return, Toronto would have gotten an average perimeter scorer who has yet to live up to his larger-than-life ability that people saw him achieving. Not to mention Gay’s contract that has another $37 million attached to it after this season. The biggest knock on Gay coming out of college was his lack of a voice and leadership. It’s looking like he’s never going to develop those traits.

Washington is definitely looking for more scoring. Right now, the Wiz are last in the league in scoring with a mere 89.4 points a game. Additionally, their frontcourt is less than stellar. Emeka Okafor is having the worst season of his career with less minutes and Nene hasn’t been healthy. It’s going to take a lot more than Martell Webster to take a team to the postseason especially on a team that is currently experiencing its only winning streak of the season with two.

By putting Beal on the block, the Wizards are showing a complete disregard for their future. We have seen the two-guard combo work on several other teams if not to bolster their roster at the time but to build a tradeable player later down the road (Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis with Ellis being sent to Milwaukee and Golden State sitting pretty well right now with that 5th seed in the West). Right now, a third overall pick for an underwhelming forward doesn’t just doesn’t seem fair.

The same could be said for Memphis. Frankly, the frontcourt with Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Gay is working out. They took the Clippers to seven games last season in the first round and the year before they upset the No. 1 seeded Spurs; however, Gay missed that series with a shoulder injury. The trade would also completely disregard their breaking up of the O.J. Mayo/Mike Conley backcourt. Mayo is now in Dallas and would load their backcourt back up. Although that deal was done to save money in the long run, Memphis is winning with defense and bringing in a young guard would not contribute to that formula.

It’s conclusive that this trade really didn’t need to happen. Both Memphis and Washington need to step back and look at what they really need. Frankly, the Wiz’s season is already over. With only six wins, it’s apparent that they need to build that frontcourt with the draft since there really is nothing to save with their 2012-13 season.

In Memphis, it’s always been about saving money for an organization that needs to step up and spend some cash. Yes, they do have four max contracts with Connely, Randolph, Gasol and Gay but that’s not necessarily a bad thing when you have a chance to win now. This team just learned how to make the playoffs so it would be best to see how that plays out.

Put the brakes on guys. This trade did not need to happen since it would have been premature on just about every level.

 

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The Cowbell Tolls for Thee: Kings to Seattle?

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Welp…

Doyle Rader: Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! reported earlier today that the Maloof family, who own the Sacramento Kings, are finalizing a deal that would sell the team to an investment group in Seattle headed by Steve Ballmer and Chris Hansen. The Maloofs have been looking to either relocate or sell the Kings for some time as their casino and hotel investments have steadily hemorrhaged money over the past several years. Before this season began, there was talk that the team could be relocated to Anaheim as there were investors, namely Henry Samueli, willing to take on some of the Maloofs’ debt in order to relocate the team to the Honda Center. Those plans were stopped when the NBA’s Board of Governors voted against relocation.

While the Maloofs were weighing their relocation options, Louisville, Kentucky and Virginia Beach were also possible destinations at one time, the city of Sacramento was scrambling to do everything in its power to retain the Kings. These efforts were spearheaded by mayor Kevin Johnson, himself a former NBA player. After much planning, a deal was struck that would ensure the Kings stay while building an entirely new arena with surrounding developments. Then the Maloofs abruptly rejected the deal saying that they never agreed to it and the whole situation returned to square one, or square -1,589,247 if you prefer.

That is how we arrive at today’s news and it was met with much hostility on the Internet, especially Twitter. Basketball Twitter is replete with many excellent Kings bloggers and the team has a loyal following. Honestly, it is not surprising that they would be upset (an understatement if there ever was one) today. I, however, am detached from the situation. It certainly isn’t an ideal one but it was simply inevitable that the Kings’ time in Sacramento was dwindling.

Travis Huse: No, the news wasn’t shocking, from any perspective. While I truly feel for the Kings’ fanbase, the move makes perfect sense. David Stern was quoted earlier this year saying that losing the Supersonics franchise was one of the biggest regrets of his tenure as NBA commissioner; with Stern on his way out, this is a way for him to try to shape the NBA in one final way.

