What now for the Purple & Gold.

Kobe Bryant          Photo credit https://www.flickr.com/photos/keithallison/

These are just my thoughts on the upcoming season for the Los Angeles Lakers. Just a quick rant on the very popular Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers are interesting to me because they seem to have set the team yet there are still slots and rotations to be filled. They have players but who is going to start? Who is going to get the minutes? They are pretty deep at the guard position and maybe the power forward but there’s still a lot of questions that need to be answered. The search for a new coach is also still ongoing although some would say they should just take Brian Shaw right now.

The current Laker roster is made up of Carlos Boozer, Bryant, Jordan Hill, Ed Davis, Jeremy Lin, Kendall Marshall, Steve Nash, Julius Randle, Robert Sacre and Nick Young.

Now some players are free agents and some are not signed yet but the main thing is, how many of them do you really know??? How many of them are really players that you see with potential or being able to add value in the chase for a title?

There’s Lin, Boozer, Nash, Young and number 24. But the thing is, it’s difficult for this team to compete for a title. How exactly is Kobe Bryant going to get ring number six with a team like this? I think they have close to 60 million in salary already committed for the season so no major help is going to be coming in. They missed out on the big names on Free Agency but they did get some pretty decent returns.

I think Lin is a good pickup, his salary is a problem but I think he’s a quality player. He can drive, he can shoot it, he’s going to be a good player that will give the Lakers good offense. Boozer is no Gasol but his numbers have been pretty consistent and not too bad. He can shoot, he can rebound. He won’t give you more, but you’ll know what you’re getting from him.

Both players aren’t great defenders but maybe with a coach with a great defensive scheme, the Lakers might have pretty decent defense. Add in the scoring punch of Young off the bench and if Nash can stay healthy then perhaps the Lakers can push for a playoff spot in the West. Although I am not expecting them to go too far, if they do really advance, a lot will be on Bryant.

Could the Lakers maybe get a decent big or a quality forward? If Nash starts with Bryant, both Lin and Young will come off the bench. Boozer will start but who will be starting with him, maybe Randle? How does Jordan Hill fit in? These are questions that I have and it will be interesting to see how they play although the only thing I am looking forward to is seeing Kobe back in action. They probably won’t be able to really challenge for the title this season, maybe next when Lin’s contract comes off. Maybe management will have a plan, until then it’s just one day at a time and I think that’s what the Lakers need to do. Take it one day at a time.

 

The Return of the King.

Did I thought that LeBron would return to Cleveland at the start of free agency? Definitely not. Cleveland wasn’t able to compete for titles immediately, they have a dysfunctional team and no proven head coach. I don’t really believe in their GM either as I don’t think he has been able to bring solid players to the team. So why would he choose Cleveland if he really wants to be the greatest player to ever played this game and compete for more titles?

Because it’s home to him.LeBron James

Photo credit https://www.flickr.com/photos/keithallison/

That’s what so special about LeBron to me. He always cares about his community and try to give back whenever he can. Yes, the Decision in 2010 was an extremely bad move yet every year he would continue to hold his events in Akron to raise awareness and money for his kids. He is able to look past all the jersey burning, all the boos and that infamous letter from the owner to continue to give back to the community that he grew up in.

LeBron knows that he won’t be able to compete for a championship immediately. Much as I like Kyrie, he still needs to work on his leadership and Wiggins just came into this league. If they are somehow able to get Love, the Cavs would become a better team. Having two 3-point shooting champs would really space the floor for LeBron. But the situation right now is, he is not chasing titles.

He is more focus on being a role model, more focus on letting kids from Northeast Ohio know that he is back with them. He wants to spur them on to do better. He wants to tell and show them, give back to your community if possible, never forget your roots, there is no place like home.

How many athletes with LeBron’s influence and power would choose to inspire kids and people around the world? It’s easy to say, we can all do it. But he was a 15 year old who had everything handed to him. They were calling him King, saying he was the Chosen One. At 15, how many of us were actually mature enough to not get carried away? LeBron had no father, he only had his mum growing up and it was a tough childhood. Yet he stayed grounded and managed to become the man that he is today.

