Tag Archives: Derek Fisher

President Obama to hold Basketball Fundraiser

Ballin'

It is not every day that a President comes along that likes basketball. College football? Sure. Golf? Of course. Now we have Barack Obama. The Baller-in-Chief. President Obama is currently campaigning for reelection, while concurrently, with the rest of us, bewildered by the inaction of the Congress. (Really?! Pizza is a vegetable? Tomatoes are a fruit!)

In a fundraising event, the President will host a basketball game in Washington D.C. on December 12. On the slate to play in that game are Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Amare Stoudemire, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Derek Fisher, Ray Allen, Vince Cater, Baron Davis, Tyson Chandler, Jamal Crawford, Blake Griffin, Rudy Gay, Chris Bosh, Tyler Hansbrough (who the President has scrimmaged with while Hansbrough was attending UNC), Juwan Howard, Antawn Jamison, Dahntay Jones, Kevin Love, Reggie Miller, Cheryl Miller, Quentin Richardson, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, Tina Thompson, Alonzo Mourning, and Dikembe Mutombo.

The teams will be coached by Doc Rivers and Patrick Ewing. Even though the lockout currently would not let these two have contact with the many of the players, the league has bowed down before the authority of President Obama and allowed them to participate. It must be nice to have that kind of power.

Talks between the NBA and what was the NBPA have renewed this week. At present, both sides are looking for a date of December 25 to start the season which will consist of roughly 66 games. However, there is still a lot to be hashed out. Until the players and owners can see eye to eye we have President Obama’s game to look forward to. Oh, and the jerseys for the game? Dope.

Unfortunately, the President will probably not lace up for the game. We know he and Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, have mad handles so their street cred is not in jeopardy. Hopefully, this game will be streamed online.

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David Stern issues Ultimatum to Union

Wednesday, bloody Wednesday

The latest round of mediation between the NBA, its owners, and the NBPA ended, after nearly eight and a half hours stretching into Sunday morning, the same way that every prior mediated session and talks have. There is still no deal. However, without directly referring to a proposed deal on the table as an ultimatum, NBA Commissioner David Stern did in fact issue one. A fact that was not lost on the union and its players.

Steve Novak of the San Antonio Spurs was one of  the first player to react using the term ultimatum on twitter, “U gotta love an ultimatum! How does basketball ever even get to this point?” He was not the only player to express his disbelief in the owners’ proposal, Tony Allen of the Memphis Grizzlies also tweeted after the terms of the proposal were made public last night, “57 53 49 : wow.”

The proposal that is on the table for the players to accept by the close of business on Wednesday, which Stern set as the cut-off point when the deal would be removed and the owners would again revert to their previous stance that the players should receive 47 percent of basketball related income and that a flex cap (read: hard cap) be in place, inches slightly closer to what the players have been asking for but does so in a way in which the owners proposal of a 50/50 split of BRI is the more likely outcome. Under the previous collective bargaining agreement, the players received 57 percent of BRI. As Allen referenced in the above tweet, the union has come down from 57 percent to 53 percent, then 52.5 percent and now is faced with close to earning just 49 percent of BRI.

Under the current proposal, which is a band deal, the players could earn between 49 and 51 percent of BRI. However, union attorney Jeffery Kessler, who was representing the players at the talks with union president Billy Hunter under the weather, along with Derek Fisher scoffed at the proposal. Under it the players would receive 50 percent of BRI with the ability, if league revenue grows at a projected four percent annually or further “significant growth” Stern said, to earn 51 percent of basketball related income. If revenues were to remain stagnant or decrease the players would earn just 49 percent of BRI. The reason Kessler flatly rejected the proposal is because “the proposal that this is a robust deal at 51 is a fraud,” he stated. Under the deal the players could not expect to legitimately earn 51 percent and that it would take “the wildest, most unimaginable, favorable projections and we might squeeze out to 50.2.”

“They came in here with a prearranged plan to try to strong-arm the players,” Kessler added. “They knew today they were sticking to 50, essentially 50.2. They were going to make almost no movement on the system, and then they were going to say, ‘My way, or the 47 percent highway.”

During the mediation the NBPA issued a proposal of a 51/49 percent split of BRI in which one percent would go towards benefits for retired players helping them with heath care, insurance, and pensions. This proposal was never addressed by Stern and the owners.

Where the two sides could also not make headway was the issue of the luxury tax. The proposed deal on the table would fine each team over the tax limit on a one-for-one amount for every dollar over the tax a team spends. That is down from their previous offer of a $1.50 penalty for each dollar over the limit. The union wants to see a 50 cent tax on the first $10 million over the salary cap limit and then raise it to one dollar after that.

What the league is proposing would make it difficult, if not impossible, for championship caliber teams to retain certain players under their proposal. This would adversely effect teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, and Orlando Magic, and New York Knicks. In the case of Dallas, the reigning NBA champions, starting center Tyson Chandler spoke bluntly about this proposal earlier in the week as reported by the Dallas Morning News:

“With the collective bargaining agreement and some of the things that they’re trying to enforce, it would basically prohibit me from coming back,” Chandler told KESN-FM FM in Dallas. “It would take it out of my hands — and the organization’s — because it would almost be pretty much impossible for me to re-sign. I just think that can be the worst thing that can happen.”

“For years, the Lakers have been able to win championships and re-sign their players and keep them there so they can go out for another title,” Chandler said. “Now, to put that deal in place after we win ours, I don’t like it one bit.”

Mark Cuban, Jerry Buss, and James Dolan are probably none too thrilled with the potential ramifications of that scenario. But they are not the ones spearheading the move to limit the power of the players. However, teams just above the luxury limit will be given a reprieve under the owners’ proposal with their taxes cut in half.

Further, the two-sided disagreed on the length and money of the mid-level exception, which teams over the salary cap use to sign players. The players want an MLE that is worth $5 million for four years occurring every other year. The league’s proposal is $2.5 million for two years every other year.

Teams who are playing luxury taxes, the league insists, would also be exempt from any sign-and-trade deals like the one that sent LeBron James from Cleveland to Miami.

These hardline proposals from the league are the result of a few owners in small markets, which it was revealed this week are led by Michael Jordan. Hardline owners want to wrest the money-making power from the players and limit the ability of large market teams to willing spend beyond the cap to put together winning teams. The irony of Jordan leading the charge to clamp down on the players is that he is the man who embodied the move towards player control in the league. It was he that wanted more money as a player, it was he that the league bowed down to for a decade. During the 1990’s the NBA saw its highest ratings and ratings have almost come back full circle to those levels now. Yet, he is one of the owners strangling any potential growth the league could have seen this year. Strangling is a job for Latrell Sprewell, but he left the league long ago to feed his kids. Jordan’s position is understandable and his drive to constantly win and/or crush is opposition is well documented but a stricter set of regulations on the players and teams willing to spend is not in character with Jordan the player. He famously told Abe Pollin who owned the Washington Bullets and then the Wizards during the 1998 lockout, “If you can’t make a profit, you should sell your team.” How the tables have turned.

Now, the players have until Wednesday to decide whether to accept the deal, replete with the demands of the hardliners, that the league has proposed. It is not the deal that they want. It is nowhere close to what they will accept. Kessler stated as much after the mediation process ended and Stern singled out Kessler as the one who rejected the league’s offer.

This morning, Novak chimed in again on Twitter, “I was really hoping I would wake up and the owners were gonna say jk!U guys have already given us 200M a year! But no,I guess they want more.” Novak, a trillionaire in his own right, expresses the sentiment of just about every NBA player. They want to play but they do not want to kowtow to the owners demands. Now there are rumblings that a move to decertify the union are more than underway.

Union decertification, a step the NFLPA took early on during their lockout, requires 30 percent of players, about 130, to sign off on the idea. From there it would be another 60 days before a vote would take place for or against decertification. Boston Celtics’ forward Paul Pierce has reportedly taken the lead to decertify the union with many other players, including Deron Williams who tweeted, “I’ve been ready to sign a decertification petition since July? Can’t believe we are just now going this route! SMH,” and agents supporting the move. If the union is disbanded, which would require a favorable vote from at least 50 percent of the players, the players could then file an antitrust lawsuit against the league. A move to decertify could also give the players more leverage in the negotiations with the owners but it is uncertain just how anything will play out at this point.

Wednesday means nothing. It is just an arbitrary day that Stern chose before the league reverts its position back to what it was. It is merely a talking point for the media. The players have already rejected it. The owners have not changed their stance. They have not moved beyond the 50/50 split to meet the players. All this is, as it has been all along is a public relations war of attrition. There can be no winner in this lockout, yet that is what each side is angling for. Not even a Pyrrhic victory is attainable at this point. At the very least the lockout will grow uglier as it drags on. Small pieces of false hope are continually leaked from the meetings between the two sides. It is unclear why people believe them still. There is no hope. This is not even a tug of war. This is two sides hunkered down in their trenches prepared for a protracted engagement. It would be nice to have an NBA season this year, but at this point it does not look likely. Both sides know that and neither is willing to move with the owners more than willing to wait until the players surrender to their demands and because of that everyone has already lost.

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NBA Players hold the Line at 53 Percent

Fishing for a better deal

Sunday evening saw the NBA and the NBPA sit down for further negotiations. Earlier in the week, talks had been broken off, with what looked like little hope of resuming, over the lingering issue of Basketball Related Income. However, as the deadline to cancel the first two weeks of the season, set for Monday by David Stern, quickly approached, the two sides sat down for what is their first round of eleventh hour talks.

The meeting in New York lasted for roughly five hours, finishing just before midnight on the East Coast. As with all previous negotiation sessions between the league and the players’ union, those who were involved were tight-lipped over what, if anything, was accomplished. What is known about the meeting is that the two sides discussed system issues; the salary cap, length of contracts, and the luxury tax for example. BRI was allegedly not a subjected that was broached during the meeting.

