Category Archives: NBA

Kobe’s Injury Could Mean Change of Plans in Lakerland

Photo by Mark Terrill/Associated Press
Kobe Bryant injured his Achilles last night at the Staple Center. Will the Lakers star ever be the same?

One of the toughest players that the NBA has ever seen tore his Achilles tendon last night at the Staples Center.  Kobe Bryant, who is universally recognized throughout the sports world as one of the grittiest, toughest guys around, will not be able to play through this injury.

Earlier this season, Kobe admitted to the media that next season would probably be his last in the NBA however this injury has now put that in jeopardy. Although he is only 34 years old, this is his 17th NBA regular season to go along with another 236 combined playoff and Olympic contests. Kobe has played over 54,000 minutes in his career. He’s been able to play through some tough injuries in his career and has an incredible amount of “mileage” on his body. Whether this injury hinders Bryant’s availability for next season remains to be seen, however, the much more important question is whether or not Kobe will ever be able to get back to being the same player that we all remember and revere. If he doesn’t then there could be a complete shift in thinking for Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak.

This injury to Kobe effectively ends the Lakers chances of making any type of noise in the playoffs (if they even get there now), however, call me crazy, but this may be a blessing in disguise for a Lakers franchise that has some crucial decisions to make this offseason in regards to their future.

It’s been blatantly obvious to anyone who is paying attention that Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant don’t get along.  Kobe is old school; Dwight is new school.  Kobe is tough minded; Dwight is weak minded.  Kobe is always serious about his craft; Dwight just wants to have fun.  Kobe is the ultimate Alpha-Male; Dwight just ain’t about that life.

With all that being said; Kobe may never be the same player again and Dwight is currently entering what should be the prime years of his career. Think about it…what NBA Center is competing with a healthy Dwight Howard on a nightly basis? We all know damn well that the answer is nobody and so do the Lakers.   Would the Lakers really be willing to lose Howard to free agency in order to keep Kobe Bryant, a player who has meant so much to the franchise but whose future is unclear? To me, the answer is yes because there is another possible scenario in Lakerland that is much less obvious and much more likely.

The Lakers allow Kobe to leave on his own terms, which means rehab and return from a major injury, in effect keeping their relationship in tact with the player  who some consider the greatest Laker of them all. This also means losing Dwight Howard in free agency to a team like Houston who will have the available cap space to offer the maximum 4 year, $87 million dollar contract that Dwight most certainly desires.  This seems like a dumb move right?

Wrong!

Photoshop via http://www.fantasy-sports.com
Could LeBron James end up on the Lakers? It’s a reasonable thought.

What ends up happening is after 2014, Kobe retires and LeBron James becomes a free agent if he chooses to opt out of his contract with Miami.  If the Lakers let Howard leave and Kobe retire on his own terms, they will have enough cap space to max out LeBron next summer.  Don’t rule out this very reasonable and likely possibility because LeBron has goals that reach far beyond basketball and Los Angeles is a place where he can obtain those goals.

There is no such thing as good timing when it comes to an injury from a player’s perspective, but from a management perspective, I can see this being the catalyst for much needed change in Lakerland.

Amare’s Ailing Knees Are Killing The Knicks

Photo from http://www.basketwallpapers.com
Amare Stoudamire was supposed to save the Knicks. Now he is holding them back.

When the New York Knicks made the decision to sign Amare Stoudamire to a five year, $99.7 million dollar contract in July of 2010, it was absolutely the right thing to do considering the direction the Knicks were trying to go.  Former President Donnie Walsh already had Head Coach Mike D’Antoni in place and reuniting Amare with D’Antoni made perfect sense. Knicks fans were hungry for change, and when LeBron spurned them, the organization felt like they needed to make a splash.

And in the beginning… Amare was a tidal wave…

78 games played in 2010-2011. 25.3 points per game on 50% shooting. He controlled the paint with 8 rebounds per game (2.5 offensive) and 2 blocks per game. He shot 79% from the free throw line on just under 8 attempts per game. He was an MVP candidate on the “New” New York Knicks. The final piece of the puzzle fell when the Knicks acquired Melo from Denver, and BOOM! The Knicks make the playoffs for the first time since 2004 (when they were swept by the Nets, led by Kenyon Martin and Jason Kidd. Fun fact).