Despite all the bad intentions, all the hate and conflicts in Cleveland, he is able to look past is, knowing that it was well deserved because of how he handed his business in 2010. He is back and ready to accept the challenge of leading Cleveland to a championship. With the current roster, it’s probably going to take a while. But I will be rooting for him, I am sure many others will too. Not just because I like him as a player, but because he is striving to bring a championship to a city and community that he grew up as a kid. A kid from Akron, Ohio.

Just some quick thoughts Free Agency 2014

Alright, just wanted to drop some thoughts on the upcoming Free Agency. I am going to be overseas so I won’t be able to post for a week, just wanted to get this done before I go.

  • LeBron and the Miami Heat

I believe he’s going to stay and that all of the Big Three are coming back. I doubt there is any other team capable of giving him the best chance of winning at the moment. I feel that they will all take less money or at least both Bosh and Wade will. I am interested to see who they sign although, I feel that if they don’t sign some young guys it’s going to be tough and I don’t really think the Heat are capable of playing the trapping defense. 3 years ago when they were younger, yeah they could. It’s a bit difficult now, I think they will need to change their scheme.

Anyway, I feel that if LeBron wins at least 2 championship with he’s next team, he will go back to Cleveland. Not this time, but maybe the next time he’s in Free Agency.

  • Carmelo’s situation

I think the Bulls would be the best fit for him because they really would let him take over on offense, I am sure Rose will find a way to make his impact though not very sure if Rose wants him as a teammate. I think Houston is a good team but there is only one basketball, not enough to go around. The Mavs are great but adding Melo won’t make them a title contender, the West is just too deep at the moment. The Lakers would be interesting but would they be able to compete in the West right now? How long will they be able to challenge the Thunder or the Spurs?

The Bulls would give him the best and “easiest” road to a title, oh and if Carmelo joins Miami… It just wouldn’t work out. Unless you tell me Wade is going to come off the bench, then there might be a possibility.

Yup, I am just covering the 2 top stories. There’s still plenty of talent out there on the market, Deng, Lowry, Bledsoe, Parsons etc etc, this is just my thoughts on the top 2 stories. Going to be interesting to see how this pans out, so let’s just wait and see folks!

Free Agency. Who benefits more? Teams or players?

Almost every summer, there’s a crop of big names on the market.

While this is interesting for the general fan, it can be quite unnerving if your team’s All Star or Franchise player is deciding whether or not to opt out. They can just leave and you will be left with nothing.

As a GM what should you do?

Should you trade them before hand to try and get something back at least, should you make changes to your coaching staff to try and keep them happy? It’s tough, players have so much power, but think about this, Franchises have the ability to get better in a hurry as well. They can just make a few signings and instantly they are a title contender. Sure, they won’t be great immediately but they will definitely get better over time. So I guess it’s fair right? Win win situation for both sides?

 

Here’s what I think, it favors the players slightly.

Look, I know you’re going to say ‘Hey man! Slightly? Are you joking?’

Okay, I agree that it’s very frustrating for us sport fans to see players just pack up and decide to join forces or look for the grass that is greener on the other side. We would prefer to see loyalty in sports, prefer to see players continue to give back to the team that stick with them.

But it’s hard and it’s tough when you keep losing, very few players are willing to stick it out. Free Agency is more than just players changing teams, it’s also about how they have a chance to earn a living and realize their dream. Here are a few factors why Free Agency is important.

Not everyone has as many options as Carmelo (Via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/keithallison/)

Not everyone has as many options as Carmelo (Via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/keithallison/

 

Everybody wants that ring

Everyone wants to compete for a championship every year, everyone in the league is a competitor. I am sure every player joined this league thinking about winning a title. Everybody wants to win, nobody likes losing.

Sometimes (no offense to any teams) some teams are just focus on tanking or rebuilding for that season, perhaps a player feels that he wants to win right away. Or maybe a player has been on the same team for a few years and he feels that he is not getting enough help or his team has max out it’s potential. Free agency give them that opportunity to try and join a team to win a title and fulfill their childhood dream.

You’ve got to earn your living

Look if you are a role player or even just a bench player, every single dollar counts. I understand they still make millions, but they can only play basketball to a certain age before their bodies give up. They still have a long way to go after they retire so unless you are looking for a job after that, then you need to make the most you can in your prime. This of course doesn’t apply to All Stars who easily make 10 million a season.

