Not too long ago the New York Knicks were hailed as the team to dethrone the Miami Heat and contend for a NBA title. Jason Kidd had discovered the fountain of youth, Steve ‘discount-double check‘ Novak couldn’t miss a three pointer , Carmelo Antony was actually playing defense, and Coach Mike Woodson was considered a front-runner for NBA Coach of the Year. Many presumed that the return of Amare Stoudamire and Imam Shumpert from injuries would add depth and the needed scoring punch to continue their impressive play.
But my oh my how things have changed, the Knicks limped into the All-Star break with little resemblance of the team that had blown out the defending NBA Champion Heat by 20 points in their two regular season match-ups. Kidd had to assume more minutes due to the Raymond Felton missing 6 weeks because of an injured finger and he now looks every bit of 37 years old on the court: slow and exhausted. Anthony has resorted to playing 1-on-5 Melo ball and despite his impressive scoring performances the Knicks record has suffered as a consequence.
Although the injuries of Felton and Rasheed Wallace is an understandable reason for the Knicks decline in play the selfishness of Anthony and JR Smith is inexcusable. These two former Denver Nuggets continually to launch up prayers failing to play within the offense frequently settling for 1-on-5 ball and not involving their teammates.
Teams who contend for titles buy into the team concept if they truly wish to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy and be considered a NBA Championship. If you doubt this check the San Antonio Spurs and the Chicago Bulls NBA Championship banner count, these franchises won multiple championships due to their stars embracing the team concept. Until Anthony and Smith resist their urge shoot and make a highlight-reel shot or dunk the Knicks as a team will continue to suffer.
The Knicks have nearly 30 games to rediscover the magic that warranted the talk of them contending for a NBA Title. Felton has returned from injury and Woodson has wisely slashed Kidd’s minute to prepare for a playoff run. Many wondered whether Stoudamire would embrace his new role? And to the surprise of many he has thrived in his new role. However the fate of the Knicks now rest in the hands of Smith and Anthony, will they embrace their roles and buy into the team concept? Or will they return to their selfish me-first ways that led to early playoff exits in Denver? Have the scorers finally learned their lessons, will they shoot or will they pass? Stay tuned. I know I will – A. Denmark
The NBA Trade Deadline came and went with teams exchanging insignificant pieces that will ultimately make little difference come playoff time.
Too the many fans who are resistant of the inevitable truth you are in luck, you have 42 more games to accept the reality that many have been unable to stomach. Due to father time and Carmelo Anthony‘s 1-on-5 philosophy the New York Knicks will not reach the promise land. Despite having an excess of All-Stars the Los Angeles Lakers will continue to garner more headlines than wins thanks Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard‘s love affair. The Memphis Grizzlies lack of scoring and the Los Angeles Clippers bad luck with injuries and inconsistent play will be their Achilles heel that will ultimately result in an early playoff exit.
In the Eastern Conference the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers have separated themselves from the pack by dominating their peers in impressive fashion and are on a colliion course. The Heats big three: Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, and Lebron James are all playing the best basketball of their careers and are currently on a 10 game win streak. Not to be outdone the Pacers are on a 7 game winning streak of their own, and welcome former leading scorer Danny Granger back into the fold. The battle between these two proud organizations promises to be a good one and their next regular season match up on March 6th will be must see tv.
For the many who have prematurely crowned the Heat as champions would be wise to consider that team from the Alamo, the San Antonio Spurs who have the best record in the NBA. Tony Parker is playing out of his mind and Coach Greg Popovich has done a masterful job managing the minutes of his veterans while also grooming the future of the franchise, Kawhi Leonard.
The jury is still out on the Oklahoma City Thunder who have shown glimpses of dominance due to the play of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. However, the play of Serge Ibaka leaves a lot more to be desired, and if the Thunder intend to make it to the NBA Finals the front line will have to make opponents think twice before they decide to venture into the lane.
Unlike college basketball where match ups are littered with surprises in the NBA upsets and Cinderella stories are few and far between. Although the road to the conference championships will not be an easy one but let’s all be clear that the Spurs, Thunder, Pacers, and Heat are virtual locks to reach the conference finals. For those of you in denial you have 42 games to accept the obvious. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark
For nearly a decade the city of Chicago and Washington D.C. sports franchises have been mired in mediocrity and disappointment as fans of the Washington Redskins and the Chicago Bulls have been relegated to cherishing the past due to the endless years of disappointment.
However, after years of poor personnel moves and there fair share of draft busts and free agent signings the Redskins and the Bulls were fortunate to have innovators and future of the NFL and the NBA fall into their lap. After years of making all of the wrong moves all the Redskins and the Bulls had to do was hand their selection to the commissioner to make it official.