Another meeting is scheduled for Monday afternoon at 2 P.M. Eastern Standard Time. Union president, Derek Fisher said after the meeting Sunday night that the players and the owners were “not necessarily any closer than we were going in tonight, but we’ll get back at it tomorrow and we’ll keep putting time in.” Yet, time is something that both sides have little of if they hope to salvage the beginning of the season.

Due to the importance of Monday’s meeting in New York, the players canceled a union meeting scheduled in Los Angeles for Monday.

Before negotiations resumed on Sunday night, owners and the league had seemingly issued an ultimatum, according to the union, to the players that they must accept a 50 percent split on BRI before negotiations could resume. The owners reject the union’s assertion that they established any preconditions. Nonetheless, the owners  made it clear that no further meetings would occur because they would not go beyond an even split in revenue sharing.

All along, the players have been holding steadfast at their mark of 53 percent of BRI. They were receiving 57 percent of basketball related income under the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement. Many of the league’s marquee players were not present at the meeting on Sunday night as they were playing in the rematch of the Drew League and Goodman League in Los Angeles. However, they were very cognizant that the meeting was taking place and held rank when they spoke about the labor dispute.

“We’re going to stand firm no matter what,” Kevin Durant said. “If we miss games we miss games. We might have to sacrifice a few for the betterment of the league, but I don’t think we’re going to give in just because we missed a few games.” He added, “We moved down from 57 to 53 and I think the owners got to work with us.” Other players echoed those remarks.

It has been the players who have given up the most in the labor negotiations so far. The owners, and Stern, will be quick to point out that a hard cap is no longer on the table and that they have moved their demands that the players accept just 42 percent of BRI all the way up to 50 percent. In terms of monetary losses, however, it is the players who have sacrificed. Dropping from 57 percent to 53 percent represents a cumulative loss of approximately $160 million in player salary. If the players were to move down to the 50 percent that the owners want their losses would increase to $280 million. The owners have yet to concede one dime.

With the players and owners holding firm, the two sides have reached an impasse. Monday’s meeting could tell a lot about where the two sides stand or, more realistically, if either side will flinch. Monday will be the sixth time that the NBA and NBPA have met in the past eleven days in an attempt to resolve their issues. During the lockout in 1998, the league and the union only met once before regular season games were canceled. At least this time the two sides appear to be trying.

However, they will have to try harder. That will not be an easy task as the owners have a proposal for an amnesty clause to be included in the new CBA. The clause, nicknamed the Gilbert Arenas Clause, which would allow teams to shed a bad contract in which a team sees no dividends but is paying an exorbitant amount for a player. Essentially it would allow the owners to wipe clean their bad business decisions. In the real world only a government bailout can save a business from itself, bad business decisions are rarely rewarded with a provision to erase mistakes. Owners also want to do away with a player’s “Bird rights.”

The owners are asking for a considerable amount from the players but the amnesty clause and the Bird exception are not the elephant in the room. BRI is the point of contention. If the two sides cannot come to an agreement on it then the likely hood of the season starting on time is nil. The players have drawn a line in the sand at 53 percent and, judging by what has been said leading up to Monday’s meeting, will not move from it. For the players, this is their Alamo, they are taking a stand against a larger and more powerful foe, intent on extracting as much from them as possible. Hopefully for the players, this scenario turns out better for them than it did for the men inside the mission in San Antonio. If they are forced to capitulate, however, they will be the rallying cry at the next CBA negotiations.

No matter the outcome of the meeting Monday, it is unlikely that the NBA season will start on time. The two sides would need time to draft the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Then there would have to be a week of free agency, which would likely be one of the most frantic weeks that the NBA has ever seen. Beyond that, there needs to be time set aside for training came and the possibility of a few preseason games. In total, it would take and estimated three to four weeks, and that is if all matters were to be resolved Monday. The regular season is scheduled to begin on November 1.

Games will be lost, there is no doubt about it. Neither side has shown a willingness to compromise as the clock strikes eleven. Everything could change after the meeting on Monday, but why should it? The closest whiff of a deal between the two sides was “How u.” Get used to more exhibition games because they will be the only games that players will take part in for the foreseeable future. At least most of them are streaming online now.

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NBArmageddon

That's no moon, it's David Stern's newest negotiating tactic.

If NBA talks weren’t already hot enough right now, David Stern just cranked up the heat a little more.

During one of the busiest weeks these NBA labor negotiations have seen in the 91 days of the lockout, Stern announced that the 2011-12 season could be cancelled if major strides aren’t made in talks by the end of the weekend.

The NBA has already postponed training camps and cancelled preseason games scheduled for October 9-15.  Additionally, it has been speculated that the league would like to all together avoid an abbreviated season like the one in 1998-99, which means any cancelled games would ultimately lead to a cancelled season.

However, some have stated that Stern is using such words as more of a negotiation tactic in order to help get the ball moving before the biggest day of talks starting tomorrow in New York.  The NBA Players Association has asked several players such as Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James to be present at Friday’s talks.

Wade, who is already in the Big Apple for business meetings has stated that he is ready to get involved.  He was present in Dallas for the meetings surrounding the 2009 All-Star Game when players were first briefed about the impeding lockout.  Bryant is currently in Asia for a Nike promotional tour and most likely wont be in town for the meetings.  If LeBron shows,  it will be the first time he’s been in the same room with Cleveland Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert since he left for the Heat.

Just a few days ago, NBA Players Association president Derek Fisher urged players to be patient and unify during these negotiations.  In his letter he sent to players on September 27, he stated that players should not back down to the league seeing as they are the key assets of the league.  Not to mention they have become entrepreneurs themselves with their own companies and business ventures that go beyond the NBA.

According to NBA agent David Falk, it’s the players that have more to loose.  If talks fail and the season is cancelled, they will loose $2.16 billion, which was their 57 percent cut of NBA revenue last season.  Falk is best known for representing Michael Jordan and was an instrumental part of the negotiations during the 1995 and 1999 lockouts.  In an interview with Sports Illustrated, he stated that time is running out.

“It’s time to stop fooling around and make a deal. The waiting out period is over,” Falk said. “I can’t prove this and I may be wrong, but if I had to bet a lot of money I would bet that if we miss one game – one – the season will not happen. There are going to be no do-overs this time. That’s what I believe.”

Regardless of his comments, Falk isn’t as prominent in these talks as he was in the past.  He thinks that it’s time for the younger agents and players to step up and educate themselves.

The biggest hurdle in these talks is basketball related income and how it needs to be divided in the league.  Owners want to lower the players’ cut down to 46 or 48 percent while the players wont go lower than 52 percent.  The league’s revenues totaled $4 billion last season, which adds up to each percentage point representing approximately $40 million.

While the issue of BRI stands at the forefront, owners have stated that they will relax on their stance on the hard cap but only if certain conditions are met:

• The “Larry Bird exception,” which allows teams to exceed the cap to retain their own free agents regardless of their other committed salaries, is limited to one player per team per season.  In the past, it could be applied to any amount free agents on a team’s roster.

• The mid-level exception, which the league valued at $5.8 million last season and could be extended by as many as five years, is reduced in length and size.

• The current luxury tax, the $1-for-$1 penalty a team must pay to the league for the amount it exceeds the salary cap, is to be severely increased.  It has been said that they are seeking $4 for every $1 over the cap.

Owners also want a five percent reduction on all existing salaries for the season, a 7.5 percent reduction of all 2012-13 salaries and 10 percent reduction of 2013-14 salaries.

At the end of last season, several owners announced that they had lost millions, now it seems as though they are trying to set up rules to protect themselves from hemorrhaging even more.  Players and agents seek big salaries behind the notion stated above by Fisher: they are the league’s primary assets.

However, the underlying problem is that the NBA has it’s own market and rules that apply to it.  Players expect a certain amount and owners know this.  Each has to outbid others to either attract or resign a certain player.  It’s money that controls where they play in most instances and that’s certainly not about to change.  With this lockout, foreign teams have become even more present in this bidding war and to be frank, they are gaining more and more power in this game as the lockout continues.  Even five-time champion Bryant has stated that playing in Italy is an option.

The 1998-99 season is regarded as a joke and ironically resonates as an important season in NBA history due to how short it was.  With that said, Stern and the players would like to avoid repeating history 12 years later.  Though a shortened season would be another embarrassment for the NBA, it shouldn’t be ruled out.  More players will leave the league and both parties will loose billions.  With more money lost, sitting down at the negotiating table will be even harder.

More importantly though is that the NBA product will suffer.  Younger players that are missing games will loose the playing time that eventually develops NBA stars, older players will loose another year of their career and coaches will have a possible hangover to overcome in order to get their squads ready once the lockout finally ends.

A lot of money is on the table but if the play in the NBA is hurt, that money would have never been worth fighting for.

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Ron Artest Wants Out of L.A.

Departing days are here again?

Ron Artest, who helped the Los Angeles Lakers claim yet another Larry O’Brien Trophy last summer, is apparently unhappy with is role on the defending champions this season. Now, as Marc Stein of ESPN reports, it seems that Artest would not mind being shipped off in a deal to shake up the Lakers’ roster.

It comes as no surprise that Artest is unhappy in his role with the Lakers this season. He has declines almost straight across the board this season as well as a decline in minutes played. Stein points out that Artest played only 5.5 seconds, yes, seconds, in the fourth quarter and overtime combined in the Lakers’ recent victory over the Houston Rockets. The Lakers employed a three guard lineup during much of that time.

There has been rumbling recently by Lakers’ General Manager Mich Kupchak that L.A. needs to make a trade to shake up the team chemistry and get spur some life back into the team. Everyone in Lakerland has heard the rumblings and Artest sees and opportunity.

Artest’s main issues with the Lakers, Stein states (he calls them “beefs” and we are in full support of that term), are:

1. He’s weary of being scapegoated for the team’s struggles and feels that he’s destined to always absorb the bulk of the blame no matter what happens because [Phil] Jackson and [Kobe] Bryant are so dependent on the more glamorous contributions of Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom and will never publicly go after regal Laker lifer Derek Fisher.

2. As we heard at various points during his stops in Indiana, Sacramento and Houston, Artest is eventually going to squawk if he’s being marginalized in the offense, which inevitably disengages him from his defensive responsibilities. (Relegated “to the corner shot” is the way Daniel Artest described it — except that he said “regulated” and surely meant “relegated.”)

Moving Artest would be hard, however. He currently has $22 million over three years left on his contract. It would be risky for any team to take on that much salary with the CBA looming. Artest is also 31 years old which would put him at 34 by the time his contract is over and with the decline in production that he has seen this season it would make any team hesitate to take a chance on him.

One thing is certain, cohabitation between Artest and the Lakers no longer seems possible. Are there teams out there who will look at the realistic possibility of bringing Artest into their program? Absolutely. However, that does not mean that anything will actually transpire. A small forward with a reputation for defense and who has won it all will always be a coveted commodity.

Artest is not the only problem that the Lakers face. Point guard play on the team is atrocious. Fisher, of the players who sees the most court time, turns the ball over second most, in terms of percentage, behind Odom. He turns the ball over almost as much as he is involved in an offensive play. Also, Fisher knows how to spell every opposing point guards’ last name as is always looking at their back as they blow by him. As for Steve Blake, well, let us just say that has not panned out so far or at all.

The Lakers have issues. Anyone who has watched them recently knows that. If is that reason that Kupchek has been so public about his trade talk even if it is just a feign. For now, though, Artest will likely have to sit on the bench, in the shadows of the personalities around him, on a team with glaring holes.

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Power Rankings

It's good to be undefeated

It’s only a handful of games into the season but it’s these games that can set the pace for teams.  Some have started the season off well.  Some haven’t.  Some are building what could be formidable playoff teams while others are already snowballing into what will turn them into lottery teams next summer.  However they are starting the season, every team is setting a theme for both the best and the worst.

1. Los Angeles Lakers (7-0)

Being the No. 1 scoring team in the league should be at no surprise for the defending champs.  Point guards Derek Fisher and Steve Blake are both averaging only four assists per game and they are putting up 22 a game (9th in the league).  They are spreading out the ball and utilizing their depth very appropriately.  We could still question parts of this bench but Blake and Matt Barnes give them a lot more to work with.  As long as Pau Gasol is playing well both defensively and offensively, sky is the limit for the Lakers.

2. New Orleans Hornets (6-0)

The Hornets are only scoring 97 points a game.  This stat comes to no surprise when you look at who can really score in New Orleans but the fact that they are still undefeated really sticks out.  A team built around arguably the best point guard in the league in Chris Paul would be thought to be perfect this far into the season around offense.  Instead, it’s the defense that is propelling this team forward.  While giving up only 91 points a game, the Hornets have held Milwaukee to 81, Miami to 93 and San Antonio to 90.  This is the best start in franchise history for the Hornets but how long can the winning last?

3. Boston Celtics (6-2)

The pieces are coming together nicely in Boston.  Rajon Rondo is averaging 15.5 assists a game and has surely won over the respect of both his teammates and the pundits.  Scoring distribution will keep this team fresh and a good man running point will definitely help.  Five of their six wins are over teams that were in the playoffs last season.  We have yet to see Shaquille O’neal and Kendrick Perkins both active on this roster.

4. Atlanta Hawks (6-2)

It’s balance that is keeping these Hawks afloat and that’s the best thing to build a season on.  Josh Smith is making a case for early MVP consideration and will just get better over the course of the season.  It’s also looking like extending Al Horford’s contract is looking like a good decision.  They are averaging 104 points a game while still collecting 32 defensive boards a game. However, this team needs to recover from its recent two game slide.

5. Miami Heat (5-2)

For those of you that expected the Heat to win 82 games, sorry but that can’t happen now.  In addition, loses to both Boston and New Orleans should be nothing to be embarrassed about right now.  Erik Spoelstra needs to figure out the best rotation of the bench that wont hurt them too much.  Right now, the bench is being outscored and outplayed.  It’s a long season and three players cannot carry a team by themselves.

6. Orlando Magic (5-1)

Orlando should technically be 6-1 but issues at Madison Square Garden caused the Knicks to postpone their inevitable loss to the Magic.  Regardless, their one loss to the Heat is warranted and Rashard Lewis needs to put up more than 2 points for the Magic to win such a statement game.

7. Denver Nuggets (4-3)

Nene, Chris Anderson and Kenyon Martin are out with injuries.  They beat the Mavericks in Dallas with Sheldon Williams starting and that speaks volumes about how this team will perform when their big men return.  Their depth will increase tremendously.  If Denver keeps winning, it may translate to a happy Carmelo Anthony and when Melo is happy, everyone is happy.

8. Portland Trail Blazers (5-3)

Holding Phoenix to just 92 points and later Milwaukee to only 76 is what is helping this Trail Blazers team make the point that they are serious about defense.  Marcus Camby can defend well but Nate McMillen will need to figure out how to get some more scoring from his frontcourt.  His starting forwards only scored nine points against the Lakers on Sunday and they aren’t even breaking 100 points per game. It was, however, their fifth game in seven days.