Unless you are Kobe or LeBron…

Then you can just rely on endorsements, selling shoes and advertisement to help boost your income. But how many Kobe or LeBron are there? Let’s face it, most of the players’ income come solely from their contract.

 

Teams also have one huge advantage with Free Agency, you can get better fast!

Signing of a few key players or All Stars instantly could make you a title contender. This is probably the best advantage for teams. One moment you are in the lottery and the next moment you can be challenging for the title.

Not every team will be able to achieve this and it does not guarantee a title even if you do it but it gives you hope. It give your fans hope that they might get a key signing and give them hope for a title. This might just be one thing, but if your team gets this right, you will be singing a different tune about Free Agency.

 

 

 

 

Nba Draft 2014. Take Your Pick.

The Draft is coming, it will happen on June 26, Thursday. How can the Cavs win 3 number one picks in the last 4 years? It’s crazy luck. Anyway, this is one of the deepest talent pool in years and today we will be taking a look at four of the top prospects. They are not ranked by me in any order, it’s just what I feel of them.

 

Joel Embiid

The 7 foot center from Kansas initially had teams worried about his medical condition after his back injury he had while at Kansas. But he managed to convince the Cavs that he’s good to go after his workout with them.

He strength lies on the defensive end. He’s a hard worker and looks great as a weak side defender. Blocking and altering shots. He’s also good on his feet and quick for a player his size. He seems to have a few moves on the post, wonder if he can use them effectively.  Not sure if he has range on his shot, but he seems to be able to hit the occasional step back jumper, although there’s definitely work to be done.

“You can’t teach size.” He reminds me a lot of Anthony Davis with his length and speed, and his impact on the defensive end. I believe that if he could add some more weight and develop a more improved post game to add to his defensive ability, he could definitely develop into a dominant two way player.

Scans suddenly reveals a foot injury. Highly doubt he will be in the top 5, might not even make the top 10.

 

Jabari Parker

6 foot 8 wingman from Duke. Rated as the most Nba Ready player in this year’s Draft.

He’s body is ready for the Nba, he’s versatile enough to play multiple positions and he’s smart, he understands how to play the game. The only real downside to him is his lack of a high ceiling and his need to improve on defense. Other than that, he is pretty much a good player, I like his quickness and he is smart enough to beat his man with his first step. Also has pretty decent range on his jumper.

It’s always good to be compared to a player like Carmelo Anthony, but it’s not a plus point to have a defense like him. Despite this, I believe that Jabari will have a sold career in the pros. He has a good work ethic and though his ceiling may not be as high as some of the others,  I believe his versatility will make him a solid player which most teams would like to have. Not a perennial All Star, but will provide solid all around play and an offensive punch.

 

Andrew Wiggins

6 foot 8 SG/SF from Kansas. Has huge amount of athleticism and with one of the highest ceiling out of the group of players in this year’s Draft.

His athleticism is his greatest asset. It allows him to leap, block and finish in transition better than most of his peers. For other aspects of his game though, there is still much to be improved on. Needs to shoot more consistently and work on his handles. His potential is the key, because he could get better and no one knows how good he can get.

Athleticism will only get you so far in the Nba, though it’s something that you can’t train on. If Wiggins work on his shot and puts on more weight to allow him to finish better in transition, he will definitely be a great player. How great he will be comes down to how hard he works. Shooting, dribbling and learning to take what the defense give you are stuff that can be developed over time. Give this kid a few years, it will be interesting to see where he lands.

 

Dante Exum

19 year old Australian, 6 foot 6 PG with a wing span of 6 foot 9.

Has a big body for a PG and that is an immediate advantage. A quick player and ability to change speed quickly makes him very difficult to stop. His ability to drive to the rim and draw fouls are great, but needs to convert on his shots better. Also need to improve his shots, flat and not much trajectory. Has to be able to protect the ball better in order to hold his own against the pros.

Point guards are vital in the Nba nowadays, but because there are so many good PGs, you can’t afford to be average. One advantage Dante will have is his size. He’s big and if he can get stronger there won’t be many guards who can stop him. His ability to get to the rim constantly is also great, though he has to knock hit FTs down at a better clip. The most important aspect he needs to work on is his shooting. Developing a strong mid range game will instantly make him deadly player combined with his playmaking ability.

