Andrew Bogut – Bogus no more. Silencing doubters one block at a time 

andrew bogut gsw warriorsWhen Andrew Bogut was selected number one in 2005 expectations could not have been higher for the talented Aussie from down under. But due to one debilitating injury after another Bogut had become a punchline too many and was on the verge of being labeled a bust.

Finally healthy, Bogut has shed his soft label and has reminded many why he was selected before teammate and two-time All-Star David Lee and future Hall of Famer Chris Paul.

Stephen Curry may be MVP of the NBA, and fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson andrew bogut injury jokesand Draymond Green may be on the verge of superstardom but the reason the Golden State Warriors are a series away from the NBA Finals is because of B-O-G-U-T.

It has been the play of Bogut, not the Splash Brothers that has led the Golden State Warriors to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 1976. Scoring had never been a problem, it had always been defense. And although many may have thought it was a typo when they saw Bogut’s name on the NBA All-Defense, his value to the Warriors success should not be NBA MVP Warriors MVPignored and his place on all defensive team was no mistake.

Bogut may never make an All-Star team or ever average 20 and 10 but all that matters is that he has become a key cog on a championship team. The Aussie may have been down but he did not go under. Is another injury on the horizon or is the best yet to come? Stay tuned… I know I will.

Anthony Denmark is a writer for eatdrnkslpsprtz.com. Follow him on Twitter@eatdrkslpsprtz2, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on GoogleListen to eatdrnkslpsprtz radio  Subscribe to podcast

Memphis Grizzlies: Playoff fixture, Title Contender – Mo Betta Blues #memphisgrizzlies #grindhouse

Once upon a time there a pro basketball team in Memphis that always came in a distant second to Coach Calipari and his Memphis Tigers which had come within a free throw of winning a national title. Five years and four playoff appearances later the Fedex Forum are now always sold-out and the city of Memphis are fully behind this resurgent franchise that continues to show the nation and the league that they ain’t your daddy’s griz grindhouseGrizzlies.

When the Grizzlies traded the cornerstone of their franchise Pau Gasol many believed that Memphis had been bamboozled getting two broom sticks, a rusty nickel (Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, and Aaron McKie), and a vertically challenged little known big man and second round pick Marc Gasol. Although the janitorial appliances yielded little fruit as many expected the lesser known Gasol has become the franchise’s new cornerstone, ‘whose the dummy now?’

griz front courtWith his frontcourt mate, Zach Randolph fully recovered from a knee injury the Grizzlies embody the toughness and swagger of their two big men who can’t out jump an ant but constantly outwork and out hustle their more athletic counterparts. The toughness of this team is further fortified by defensive stalwart Tony Allen who was named to the NBA All-Defensive first team.

When Lionel Hollins was named coach at his disposable he had a collection of former lottery pick prema-donnas who only seemed to be concerned with their stat line and not with winning games. However, Hollins quickly cleaned house disregarding draft selections and only putting the players on the floor who exhibited toughness, hustle, and selflessness. Promising first round lottery picks Xavier Henry, OJ Mayo, Darrell Author found themselves riding the pine while second round after thoughts logged major minutes in the clutch.

It may have taken a while for young stars point guard Mike Conley and swing-man Rudy Gay to buy in the success the Grizzlies are experiencing can be largely attributed to the growth and maturity of these two. As early as high school Rudy Gay has only shown glimpses of the dominant that everyone knows that he is gay n conleycapable of. Gay has slowly come into his own become a match up nightmare that is reliable in the clutch.

Once only known as the robin to former number pick Greg Oden, Mike Conley has become more than just a facilitator finally living up to his early first round draft selection. Early in his career Conley was viewed as an offensive liability in the clutch due to a poor free throw shooting and a non-existent jump shot. Although he may never get selected to an All-Star due to the deep stable of talented point guards in the Western Conference his play during the NBA playoffs has left no doubt that he belong in the discussion of elite point guards.

force to be reckoned withAlthough the Grizzlies were on a 3-game losing streak there is no doubt in the minds of many that come playoff time this team would certainly be one to be reckoned with. Often lost in the discussion of NBA title favorites the Grizzlies have already logged impressive wins over the San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunders, and the New York Knicks. See a pattern, although the Memphis Grizzlies may never make a grindhouseSportscenter highlight, do not be surprised if the Larry O’Brien trophy calls the House of Blues its new home. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark

Anthony Denmark is a writer for eatdrnkslpsprtz.com. Follow him on Twitter@eatdrkslpsprtz2, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

Dwight Howard – ailing back, 4th quarter liability, questionable work ethic = Max contract?? #dwightmare

Last night Dwight Howard record his fifth consecutive double-double, but what did it matter if the Los Angeles Lakers continued their losing ways with a dismal 2-8 road record. Although Dwight has already been voted to his 6th consecutive All-Star game the question must be asked, has he reached his ceiling? Have we alreadysuperman rises seen the best of what he has to offer? For nearly nine seasons fans have witnessed Superman run like a gazelle and dish out punishment leading the league in rebounding and block shots.