But in the end… the only number that mattered was 36.8.

That was Amare’s minutes per game that season. The wear and tear of exactly 82 games took its toll on his already surgically repaired knees.  The 2010-2011 season will probably be the last time we ever see Amare Stoudamire play quality basketball for the Knicks or anyone else for that matter. Since then he has played in 47 and 29 games in consecutive seasons. He is currently out of the lineup for the Knicks and it doesn’t look like he is coming back any time soon.

Amare is absolutely killing the team when it comes to the salary cap. The Knicks still owe him $21.7 million dollars next season and $23.4 million dollars the following season. He made $19.9 million dollars to play 29 games this season as a bench player for the Knicks. He started 0 games. None.

Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/Getty Images
Carmello Anthony and Tyson Chandler would not be in Knicks uniforms if Amare Stoudamire didn’t sign in 2010.

The best move the Knicks made in recent years was to sign Amare Stoudamire. At the time of the signing, it immediately made the Knicks a relevant franchise again.  It legitimized the Knicks as a contender in the Eastern Conference and gave them the confidence to go ahead and trade their young talent to Denver to get Carmello Anthony. I don’t believe that the Knicks go get Melo if they didn’t have Amare there first (that’s a whole other argument).

Where the Knicks went wrong was the 2011 off season. The Knicks knew about Amare’s knees, yet went ahead and used their newly acquired Amnesty Clause that was negotiated into the new CBA by the players association on Chauncy Billups’ contract that would have expired after the season anyway. Yes, they were able to sign Tyson Chandler because of it, and he ended up being the Defensive Player of the Year in the NBA, but they could have made this happen without using thier reprieve.

Looking back, this is what the Knicks should have done. Instead of re-signing Billups for $14.2 million dollars prior to the lockout, they should have simply let him go as a free agent. That would have left them with hole at point guard, however, it would have allowed them to sign Tyson Chandler and still keep that Amnesty Clause in their back pocket.

They should have known that the Stoudamire contract was going to end this way because of his injury history. It was a chance they needed to take in order to get where they want to be, but as soon as they found out that they were going to be able to shed one contract without penalty, they should have immediately thought of Amare’s knees and his $20+ million dollars. Now the Knicks are stuck with Amare until the 2014-2015 season is over. Even worse is that Carmello Anthony will have to play out his prime years with the Knicks without a true superstar as a compliment because they will never be able to afford it.  The Miami Heat are already better than the Knicks, and with Amare Stoudamire’s contract holding them back from getting another superstar, it doesn’t look like the Knicks will overtake them anytime soon.

Lakers Botch Shaq’s Retired Jersey

nba_u_shaqraft_cr_600

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports

Notice Something a bit off?

It is obvious the Lakers have advanced their uniform design up in the rafters, but that is not the issue.

Can’t put your finger on what’s wrong? Well, either Shaq was so narcissistic that he wore “O’Neal” on the front where the “Lakers” logo should be, or he flaunted a v-back (a v-neck shirt in the back).

The Lakers acknowledged the mistake and have plans to fix the uniform.

Conspiracy theory: Kobe was actually responsible for this  in effort to one-up Shaq, again. Even if he didn’t do it, you can guarantee Kobe is having a good chuckle knowing that his jersey will receive finer attention to detail when his time comes. Oh yeah,  Kobe also had a triple-double on the day Shaq’s jersey was retired. Coincidence? Don’t be so naive!

Breakfast: Whoops.

Chicago's Jimmy Butler celebrates during a timeout. His 17 points helped Chicago to a 101-97 victory (Rob Grabowski/USATodaySports)

Chicago’s Jimmy Butler celebrates during a timeout. His 17 points helped Chicago to a 101-97 victory (Rob Grabowski/USATodaySports)

Wow, my bad.

I don’t usually put a curse on these type of things, that is, unless I’m making a monetary wager. BUT I DIDN’T. Actually, TheOrangeWedge has a guy for sports betting, but we’ll get to that another time.

The record still stands. Did Jerry West pop a bottle of champagne? I’d love to say yes, but we’ll never know for sure.

The Bull’s physical brand of basketball was enough to hold off the Heat as the Bulls ended the streak last night with a 101-97 victory.