 

 

My Final Thoughts

First off, I hope Joel Embiid manages to recover from his injury and hope that this doesn’t affect his career in the future, because he has mad skills. Now I think the best fit for the Cavs would be Wiggins. They already have Kyrie so they don’t really need a PG now and I am doubtful they will make the playoffs this season even if they take Parker. They have too many issues such as getting a new coach and deciding whether or not to keep Deng. Giving them a few years to gel would be best and also provide Wiggins more time to develop his game.

For the Bucks, I would say take the best talent on the table. Be it Parker or Exum, whichever they decide on after the workouts. They are in rebuilding mode and need all the help they can get, the position doesn’t really matter, it’s all about the talent now.

For the 76ers, I would think Parker would be a nice fit. First off, they have rookie of the year, MCW to run the point. Don’t forget Nerlens Noels, the player they got last year. If Noels comes back healthy and is able to help shore up their defense and Parker helps to provide depth on the SF position on their squad, this team could go far. Give the team a couple of years to develop chemistry, add a few pieces here and there, who knows where they might end up.

San Antonio Spurs, 2014 NBA Champions

Larry O’Brian Trophy

SPURS, 2014, NBA CHAMPS. Title says it all. First off, I’d like to congratulate the San Antonio Spurs, they are one of the most deserving team to win the title because of their selflessness and the way the play the game. There is no “I” in their game, it is entirely “Team”. They are the epitome of team basketball if you ask me.

First off, I would like to say that I was rooting for the Heat. It’s not so much that I like the Heat but rather I like to see LeBron succeed and prove all his doubters wrong. But against the Spurs, I knew there would only be one word for this”, “TOUGH”. Last year Final’s went to 7 games and I would say the Heat was pretty lucky to win it and Ginobili wasn’t even playing well. Well, we all saw what happened this year.

Talking about last year, well… You gotta give it to the Spurs. It was tough & heartbreaking to lose last year, but they used it as motivation to help them instead. They stayed focus throughout the regular season, clinching the number one seed in the west and advanced to the playoffs beating Dallas, Portland, OKC and finally Miami. It would have been easy for the to beat themselves up, not play well and keep feeling that it was taken from them. Yet, the focus, resolve and determination from them brought them back to the Finals. You could see them fighting for every loose ball, every possession, not taking anything for granted. This was a team looking for redemption and they got it.

They say that this is their sweetest championship yet and you can see why. All the hard work, all the belief, all that effort paid off and it just might make what happen last year “ok”. The San Antonio Spurs, your 2014 NBA Champions.

Heat vs Spurs. The series so far.

4 games in, one pretty dominating team. How did it happen? What were the factors? Are the Heat still capable of coming back? I’ll answer the last question later in this article. Right now, let’s take a look at 3 factors that have developed over this series so far.

 

  • Heat’s trapping defense

The Miami Heat have always looked to double and trap the ball handler forcing turnovers which can contribute to fast break opportunities. I believe it’s a defensive scheme that requires all five player to be defending together as a whole. One mistake and someone will be open.

This season, the Heat has gotten poorer defensively. While they were in the top 7 in defensive efficiency in the past 3 season, they are only 11th this season and only 3 teams in the past 36 years have managed to win while being outside the top 10 in defensive efficiency. Against an offensive juggernaut like the Spurs, you can’t really slip up too much or they will make you pay dearly as we’ve seen.

 

  • Where are Miami point guards

Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole have each shot under 35.5% and less than 17% from beyond the arc. They are both averaging 3.5ppg. These are stats that have really hurt the Heat and because the Spurs are playing so well, it’s not much of a contest.

 

  • Coach Pop changes, Coach Spo?

In Game 3, Coach Pop inserted Diaw into the starting lineup for Splitter. It turn out to be a great move as Diaw’s passing and versatility allowed the Spurs’ offense to move the ball better and take advantage of the Heat’s defense. Pop has never been afraid to make changes to his starting lineup or giving someone more minutes, but Coach Spo has always trusted his same group of guys. Sure Miami has a bench that is always ready to step up and from series to series Miami’s starting lineups would change, but his doesn’t really shake his lineup up during a series.

I feel that maybe he has to look at making a change because the offense or defense has work to be done. I am not saying I know where, but maybe he needs to look at the guys he has and decide if someone could come in and provide something extra.

 

Can the Heat comeback?

No team has come back from 3-1 down to win in the Finals before, so history is against them. But I remember reading in an article that Game 5 is a must win for the home team. Let’s say Heat win Game 5, brings it back to 3-2. They will feel confident and home advantage just might show in Game 6, if it does and the Heat take advantage of it and win, it will bring this series to 3-3. Then it’s just one game to decide the champions.

Sure it’s a long shot, but Game 5 is important for both teams. The Spurs will want to close it out on their home floor and not wait till Game 7, the Heat are fighting to stay alive. I feel that the Heat will take Game 5, but the series is still going to the Spurs. Unless the Heat suddenly find a major adjustment in Game 5, if not it’s still going to the Silver & Black.

Heat vs Spurs Game 1. How the Heat helped the Spurs win.

HOT. That was the feeling around the arena. In the 2nd half of the game, it was at times even hotter than outside of the arena. That is one hot place to play in and naturally players will feel weak, exhausted and drain physical and mentally easier. But, that is not the reason why the Heat lost, because both teams were playing in the same conditions. Here are some of the reasons that I believe contributed to the Spurs victory and how the Heat lost it late.

 

 

How the Heat helped the Spurs win

  • Mario’s foul trouble

Super Mario was limited to just 17 minutes in Game 1. He had 3 fouls in the first half and committed his fifth in the start of the fourth, with a charge on Ginobili. The foul trouble hurt his rhythm and his team, forcing Ray Allen and Norris Cole to play bigger minutes and he was unable to attack Tony Parker who did look pretty good in the game. Mario also seem pretty frustrated with himself throughout the game, further compounding the Heat’s problem.

 

  • LeBron’s cramps/Hero ball

Okay, this was not a foreseen problem for the Heat. At least, I believed they took all the precautions before the game to keep LeBron hydrated. I don’t need to say how not having LeBron made it easier for the Spurs to attack and harder for the Heat to run their offense because he’s such a great player. But the moment LeBron left the court after he made the layup on Boris Diaw, it felt to me that the Heat were forcing things. I thought they were just running a simple pick and roll and tried to attack the Spur’s defense.

Definitely I am giving credit to the Spurs, their rotations were on point and forcing the Heat to go where they wanted them to go. But I felt there could have been more ball movement from the Heat, swinging the ball to their shooters and being more patient. Perhaps it’s a combination of being away from home, Chalmers’ frustration and Wade trying to take over a bit too late. Their turnovers also cost them dearly in the fourth quarter when the Spurs were on fire.

 

 

How the Spurs won with their execution

  • Tim Duncan in the Paint

The Big Fundamental was excellent in recognizing mismatches and converting on easy baskets in the paint. He was aware when there was a guard defending him and did an excellent job of using his size and height to convert easy buckets. Sure it’s great to have teammates who are always willingly to pass, but Tiago Splitter also managed to shoot 5-6 in the paint. The Heat has to deny the entry passes better but it’s hard to stop the greatest Power Forward in the game when he’s rolling.

 

  • Manu and Diaw

We all know that the Spur’s bench is one of their greatest weapons. Players have all played in big games because Pop hasn’t been afraid to use them. So with rotations and subs being shorter due to the temperature, it didn’t affect the Spurs. But a big reason is Manu Ginobili and Boris Diaw. They were both a combined +52 in the game. Ginobili contributed a double double with 16 points and 11 assists while Diaw collected 10 rebounds and dished out 6 assists for the Spurs. Ginobili was huge in the fourth, dishing out 6 assist that led to 16 of the 37 points the Spurs scored in the fourth. It’s great to see Manu shake off last year Finals performance and play like he did in Game 1.

 

Who will win Game 2?

I think the Spurs will come out wanting to continue where they left off and force the Heat into a 2-0 hole for the first time in the Big Three era, but I believe that LeBron will have something to prove. I expected the Heat to win this & probably by only a slim margin unless of course, Danny Green starts raining 3s. Then the Heat will need to find another gear if they want to steal home court advantage.

Heat vs Spurs. 3peat vs Number 5

Hi, today’s post will be about the upcoming Game 1 of the Nba Finals. The Miami Heat vs the San Antonio Spurs. I believe there are 3 key areas that will help to determine the winner of this series. This is a series of fine margins but whichever team is able to constantly win these 3 areas will stand a huge chance of bring home the Larry O’Brien trophy.

 

1. Bench production

The team whose bench is able to consistently produce while their starters rest will help to shift their series in their favour. The Spurs’ bench lead the postseason in mins per game(19.8), 3 pointers attempted(11.7), steals per game(3.6) & points per game(42.7).

The Heat’s bench has been pretty good, coming up with well in the various categories with mins per game(17.2), 3 pointers attempted(10.0). Except maybe for the steals per game(1.6) & points per game(26.5) where they aren’t as good as the mighty Spurs. However, the Heat are better than the Spurs at 3 point field goal percentage(40%) compared to the Spurs(37.6%) & in +/- the Heat leads the postseason with 3.8 compared to San Antonio’s 3.1 which is 1st & 2nd respectively in the playoffs.

This shows that both teams’ bench do not disrupt the flow of their play even when their starters take a break. But with such a deep bench and role players who know their jobs well, the Spurs gets the advantage over the Heat in this aspect.

Advantage San Antonio

 

2. Which Big 3 will bring it?

The Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs both have a Big 3 of their own, albeit there are slight differences, it will be interesting to see which Big 3 is able to impose their presence on this series. Will Parker’s ankle bother him? What about Wade’s knees? Will Ginobili be able to produce at a high level consistently for this series? Will Bosh bring his ‘A’ game every time?

I believe the rest will help both Wade & Parker heal, or at least let them get to about 80%, but as this series goes on, perhaps we will see one of them let their play get a bit affected by their injuries. Hopefully this won’t be the case.

Manu only managed to average 11.5 ppg for last year’s playoff. This year he is currently at 14.3 ppg, so i would expect Ginobili to be ready to go the moment Game 1 starts. Bosh will not be expected to put up huge numbers but he is currently at 15.2 ppg, an increase from last season 12.1 ppg during the playoffs. Expect him to be ready and he will want to erase last year’s memory of 0 points in Game 7.

I expect the decisive factor to be between Duncan and James. Although Duncan is without a doubt the greatest power forward of all time and is still performing at a ridiculous level. James’ versatility will be hard to match and it will be difficult trying to keep him quiet during this series.

Advantage Miami

 

3. LeBron’s Jumper

Yes, will LeBron bring his Jumper? Since the 2010-11 postseason, LeBron has shot 37.4%, 35.9%, 37.2% and 41.9% from the mid range thus far. Remember that the mid range is the most inefficient shot in terms of points and it really isn’t one of LeBron strength, although to be fair to him, he has worked on it. With such a tough defender like Leonard and you can expect the Spurs to continue to go under screens and defend the paint, LeBron has to find ways to score and knock down the occasional open jumper.

Note that in his first season with the Heat, in the Finals against the Mavs’s zone defense, LeBron only managed to shoot 33.3% in the paint. Against the Spurs last season, LeBron managed only 21.1% in the paint. His averages in the paint for both of the postseasons were 37.7% & 34% respectively. Compare these to when he played OKC in the 2011-12 finals, he averaged 38.1% in the paint with a post season average of 45.1%.

In 2010-11 against the Mavs, LeBron shot 38.1% from mid range, but that was because he only attempted 21 shots. Compare it to last year’s final against the Spurs(48). It’s easy to see why it’s so high. Because he wasn’t aggressive enough then and because the Spurs are forcing him to shoot. If LeBron can make them pay, it’s going to be a short series for San Antonio. If LeBron misses too much, he has to find other ways to contribute or else number 5 is going back to Texas.

Advantage? Find out in Game 1.

 

To be honest, i would like to see LeBron succeed. I would like to see him go for the 3peat and win it all again. But i really respect what the Spurs have achieved at the same time and it would be really great for Timmy and Pop to get ring number 5. My heart says Heat in 6, but my mind says Spurs in 7. Either way, it’s definitely going to be a great series.