But after off-season back surgery fans have only seen glimpses of the dominant force who clearly is not operating at 100%. Although his early return may be for the good of the team in the long run Dwight is only doing himself and the Laker franchise a disservice. Dwight is currently averaging career lows in a contract year and after a disastrous last season which ended with his exit more than his performance will be used to determine who enters the Dwight-sweepstakes and what will be the final asking price this summer.

d12Yes, Dwight is averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds but have anyone ever left you so unimpressed because the player was truly capable of doing more especially judging by his performances in season’s past. Although D-12 may never be considered a mediocre player averaging twenty points per game does not automatically make you elite or does it automatically give you entry into the NBA Basketball Hall of Fame.

When compared to the other big men who dawned the purple and gold Dwight ranks in a distant seventh at best when compared to the other Laker big men:

  1. Wilt Chamberlinlaker big men
  2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  3. Shaquille O’Neal
  4. George Mikan
  5. Bill Walton
  6. Pau Gasol
  7. Dwight Howard

The big men ranked ahead of Dwight were dominant big men who took pride in their craft whose games and skills expanded and improved each year while they were in the NBA. Although Dwight’s legacy has yet to be determined in its entirety an ailing back and a continued lack of maturity may end up being his demise.

Each year in the league his current teammate Kobe Bryant added something new to his repertoire in his questdunking dwight for greatness. Since coming into the league straight from high school what new has Dwight Howard added to his game beside the occasional dunk and swat. Those who are great are always working on their games, its apparent that the same cannot be said about Dwight Howard who seems to be more concerned with becoming an actor and promoting his new Adidas shoes.

d12 decisionDwight will certainly become a wealthy man because of the game of basketball but once he can no longer run faster or jump higher than his peers what legacy will he leave. In the NBA there are many tells of ‘shoulda, coulda woulda’s, if Dwight does not grow up he will end up on that list and not in the Hall of Fame. As the season progresses he future with the Lakers and his play will be watched closely. Will he be a Laker next year? Another True Hollywood Story, stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark

Los Angeles Lakers: From first to worst? Another true hollywood story #lakernation

Last night the Los Angeles Lakers reached a new low as they were run out of the arena by the Cleveland Cavaliers bringing their abysmal road record to 2-7. At the start of the season the Laker faithful envisioned a return of the Showtime Lakers but so far this season it seems like Kobe has been the only one who is showing up for games while his peers look like their just collecting checks. The personnel on the court clearly do not fit the system that D’Antoni wants to run and with the front office already strapped for cash the question many will ask is what do they do now?

An 82-game season has already cost the Lakers their starting point guard Steve Nash the first quarter of thed12 brick season, due to age and nerve damage in his shin his return continues to be unknown. In his quest for the big stage among the stars of Hollywood Dwight Howard has consistently folded under pressure, proving to be liability and deflecting blame for his poor play in crunch time. (9-21 from the stripe against his former team the Orlando Magic).

Too make matters worst the wear and tear of 16 year pro career in addition to his yearly commitment to the Spanish National Team has finally caught up to Pau Gasol who is currently collecting DNP (do not plays) due to arthritis in his knees. Although he has struggled to assimilate into D’Antoni’s offense the contributions of a career 18 pt 10 reb has certainly been missed.

laker best losersWith the Laker front office having large contracts and no desirable assets outside of Kobe Bryant it looks like a long season of unmet expectations appears to be in store. As the frustration continues to mount expect there to come a time when Kobe reaches his breaking point like he did back in 2007 when he demanded to be traded.  Although Phil Jackson is somewhere laughing at the current state of the Lakers it is critical that this team exhibit some resilience or they risk missing the playoffs all together.