The Heat didn’t win 27 games in dominating fashion. In fact, eleven of those wins needed fourth quarter comebacks to keep the streak going. Tight games in Sacramento, then Orlando, then Boston will have LeBron and Co. battle-tested come June.

But do they even need it? The way they’ve been playing, it would be lucrative to think that anyone could beat the Heat once, let alone four times in seven games.

In the late game, my Brooklyn Nets looked in fine form without “Iso” Joe Johnson for a second game. Johnson is suffering from a quad bruise, and his absence allows for two developments. First, Deron Williams, on what look like his healthiest metatarsals in years, was allowed to be more aggressive to the basket. The second is that without Johnson, the Nets are bigger, tougher, and more active in the post. Last night was all about the latter, as the Nets looked great on the road, winning 111-97 in Portland.

The difference maker for Brookyln was Reggie Evans, who finished with a career high 26 rebounds to match a career-high 22 points. Evans was a monster, working all his post moves and getting putbacks all night long.

The Nets are now just 2.5 games back of both Indiana and the Knicks for the 2nd best record in the Eastern Conference. Last night’s win has to provide some motivation as they move to 4-1 on their current 8 game road trip.

As for the Blazers, last night may have effectively ended their season. Rip City has been fighting for the 8th seed in the West, but now trails 10th place Dallas by two full games. Late in the fourth quarter, Blazers coach Terry Stotts emptied his bench, a sign that fans may want to watch the Sweet 16 for potential lottery picks.

Dinner: Oh, What Could Have Been

The Big Three were almost Windy City bound.

The Big Three were almost Windy City bound.

Tonight, maybe as you’re reading this, the Heat will be cruising past the Bulls in Chicago for a 28th consecutive win. They’ve looked like basketball Gods as certain points during their pursuit of 33; heating up at the right moments and almost toying with lesser teams. But lets, for a moment, take a time machine trip back to 2010. The summer of 2010 to be specific, one of the most dramatic times for the NBA in which there was no basketball involved.

Take a look, if you will, at this video,  where Chicago is LeBron’s destination of choice according to oddsmakers. Miami comes in at a risky 15-2.

This was, of course, before the rumored-then-confirmed meeting between the Big Three in which they decided where they would play.

After the meeting, it seemed pretty clear that Bosh and LeBron were set on joining Wade in Miami, leaving the other potential suitors to scramble for deals on players like Amare, Carlos Boozer and Joe Johnson.

So what happened? Was it something Chicago said?

Of the Big Three as we know it, it was Wade who was most inclined to become a Bull. And at first it seemed he was actually going there. But as we learned it articles like this one, D-Wade didn’t feel like Chicago honored it’s former players enough. Loyalty is imporant to Wade, one of the qualities that sets him apart from many modern athletes. And the Heat are considered one of the more tight-knit organizations in sports (see: Erik Spoeltra), making Chicago an even tougher sell in comparison to South Beach.

But it almost happened. Almost!

Throw it in NBA history as one of the greatest “What-if” scenarios, but Wade and Co.’s unwillingness to join D-Rose and dominate the basketball universe has to raise some eyebrows, right?

Will this be a defining mark on the career of Derrick Rose? His inability to recruit? It has been suggested, but recruiting doesn’t seem like something Rose is into. Especially now, with the battle he’s currently fighting inside his own head. Let’s get this guy on the court in an NBA game before he hits the phones looking for teammates.

Will the Heat keep it going to 34? It’s hard to say. But wether you’re a basketball fan or not, you have to apprecaite the difficulty and the grind that this has been. And when you see them play, with their elite spacing and movement, and releentless tenacity on defense, think about how rare this is, and how close it could have been to something completely different. See you for Breakfast.

 

Breakfast: Knicks Struggling Out West

Tyson Chandler has started all 62 games for the Knicks this season (Aaron Ontiveroz/Denver Post via Getty Images)

Tyson Chandler has started all 62 games for the Knicks this season (Aaron Ontiveroz/Denver Post via Getty Images)

In a month nothing but the Heat will matter in the Easter Conference, so for now let’s talk a little Knicks. Boy, November feels like ages ago; when Rasheed Wallace was backing down fools in the Garden and teams were still lazy on defense. But as they begin their annual slide down the East standings, the Knicks are hurting right now in more ways than one.