But the outrage on twitter has been less about the Kings, and more about Seattle. The Seattle fanbase is being accused of stealing a team, much in the way that they accused Oklahoma City of stealing the Sonics. This is not an appropriate analogy, though, for a few reasons. Primarily, the Kings were going to move. The Maloofs made poor business choices, and in turn, keeping an insolvent NBA franchise was weighing down their financial future. That’s no way to operate a business.

The Maloofs were also terrible owners. They have proven themselves to be incapable of maintaining a winning franchise, nor could they manage to invoke discussion with the city or Kings fans. The Maloofs were never truly invested in the Sacramento area, anyway, so they shouldn’t have ever been expected to take such large financial losses. This has always been a league centered around the dichotomy between large and small-market teams, and in order to stay afloat, teams like the Kings have to ensure one of two things. Smaller-market teams need to either be consistently good, or they have to have a community-centered owner who is willing to ride through tough times for the sake of the franchise. The Maloofs were never anything close to altruists, and the Kings have been bad for a long time now.

DR: I still hold some animosity towards the Kings for all the frustration they caused me in the early 2000s. That doesn’t mean I dislike the team though, but I’m not going to toss around vitriol towards the Maloofs. They are bad owners, plain and simple. They probably think that selling the team to a group in Seattle is the most noble move they can make in the face of NBA fans. However, this has not sit well with Kings fans and others.

I don’t want to be crass about the situation but this is exactly the deal the Maloofs have been looking for. They will be selling the team for $500 million, a mark that is far overvalued. Why wouldn’t they make this deal? With this money they can definitely invest in a new tower for the Palms in Las Vegas where they can start losing money while appearing in fast food commercials.

At least Seattle is getting a team again. It is disappointing that they are doing so in relatively the same manner in which they lost theirs, but that city has been on a mission since Clay Bennett relocated the Supersonics to Oklahoma City. Both Sacramento and Seattle have worked tirelessly to retain or revive their NBA franchise. Yet, as you stated, the Maloofs have never shown loyalty to the city of Sacramento like the fans of the Kings have.

TH: Exactly. This is a dream deal for the Maloofs, they would been foolish to leave it on the table. The writing has been on the wall for the Kings for a long time, anyway. To put this into perspective, the Maloofs were seriously considering moving the team to Virginia Beach, Anaheim, and Las Vegas. Virginia Beach has not shown the ability to hold an NBA franchise, and is situated in an area that has always been known to focus on collegiate sports. A move to Anaheim, while theoretically viable, would trisect the Los Angeles basketball market. Stern is always trying to keep the media happy, so obviously that wouldn’t work. And Las Vegas? The most significant event in Sacramento Kings history was game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals, a game and a series defined by the link to the Tim Donaghy gambling scandal. That scandal was a blight on the league, and is another one of Stern’s failings as commissioner. While I don’t mind a team in Vegas, the wound is still too fresh for the NBA to maintain an image of parity.

So, if the Kings were doomed to leave Sacramento, is there a better place for the team? Seattle has always been an NBA city, with a new arena, a set of owners who care more about basketball than their bottom line, and a hunger for the sport it is the most best option. While you never like to see teams move, there is no place better for them. We are only two seasons away from discussions of contracting insolvent franchises, so if shuffling a team or two makes basketball better and the NBA more viable? Absolutely worth it.

What I find interesting is the league’s willingness to put its neck on the line for a franchise such as the New Orleans Hornets, which the league bought to ensure the franchise’s future in the region. Sacramento has a metro population of 2.6 million, and the Kings are the only professional sports franchise in town. In comparison, New Orleans only has a metro population of a little more than a million, and the Saints gobble up the lion’s share of the television market. Why? It seems apparent to me that not only have the Maloofs found the franchise to be failing, but the league itself. If the NBA felt that a local buyer would be able to keep the team in Sacramento, they would have.

But some blame still falls on the city for risking losing the Kings. They gambled by refusing to fund a new arena. Sometimes, when you gamble, you lose.