If the Lakers went from title favorite to not even sniffing the playoffs a once proud franchise would be in a phil chipcomplete state of embarrassment and total disarray. At this rate its safe to assume that Gasol and Metta World Peace have played their last season in a Laker uniform as their contracts are likely to be bought out at season’s end. The fate of Dwight Howard remains unknown but judging by Coach D’Antoni’s man crush it appears that the Lakers are committed to making Dwight their franchise player.

Despite failing to meet expections the Lakers have been anything but boring so far fire dantonithis season. As D’Antoni’s former team the New York Knicks continue to thrive his Lakers continue to lose using the same broken system that cost him his job in New York. Who would have imagined that the Lakers would have to settle with the Knicks sloppy seconds. If only the Lakers front office had a reset button the season may have turned out so different. As the drama and suspense continues stay tuned. I know I will – A. Denmark

Lin-who? Lin-what? Lin-plz?: New York Knicks, a contender to remember? #nyknicks

148 days and $25 million dollars ago fans of the New York Knicks was unsure of what the future held for their promising franchise. The anxiety felt by the Madison Garden faithful was understandable due to the many questionable off-season moves the Knicks front office had made in the past. With those memories still fresh in the minds of many, the Knicks front office decision to part ways with Jeremy Lin a break star who had become a global icon and over-night sensation. But eighteen games into this season the decision to pass on Lin-sanityfelt so good looks like a brilliant move that has not only saved the franchise millions but also gave them the flexibility to sign point guard Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd at bargain prices and also retain their two 3-pt marksmen, JR Smith and Steve ‘discount-double-check’ Novak.

After two convincing wins over the defending NBA Champion Miami Heat the Knicks are entering themelo defense jokes unchartered territory of expectation. Projected to finish no better than fifth in the Eastern Conference the New York Knicks currently sit in first place. What makes the Knicks ascension so impressive is that the Knicks have yet to play a game with their full arsenal of players ( Shumpert out with knee & Stoudamire out with knee). Coach Mike Woodson has done a remarkable job of instilling a tough defensive mentality in players who used to be only concerned with scoring. Although Carmelo my never contend for defensive MVP the effort that he has begun to exert on the defense has set a tone of unselfishness and sacrifice required of a star if he wants to contend for a NBA title.

jr smithOnce only known for scoring it appears that Carmelo has finally came into his own as the leader of this franchise. His growth as player may largely be attributed to future Hall-of-Fame point guard Jason Kidd who became a Knick this off-season. With Melo out due to a laceration on his shooting hand Coach Woodson continues to build depth and solidify a solid second unit that will become an asset during the playoffs.

At this point it appears that the entire Knicks franchise has bought into the Woodson philosophy but everyone will hold their breath to see if Amare Stoudamire and Imam Shumpert follow suit. As the season progresses the expectations for the New York Knicks will continue to mount. It has been nba titlenearly four years since Madison Garden was home to an NBA Champion. They have the star in Carmelo, the defensive stalwart in Tyson, the bench and defensive minded coach to contend for a title. As the season continues NY loyalist will prepare to be disappointed but hope to be proven wrong. Stay tuned… I know I will. –  A. Denmark

New York Knicks: Empire State of Mind – Fast start but how will they finish? #knicks

Despite the New York Knicks being in the largest media market in the world they began the season completely under the radar. Many assumed that all was lost when the Knicks parted ways with Jeremy Lin and signed 37-year-old  point guard Jason Kidd who made headlines this summer for his drunken rendition of dance fever in the Hamptons.

After an early exit in the playoffs at the hand of the eventual NBA champions the Knicks entered the off-season with a lot of questions. Carmelo’s return to his hometown had yet to meet the expectations of Madison Garden’s faithful who presumed that his paring with Amare Stoudemire and defensive stalwart Tyson Chandler would yield more than just a first round exit.

Several of the Knicks battled nagging injuries last season but they wisely used the off-season to rest and get stronger. The same Knicks front office that is known more for its blunders than its successes struck gold yet again in signing point guard Raymond Felton whose on his second tour with the Knicks and adding power forwards Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas and Rasheed Wallace who will add much-needed veteran leadership to the franchise. The Knicks also were fortunate enough to resign three-point shooting ace Steve ‘discount-double check’ Novak who had the best season of his career leading the entire in NBA in 3-point percentage.

Regretfully the same injury bug that has nagged the New York Knicks struck quickly when starting power forward Amare Stoudemire went down with another knee injury. Since signing with Knicks this talented young man has been a shadow of himself whose fashion cents have garnered more attention that his play on the court. Although his return to the court has yet to be determined The team adjusted almost seamlessly by moving Carmelo to power forward which has been a match-up nightmare for opposing teams.