9. Dallas Mavericks (4-2)

Dallas has seven players that will show up every night on the court. Jason Kidd is showing almost no signs of age while the frontcourt is stacked with Brendan Haywood and Tyson Chandler.  Dallas narrowly beat Denver last Wednesday just to lose to them Saturday.  The Mavs will rebound once Caron Butler and Shawn Marion hit their strides.  However, Dallas needs to clean up its turnovers that are at 16 a game and their bench is ranked second to last in scoring. Although there are no “statement” games in November, beating Boston is the closest you can get to having one.

10. San Antonio Spurs (5-1)

Their record is impressive until you see that they have only beaten one team that made the playoffs last season in Phoenix.  They are fourth in the league in scoring with 109 a game and their next three games are easy wins against the Clippers, Bobcats and the 76ers.  The youth in San Antonio surrounded by a mix of good coaching and veterans will spell out an interesting season.  However, Greg Popavich needs his young guys to get the minutes they need to grow.

11. Oklahoma City Thunder (3-3)

It’s funny that a team with Russell Westbrook is ranked 30th in the league in assists per game but when you look at the depth in OKC, it begins to make sense.  The ball isn’t being spread out enough and sheer depth may haunt the Thunder again this season.  Again, it’s 82 games and it takes more than an sixth man to get through a season and make the playoffs out West.

12. Memphis Grizzlies (4-4)

Rudy Gay became the first player in franchise history to score at least 25 points a game in five consecutive games.  However, it’s their defense that needs to step up since they are allowing their opponents to score 107 points a game.  They are undersized and young which is a bad place to be in the Western Conference.  It’s going to a long season with hopefully some growth.

13. Utah Jazz (3-3)

Deron Williams and company are obviously hurting from loosing some of their star players.  With Mehmet Okur out, the Jazz are limited in size and they are obviously having a hard time scoring when they can only muster up 78 points against the Warriors.  It wont get any easier with them playing Miami, Orlando and Atlanta this week.

14. Phoenix Suns (3-4)

Steve Nash entered the season with reservations about the Suns’ chances this season.  Losses to Portland, San Antonio and LA aren’t something to be ashamed of this season.  In all three of their loses, Hedo Turkoglu has scored six points twice and nine points once.  Maybe it’s time to put some production into this starting lineup. Alvin Gentry is going to get to the point where he no longer asks permission to yell at his team.

15. Chicago Bulls (3-3)

Derrick Rose and the Bulls really took it to the Celtics last Friday in a come back that forced overtime.  They fell short in the extra minutes but the play of both Rose and Joakim Noah should keep Bulls fans optimistic.  If Tom Thibodeau and company want to win, Ronnie Brewer needs more minutes and Carlos Boozer needs to return from injury.

16. Golden State Warriors (5-2)

The Warriors have started the season off 4-0 for the first time in 20 years.  Subsequently, three of those four wins are against teams that failed to reach the postseason last year and Utah isn’t the beast it once was.  Monta Ellis has already had two very impressive outings of 46 and 39 points and the return of Stephen Curry will greatly help this backcourt.

17. New York Knicks (3-3)

A win in Chicago could or couldn’t be a big deal this early in the season since we have yet to see them form.  Their other two wins were against Toronto and Washington which both paint a better picture of what this team is truly capable of.  We all know that Mike D’antoni teams can get worn out and that Amar’e Stoudemire’s heightened level of play wont last.

18. Cleveland Cavaliers (3-3)

Cleveland has the fourth best bench as far as scoring in the league.  That same bench never got LeBron James a ring so we don’t really expect the same to pan out for Antawn Jamison and friends.  Byron Scott is letting them grow but that’s about all we expect from this season.  An initial win over Boston is impressive until you see that they lost to Toronto and Sacramento the following days.

19. Sacramento Kings (3-3)

The Kings are scoring but still allowing their opponents to rack up 107 points a game.  DeMarcus Cousins has yet to record a 10-rebound game and Tyreke Evans is still trying to do too much on the court.  Good news is that their both young and when they click, it could mean a lot to wherever the Kings end up playing next.

20. Milwaukee Bucks (2-5)

Scott Skiles is having a hard time getting the Bucks rolling into this season.  They are 30th in the league in scoring at only 89 a game and it’s mainly due to their depth.  Drew Gooden is giving them some more power up front but with just Corey Maggette producing off of the bench, it may be a long road for the Bucks.

21. Houston Rockets (1-5)

All five of Houston’s losses came from very formidable teams this season (Lakers, Warriors, Spurs, Hornets and Nuggets).  Aaron Brooks will be missed and Kyle Lowry will not be able to carry the load by himself.  Luis Scola and Kevin Martin are working out well with all the injuries but Rick Adelman needs a healthy roster in order to compete.

22. Philadelphia 76ers (2-5)

Philly started the season off with losses against Miami, Atlanta, Indiana and Washington.  If you are surprised, close this window immediately.  Evan Turner’s scoring has been up and down but what can you expect from a rookie surrounded by a bunch of trash?  Surprisingly, their bench is ranked first in scoring.