DR: Actually, the city did put a plan forward in which they would construct a new arena. As I wrote above, it was a plan that the Maloofs agreed to at first before claiming that they never accepted the terms of the arrangement. Seattle is actually the city that voted against funding a new arena as most of the funding would come from tax dollars. The city had already invested public funds in Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field, where the Mariners and Seahawks play originally. The public was simply not behind funding yet another sports stadium at the behest of a billionaire owner.

Because of this, David Stern came down hard on the city because he was one of the key advocates for a new arena as he felt KeyArena did not represent his product as well as some of the newer arenas in the NBA. This, essentially, was the catalyst that brought us to the events of today.

I think you’re right in thinking that the league has found that, under the Maloofs in recent years, basketball has been a poor product in Sacramento. This is due to the ownership and front office. Yet, Stern, because of the flack he took after the Sonics debacle, has been in support of many of the proposed plans to keep the Kings in Sacramento. He certainly doesn’t want his tenure to be marred yet again by another relocation. He already has two lockouts under his belt.

But for Seattle to gain a team again it will have to be through relocation. There is seriously no chance that the league is willing to absorb two new franchises, which they would have to do to balance the league if a new team was created in Seattle. This is especially true with all the talk of contraction that you mentioned.

Also, there were local buyers in Sacramento, Ron Burkle being the one who has garnered the most attention. However, when he came forward the Maloofs were unwilling to sell. They were looking for theirs. They always have been.

It is admirable that the Kings fans have stuck with this organization through everything that has transpired over recent years. Even today they continued their Here We Stay campaign creating a petition to keep the team in Sacramento. One cannot fault them for their persistence and effort. Yet, the final decision is out of their hands.

That being said, rumors have been circulating that the Maloofs may back out of the deal from Ballmer and Hansen, despite how lucrative it is. Selling a team is always profitable for the owners and this deal would take the cake. Of course, this cannot be confirmed but it leads me to believe that this chapter isn’t quite over yet.

TH: But Burkle could never offer what the Seattle group has. The Maloofs, who bought the Kings solely as a business venture, are wholly unable to understand basketball beyond the business side. This is also why they fail. 

 It is more important to me to have basketball in Seattle than it is in Sacramento. I only really have this to offer as explanation: The Supersonics have always been fun, exciting, memorable. I think more about the Sonics than I do about the Kings at any given moment, yet the team that currently exists is a floundering team. A dull, very bad basketball team. Simply by BEING the Seattle Supersonics, their marketability skyrockets. 

 The Thunder took a good franchise away from an NBA city and the culture surrounding it. The Kings will be restoring that culture, and most likely saving the team. Would it be any better if they had moved to Virginia Beach or folded? Seattle ensures team viability, with a good owner in place. The Kings have steadily gotten worse, due to ownership. 

 DR: Well, I don’t think anyone will fault you for trashing the Maloofs, but you’re luck no one ever reads The Kobe Beef after that diss of the Kings. But, I understand where you are coming from. The Kings have only been in Sacramento since the mid ’80s and were only relevant during the turn of the millennium. Adelman had a monster team and if it wasn’t for Robert Horry they could have reached the Finals. And who can forget Doug Christie’s wife?

 Seattle does have the provenance, though. That is why I feel that if the Kings do relocate they might as well go there. I hate to see a fanbase lose a team but the sad truth is it is all too common in sports. Fans should remain bitter if they lose a team. Baltimore did when the Colts left, Cleveland did when the Browns moved (Cleveland is always bitter, though), and Seattle continued to beat the war drum when the Sonics were snatched away.

 I also don’t think that the Maloofs bought the Kings just as a business venture. They grew up in the NBA. Their father owned the Houston Rockets and it can be argued that they fell in love with the NBA during that time. Tom Ziller does an excellent job of explaining it and how the family was torn, just last month, about selling the team.

 If there is an upside to all of this, though, it is the outpouring of support and the mobilization of the fans. I’m not sure there has ever been a time in which the fans’ voice was so loud. Twitter erupted today, for better or worse, and Kings fans’ emotions were rampant. This was the case with Sonics fans too. The level of outreach, though social media and other platforms, that the fan now has at their disposal has definitely influenced the league.

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