It’s more than watching Tyson Chandler crumpled on the floor before the half of last night’s 23 point loss in Denver. It’s more than Carmelo, in his first game back in Denver, was awful from the field, clearly hindered by swelling in his right knee. It’s way more than Amare Stoudemire, who, despite playing somewhat effective basketball for the past three weeks, is back in a suit and will never be a consistently healthy athlete ever again.

The Knicks, in the midst of a brutal five game road trip, are being exposed as mentally weak as well as physically unstable. This is the second consecutive game that was over in the 3rd quarter, and they still have to travel to Portland and Utah, who are combined 43-19 at home.

Between those games is a matinee with Lob City, maybe the worst matchup for the Knicks right now. The athleticism and youth of the Clippers might make Kenyon Martin pass out.

Kenyon Martin. We need to talk about the Knicks rotation right now. This roster is filled with jump shooters, but now that the Knicks are running out of big men, there’s no way this team can compete. James White is getting more minutes, but from what I’ve seen thus far is best skill is without a doubt fouling. Iman Shumpert looks to be getting back to full strength, but his offensive game is so limited right now he can’t be the primary weapon on the floor. And that leaves me with J.R Smith, the man I’d never want to play a game of pick-up hoops with.

Smith is one of the NBA’s most frustrating scorers. The definition of streaky, Smith will occasionally make an improbable highlight-reel worthy shot, giving him liberty to jack up 20 more. But now with all the injuries, Smith has gone from a spark off the bench to depending on his shooting to generate offense. And it just isn’t working.

Have the Knicks been quitting? That’s not fair to say. But this team desperately needs rest, and they aren’t going to get it right now. The Knicks have one of the oldest rosters in the NBA, and right now it is a glaring flaw. Because not only to the best teams in the league right now have youth, most of them like to run. A lot. And from what I’ve learned, old guys don’t run like young guys.

I’m not saying the Knicks won’t make the playoffs. Hey, if they end up paired with the Hawks or Bulls, they might even grab a win or two. But this is a fighter on wobbly legs. And whether they realize it or not, they just can’t seem to punch back as strong as before. We’ll update this situation as we learn more about the knees of Melo and Chandler. Stay tuned.

Lunch: Purple and Gold Can’t Fight the Old

Kobe Bryant finished with 30 points but was entirely outplayed by Russell Westbrook (Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports)

Kobe Bryant finished with 30 points but was entirely outplayed by Russell Westbrook (Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports)

Stop it. Stop. Just stop it.

No, I’m not talking about the Harlem Shake.

I’m talking about you talking about the Lakers. Stop it.

Last nailed was the ultimate Reality Check for the Los Angeles Lakers. Nothing embodied that check more than two stats:

  1.  The Thunder, at the bottom of the league with 15.5 turnovers per game, had 2 last night.
  2. Russell Westbrook*, athletic, speedy and aggressive, had 37 points to go with 10 rebounds. and was far more efficient than usual.

*=Westbrook also played opposite Kobe, and even stripped Bryant to seal the game.

The Lakers are a team built to play one way, they are coached to play another way, and they can win if they play a third way.

And they don’t play any of those ways. They just play old.

And yet, they lead news stories almost every night, and there is grumblings that they may still be able to contend in the West.

No más.

When the Lakers are in the half-court game, they aren’t terrible. They’re ranked in the top 10 in points and offensive efficiency, averaging 102 points at home. But it’s not their defense necessarily that’s the problem; it’s the way they give up points. They give up more fast break points than any team in the league (16.6), and are in the bottom three surrendering points in the paint per game (44.9).

Wait that is the defense. That’s and old, slow defense. That’s a defense unwilling to play physical, or even hustle back.  That’s a defense that not even Phil could save. Kobe can talk trash and the Lakers can win back-to-backs, but they wouldn’t be able to compete in a series against the top five teams in the West.

It would be best for everyone involved if the Lakers missed the playoffs this year. It would force management’s hand, maybe giving them cause to move Pau Gasol. But the Lakers don’t belong on this side of the fence this year. This roster can’t take it, and it has nothing to do with basketball strategy or shot selection. They’re old and it happens and its okay. But please, talk about Paul George, or how good the Warriors might be, or whatever is going on between the NBA and Lil’ Wayne.

But not the Lakers. They’re toast.