23. Indiana Pacers (2-3)

At first, it’s looks like Darren Collison may be a little in over his head at running Indiana’s point.  Then again, look at who this young man is passing to.  He filled in when Westbrook went down at UCLA and stepped up last season when Paul went down in New Orleans.  However, the talent is pretty thin in Indiana.  Danny Granger seems to be approaching a nice stride but there isn’t much other good news coming out of Indiana.

24. Detroit Pistons (2-5)

The Pistons are bottom feeders in almost every statistical category. This does not bode well for a team that is striving to achieve mediocrity. However, they have won their last two contests. Pistons fans should take any small achievement as good news because there will not be much this season.

25. Los Angeles Clippers (1-6)

At least one team in L.A. has a tough start to their schedule. The Clippers have faced the likes of Portland, Dallas, San Antonio, Denver, Oklahoma City, and Utah in their first seven games with their only win coming against the struggling Thunder. It must be hard to be the bastard child of the Staples center and see the Lakers with a sugarplum and lolly pop schedule until late January.

26. New Jersey Nets (2-4)

Right now the Nets are on a better winning pace than last year. That is the upside. It doesn’t look like Avery Johnson is ever going to let third overall draft pick, Derrick Favors, into the starting lineup anytime soon now that Troy Murphy is back. In their most recent loss, the Nets did their best Washington Generals impersonation to the Heat’s Globetrotter act.

27. Washington Wizards (1-4)

John Wall and Gilbert Arena will be reunited again. That’s good.  Their one win however, well, that’s not so good. December is going to be a rough month for the Wiz so now is their best opportunity to get some wins under their belt. Hopefully, the Republicans won’t try to filibuster their next win.

28. Charlotte Bobcats (1-6)

They were in the playoffs last season and had the number one rated team defense in the league. Now, they have a defensive rating ranked 20th. Not good. Maybe His Airness can breathe some life into this franchise. Something needs to happen, and quick, if they want another playoff birth.

29. Toronto Raptors (1-6)

The Raptors are bad. We knew they would be. They were bad last year even with Chris Bosh on their roster so what are the expectaions of them now that he is gone? Right, there are none. One thing that Raptors fans can take delight in is that the so-called Young Gunz on the team will put on a decent show every night. Jose Calderon needs to be back in the starting lineup otherwise the team’s assists will continue to be dreadful.

30. Minnesota Timberwolves (1-6)

We wrote an open letter to David Kahn. This is something we normally wouldn’t do. However, the T-Wolves are terrible. Kurt Rambis coaches like a chicken with his head cut off and has no sense that Kevin Love is their best player. They are ranked last in most every statistical category. They only thing that Minnesota fans have to look forward to is the high draft pick that the team will get next summer…which Kahn will promptly waste on yet another point guard. KAAAAHHN!

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Filed under 2010-11 Regular Season

Roster Depth…Who needs It?

Each of these players has more rings than LeBron James

When it comes to team depth, it seems like the average NBA fan is all too ready to dismiss the notion as pure folly. They seem to feel that it is entirely irrelevant. The most common example they bring up is that depth does not win championships. It seems to them that the combination of two to three strong players (I’ll use some examples that were put in front of me by someone else: Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe and Pau Gasol) and a role player or two and you can pretty much guarantee a championship. Signed, sealed, delivered, it is yours. Frequently, those who hold this belief puff up their chests and issue a challenge to prove them wrong. Well, lucky for them. I am always good for a well natured challenge and giving them that example is exactly what this article intends to do. First, however, the issue of roster depth must be addressed appropriately.

The Los Angeles Lakers have won their second title in a row and head into the 2010-11 season as favorites once more. In each of those championship runs, the Lakers rotation was sliced to six players essentially. Bryant, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest (2009-10), Trevor Ariza (2008-09), Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum were the key cogs that turned the gears of this team. In each of the championship runs the Lakers were paced by Bryant and Gasol with Odom in 2009 and Artest in 2010 logging the third most minutes. Only in 2009, when Ariza played slightly fewer minutes than Odom, was there not a dramatic fall off in the number of minutes played between the “role player” and the rest of the team. Interestingly enough, Bynum was essentially the sixth man, in terms of minutes played, on each of those playoff teams. (Can we call him a bust yet? I will.) There you have it. This is the argument that everyone makes when it comes to roster depth. You do not need it. Look at what the Lakers have done recently and you can see their point. Ah, but not so fast.

This off season, Los Angeles (not the Clippers) was sitting high and Kobe Bryant was simply sitting to rest his knee, heal his finger, ice down his body, and take pain medication. Yeah, he is beat up. Despite the fact that the team had just won its second straight championship with virtually the same roster, Artest and Ariza being the only difference, the Lakers did not seem content to try it again without making changes. So what did they do? They went out and added depth to their roster. “GASP! No, say it is not so! How can we, the Lakers faithful, who have exclaimed from on high that roster depth is a pointless pursuit come to terms with the fact that our team feels differently. Woe is us for our eyes and ears have been deceived. Oh, Zen Master, what did we do wrong to deserve such a cruel fate?”

Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, and Theo Ratliff were brought in and are all blatant roster upgrades over the likes of Jordan Farmar and Didier Ilunga-Mbenga. (No offense to Mbenga, I love that guy. But Farmar should take complete offense.) The Lakers kept Shannon Brown around, signing him to a two-year deal his offseason but will likely see his playing time dip with all the new additions. So why, if a small rotation wins championships, did the Lakers reload their bench. Simply put, their bench was terrible over the past two seasons. Awful, truly awful. Phil Jackson knew it, why do you think he played his starters so much? Sure they are good, but they need to rest at times. The bench was a liability and hurt the Lakers as a whole.

Donkey and Shrek

Look at last year’s finals, it is the perfect example of why roster depth is important. The Boston Celtics were much deeper than the Lakers were and they used it to their advantage. (“But the Lakers won so any point you are trying to make is invalidated.”) The series would not have lasted seven games if it was not for Boston’s bench. Game four is a perfect example of why bench play is important to a team. Boston’s bench doubled the point production of the Lakers’ reserves as they were led by Glen Davis and Nate Robinson. Davis contributed nine points in the fourth quarter which helped to stem a Lakers surge and secure victory for the Celtics thereby tying the series at two games apiece. Yes, the Celtics lost the series eventually, mostly because Kendrick Perkins went down in game six with a torn PCL and MCL, but their bench played a key role in the series unlike the Lakers bench. Depth improves a team.

So where is my example of a team that won a championship with an extended rotation? “Ha, you haven’t found one, have you? I knew it. What a blowhard. This guy over here doesn’t know anything about basketball. I don’t even know why I take time to read this stupid blog anyway. Pssh, I’m gonna go read the latest Bill Simmons and John Hollinger articles. At least those guys know what they are taking about. Get ready for another Lakers’ three-peat. Lakers rule!” Well, now that most of you have probably stopped reading, I can get to the team that defies this notion that depth wins nothing.

They did not need to worry when their starters sat

As a Mavericks fan, I write what I am about to write only because it proves my point. If it were not for that I could never bring myself to do such a thing as this or even admit to having knowledge of it. During the playoffs in 2007, the San Antonio Spurs used not only their star power, but also their overwhelming depth to beat every team they faced on route to a sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA finals. Did they have a better starting five than the Cavaliers? Yes. With LeBron James worship reaching more demigod proportions everyday it would seem hard that a team could beat the chosen man-child. That being said, a better starting five will always have the advantage in the playoffs. Nonetheless, depth still helps.

Unlike the previous two Lakers championships, the Spurs in 2007 do not have a significant drop off in minutes or games played. Instead they have a steady, calculated decline with a complement of ten players receiving quite a bit of playing time. Jacque Vaughn played in all 20 of the Spurs playoff games totaling 208 minutes for an average of 10.4 minutes a game. Only Matt Bonner and Beno Udrih saw less playing time than Vaughn. Contrast that with last year’s Lakers, Jordan Farmar played in all 23 of their postseason games logging 301 minutes for an average of 13.1 minutes per game. Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic, Josh Powell, Adam Morrison, and Mbenga all saw less playing time than Farmar. Both of these players were their team’s respective back up point guards. The Spurs depth simply out classed each of their opponents, having only seen a six game series once, against Utah, on their way to the championship. Ten of the Spurs’ 12 players played in at least 18 games with eight playing in all 20. Eight of the Lakers’ players from last season appeared in all 23 of their playoff games; however, five of them only appeared in 16 or fewer of them.

Yes, rotations get shorter in the post season. It only makes since for a coach to play his best players more so that the team performs at a higher level when the stakes are greatest. This is a no brainer. Nor should Josh Powell be expected to play near as many minutes as Kobe Bryant. This is not what I am trying to say. What I am stating is that the Spurs team in 2007 breaks the argument that roster depth does not mean a thing in the playoffs. They proved that it does. Yes, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan logged the most minutes on the team but they were not forced to play 40 or more minutes a game because they had help coming off the bench who could maintain the same level of pressure on an opponent without any catastrophic decline in the team’s overall performance on the court.

Is the standard championship model based on the superstar, his sidekick, and a role player or two. For now it appears to be that way. This level of thinking is amateurish, though. The Spurs proved that in 2007. No, my example does not squash the two star player championship combination but it proves that an extended rotation is more valuable than it is generally believed. Ignoring the benefits of roster depth is to fail to grasp the entire point of a roster at all. Basketball is a team game no matter how much the media focuses on individual players. The Lakers are not about Kobe Bryant, they are about the triangle offense in which the team plays. There is absolutely every reason for a general manager to sign players who can come off the bench and replace starters while helping improve the quality of the team. This is why the Lakers signed Blake, Barnes, and Ratliff. (I think the Ratliff signing was in part because they expect Bynum to continue to underachieve and remain perennially injured.) It is why teams like Dallas signed Tyson Chandler. They do not want to see a performance dropoff when their starters leave the floor. A good second unit is a valuable thing to have, especially during the regular season when they can help you get wins to secure seeding in the playoffs.

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Filed under NBA at Large