When the Bulls selected Derrick Rose with the first pick in the 2008 NBA Draft no one expected the hometown kid to reach elite status in such a short time. Rose revitalized his hometown and restored hope to a franchise that had become an after thought after his Airness retired. Blessed with elite athleticism and maturity beyond his years Rose lead the Bulls to the best record in the NBA and collected a MVP in only his third year. Lead by one of their the city of Chicago embraced Rose who embodied the toughness, grit, and swagger of his hometown. However, chatter of championships was reduced to a whimper when Rose tore his ACL and MCL in the first round of the 2012 NBA playoffs.
The Redskins also appeared poised to return to their era of dominance when they selected 2011 Heisman winner Robert Griffin III with the second pick in the NFL Draft. Blessed with Olympic speed and a howitzer for an arm Griffin took the entire the league by storm with his jaw dropping athleticism and precision passing. A franchise known more for draft bust and free agent blunders had finally struck gold. Although the Redskins were not expected to contend for a title the fate of the franchise was dealt a harsh blow when Griffin III went down in the Divisional Round of the Playoffs.
These two promising stars have more in common than the Adidas apparel that they both endorse. Despite their young ages Rose and Griffin carry the weight of a city and a franchise on their broad shoulders. As each continues down their long road to recovery the pressure too return is immense due to the NFL and the NBA crowning them as the future of their perspective leagues.
Although some injuries are unavoidable both young stars fueled by competitiveness played through the pain which ultimately lead to their torn ACL injuries. The Bulls are pressuring Rose to return after the All-Star break and the Redskins are angling to pencil Griffin III in as their week 1 starter.
Both Rose and Griffin III possess once in a generation talent and their future is bright but if they truly wish to make a last imprint for their teams patience must be a virtue. Many players have failed to reach greatness because they faltered under pressure, for the sake of their careers and their franchises I hope Griffin and Rose don’t do the same. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark (@eatdrkslpsprtz2)
After weeks of looking for the source of parody and the absence of elite teams in college basketball I have finally found the source. The players who would have provided a boost of excitement and highlight to a mediocre college basketball season are getting splinters on NBA benches collecting checks and DNPs. In the 2012 NBA Draft 56 underclass declared and only 22 were fortunate enough to be selected in the first round. While some rookies have experienced high levels of success like top pick Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Hornets and point guard Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers regretfully nearly half of them are contributing very little to their NBA franchises.
Last year the college game was decimated when several promising guards prematurely declared for the 2012 NBA Draft in their quest for the millions. Guards such as Kendall Marshall (Phoenix Suns), Austin Rivers (New Orleans Hornets), Marquis Teague (Chicago Bulls), Jared Cunningham (Dallas Mavericks), Tony Wroten (Memphis Grizzles) would have garnered All-American honors, improved draft stock while also altering the fortune of their college teams who have struggled to fill their void.
As rivalry week continues I ask college basketball fans and hoops loyalist to imagine how different fortune of their favorite teams would be had these guards chose to return to school and log major minutes instead of collecting DNP on a NBA bench. Although no player will ever be bigger than college basketball rivalry but the inclusion of great guard play in these games are truly what make these rivalries must watch television.
During rivalry week I am certain that these former college stars find themselves having second thoughts about their decision to go pro. When one of the favorites for the Naismith Player of the Year Award is Michigan Wolverine point guard Trey Burke who was an after-thought when compared to the guards who declared for the draft last year speaks volumes about the state of the college game and how vital a guard is to building a title contender. As the season of parody continues the players who declared and the fans will all wonder what if. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark (@eatdrkslpsprtz2)
When the Boston Celtics lost the cornerstone of their franchise’s future, Rajon Rondo for the season due to a torn ACL many fans and pundits presumed that all was lost. Although the Celtics were not expected to contend for a title a playoff appearance was expected.
And just when Celtic fans thought it could not get worst their playoff hopes was dealt another serious blow when young promising forward Jared Sullinger was lost for the season due to a back injury. Several wondered whether Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett time as Celtics had come to an end. The lost of Sullinger and Rondo led to widespread rumors around the league that the Celtics were open to trade their two future Hall-of-Famers Pierce and Garnett, to prepare for the future.
Despite these huge loses and trade rumors the Celtics have thrived when many others presumed that the season was lost. Embodying the toughness and resiliency of head coach Doc Rivers the Celtics are currently on a seven game win streak. Pierce has become a facilitator and Garnett has begun to play like a man possessed on the defensive side of the ball.
The Celtics have been playing so well that some have even began to question whether they are better without Rondo on the floor. Although I consider such conjectures to be absurd no one can ignore the poise and play of the Celtics who are clearly playing with a chip on their shoulder.
Rivers won coach of the year when he led the Celtics to their first title in nearly a decade. Although the Celtics are no longer considered to be title threats the success of this teams leaves little question at whose the best coach in the NBA. Rivers said the season would not be over and the Celtics unblemished record since the injuries indicate that the shamrocks may be down but they certainly are not out. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark (@eatdrkslpsprtz2)