At 7-1 it finally seems that the entire team has bought into the concept of playing defense led by former Defensive Player of the Year, Tyson Chandler. Although the season is still young the Knicks have already collected impressive wins over the NBA’s elite – the Heat and Spurs.

However, only 8 games into an 82-game season the NBA landscape can change quickly. The chemistry on the team appears to be solid but how will things change once Amare Stoudemire returns from injury?  It may be in the teams best interest to bring him off the bench but will the perennial All-Star accept a diminished role. Due to his 5-year $100 million dollar contract and his well documented injury history Amare has zero trade value so if he fails to accept his new role he may be asked to stay home ‘a la Marbury’s $22 million dollar bench role in 2008.

Another development to keep a close eye on throughout the season is the health of the veterans on the Knicks roster, currently they have four of oldest players in the league (Marcus Camby, Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas, and Jason Kidd). However, the Knicks will add much-needed depth when guard Iman Shumpert returns after the All-Star break from a torn ACL that he suffered in last year’s playoffs.

Many questions remain for this talented squad but the success of their season will ultimately be determined not by Carmelo’s scoring but by his ability to contribute on both ends of the floor. Although Melo may be the face of the franchise the Knicks will go as far as their leader defensive minded Tyson Chandler takes them. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark

 

 

Lakernation – Banner or Bust: After the fire and hire coaching debacle in the end no one wins

Unable to stomach the putrid performance of a $100 million dollar roster led by Coach Mike Brown any longer the Laker front office finally decided to cut the cord. Despite his tireless efforts it took the Laker front office last season and five games to acknowledge the widely held truth that Coach Mike Brown just was not a good fit for the Laker franchise.

Once news broke of the imminent firing rumors were rampant that the head coaching vacancy was gift wrapped on a silver platter with a red bow for 10-time championship winning Coach Phil Jackson to take. Despite the overtures from both Phil Jackson and the Laker front office the expected match made in heaven failed to come to fruition, the third time was not a charm. Rumors allege that Phil Jackson wanted more say in basketball operations and wished to negotiate the number of road games he would have to travel too.  According to a statement released by Jackson these demands were not accurate and he was told that he had until Monday per a gentlemen’s agreement to make his decision.

Despite this alleged agreement to the surprise of Jackson, Lakernation, and many others the front office officially announced that Mike Dantoni was going to be the new head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. After this announcement speculation was rampant that the demands of Phil were unreasonable and that the Lakers current roster was not a good fit for his famed triangle offense.

Regardless of which side one may sit on this issue the bottom line is that everyone loses. Jerry Buss, the Lakers general manager and president of operations has ruined a once pristine reputation after his poor handling of the coaching debacle. His initial hiring of Mike Brown initially raised eye brows but many gave him the benefit of the doubt but his failure to seal the deal with Phil Jackson revealed the division that in not on the Laker front office but also within the Buss family.

The new head man in Laker-ville has walked into a no win situation that many pundits and fans have yet to realize. Although Dantoni’s break neck offense led to three Western Conference Finals appearances and two MVPs for Steve Nash the thoroughbreds he had on that Suns roster are not present on the Laker bench.

In an effort to refresh the memories of many let me remind everyone that those Sun teams ran a pick and roll offense where Nash dominated the ball and dished the ball to his three-point shooters when the defense collapsed on him when he attacked the paint. However, Nash is now only shades of his former self after suffering several injuries to his back, ankle, and now his shin which have robbed him of both his explosiveness and speed needed to attack the basket.

Too make matters worst, the age of the Lakers makes the prospects of them running Dantoni’s break neck speed offense appear far from a desirable alternative for an entire 82-game season. Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant are already dealing with injuries and Dantoni’s has yet to install his offense which will certainly test the will and frail bodies of these two often injured superstars.

Although Kobe appears to be on board cameras will certainly be on alert trying to capture any moment of discontent once Dantoni’s offense reduces him to a spot up shooter and a secondary option forced to watch the pick and roll offense run through Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. Lastly, do not think that Dwight Howard has not already began to plan his exit strategy in case his stay in Staple Center is only temporary. The wear and tear of running Dantoni’s offense tears your body to shreds, don’t believe me ask Amare Stoudamire of the New York Knicks who has never been the same after playing for the Suns for four years.

Dantoni has said that if the Lakers are not in the finals then he has failed ‘banner or bust’. This promises to continue to be a compelling story all season long. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark