by: (Anthony Denmark @eatdrkslpsprtz2 03.06.2013)
When NBA fans and pundits began to discuss title contenders and pretenders the key element often overlooked during these debates is the hated injury bug. The injury bug has already crippled the title hopes of the Chicago Bulls and the Boston Celtics whose point guards Rajon Rondo andDerrick Rose tore their ACLs. Although each of these teams title hopes were dealt a serious blow their playoff chances were unaffected.
As the NBA enters its stretch run the injury bug has begun to rear its ugly head yet again and even the reigning NBA Champion Miami Heat have felt the brunt of its harsh sting. Currently on a franchise record 16 game winning streak Heat fans all held their breath when Lebron James twisted his knee, however fans all breathed a sigh of relief when x-rays came back negative. Although no NBA team has ever been considered unbeatable James injury is reminder of how quickly fortunes can change.
Since James was fortunate enough to avoid an injury scare it appears that the franchises that poses the biggest threat to the Heat winning another NBA title were not so fortunate. The New York Knicks who are a close second in the Eastern Conference behind the Heat is currently without their All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony who twisted his knee two nights ago in a freak accident against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Although the Knicks won the game their chances of securing home court throughout the playoffs were dealt a serious blow with the Indiana Pacers a game and a 1/2 behind them.
However, the Pacers also a star to injury, Danny Granger who is out yet again for an indefinite period of time due his surgically reconstructed knee swelling up after playing extended minutes against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday.
In the Western Conference, the San Antonio Spurs who have the best record in the NBA lost All-NBA point guardTony Parker for a month due to a sprained ankle. Although the Spurs record will lead one to believe that they won’t miss a beat in Parker’s absence their title hope rest on the ankle of the diminutive French point guard who was playing at an elite level.
As the NBA Playoffs grows near the title hopes of the Spurs, Knicks, Heat, and Pacers can all change due to an errand pass or a wet floor. Despite injury scares by their franchise players each of these teams have continued to persevere even when their stars were not 100 percent. So the next time you discuss title contenders, do what bookies in Vegas do, check the injury report and hope that your favorite team makes it through a meaningless regular season game unscathed. Stay tuned… I know I will. – A. Denmark (@eatdrkslpsprtz2)
NBA Game of the week <Pacers vs. Heat, March 10th>
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. Listen to eatdrnkslpsprtz radio Tues/Thurs 630 EST & Sat 1030 EST
by: (Anthony Denmark @eatdrkslpsprtz2 02.27.2013)
Not too long ago the New York Knickswere 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
by: (Anthony Denmark @eatdrkslpsprtz2 02.26.2013)
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. TheMemphis 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 collision course. The Heats big three: Chris Bosh,Dwayne Wade, and Lebron Jamesare 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 10th 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
by: (Anthony Denmark @eatdrkslpsprtz2 02.11.2013)
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)
by: (Anthony Denmark @eatdrkslpsprtz2 01.29.2013)
Despite the Boston Celtics being five games below .500 fans were hopeful that a late season run would magically turn the Celtics into a NBA title contender. However, that hope was dealt a serious blow when it was reported that Rajon Rondo would miss the rest of the season due to a torn ACL. Rondo was having the best year of his young career recording five triple doubles and making life easy for his elder statesmen Kevin Garnett andPaul Pierce. The fate of the Celtics and their two aging stars is uncertain and the direction of the franchise will ultimately rest with the same man who brought the Boston Three Party together, Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge.
The same general manager who was praised for bringing Garnett and Ray Allen to the Celtics may do the unthinkable by trading away his two most valuable assets to prepare for the future of franchise. Due to Garnett’s no trade clause and with Jared Sullinger being untouchable Pierce’s days as a Boston Celtic may be numbered.
Although Pierce has been with the franchise since his rookie year the time has come for the Celtics to start rebuilding and preparing for post-Pierce era sooner rather than later. The blood and sweat that Pierce has given to the Celtics will never be forgotten but the business side of basketball eventually makes the NBA’s greatest stars cap casualties or mid-season trade bait.
Even the greatest player to ever play the game of basketball Michael Jordan was not immune to becoming a casualty to the game of basketball. Fans have a tendency to cherish the championships but often forget about his airness quietly exiting stage left in his last stint with the Washington Wizards.
As the NBA trade deadline draws near the fans in Boston Garden should cherish the last days of an era that saw three Hall of Famers put their egos to the side and inspired a city by bringing a NBA Championship to a franchise that’s glory days were on the brink of being forgotten.
With the Celtics currently out of playoff contention the Rondo season ending injury makes Ainge’s decision to move on and prepare for the future by trading Garnett and/or Pierce that much easier. The future of the Celtics franchise will be built around a new big three: Rondo, Jeff Green,
Avery Bradley, and Sullinger. Will they be able to sustain the standard of excellence set forth by the Celtics who came before them? Will Pierce and Garnett be traded? Stay tuned to this and more… I know I will #celticpride – A. Denmark
by: (Anthony Denmark @eatdrkslpsprtz2 12.27.2012)
For nearly fifty years the Los Angeles Clippers have been the laughing-stock of the NBA known more for punch lines than wins the Staple Center’s lesser known franchise has finally built a team that their fans can be proud of. On Christmas fans were treated to a NBA marathon showcasing the league’s best and brightest may have missed the last game on the docket featuring the team with the NBA’s best record, the Los Angeles Clippers.
Currently on a franchise best 13 team game win streak the days of taking a back seat to the Lakers may b e over after Laker great Magic Johnson referred to the in-town rival Clippers as showtime and LA’s best chance of winning a NBA title. Although this may have been a dagger in the heart of Laker fans it should be indicator to fans and pundits alike that viewing these Clippers as just as a lob-city Sportcenter highlight would be a grave oversight because these Clippers appear to be here to stay.
The Clippers back-court is led by premiere point guard Chris Paul and three-point marksmen William Green. Although their back-court is tremendously undersized they make up for their defensive liability with quickness and toughness which is why Eric Bledsoe and Chris Paul both rank top five in the league in steals per game. The arsenal in their back-court is also bolstered by NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups who is recovering from off-season surgery and former 6th Man of the Year Jamal Crawford who is liable to score 25 points on any night.
Although the Clippers collection of guards are impressive to continued improvement reigning 2012 NBA DunkChampion Blake Griffin has been encouraging. Due to being injured during a tryout for the Olympic Team Blake spent his summer shooting jumpers and free throws while he recovered from minor knee surgery. During his breakout season last year Blake posterized nearly every big man in the NBA, even the elite big men were not immune from his dunks. Despite making endless highlight reels his offensive limitations and lack of rebounding became a huge liability during the playoffs. His partner in crime De’Andre Jordan has continued to improve nearly averaging a double-double (9.2 pts 7 rebs) and being a defensive juggernaut down low in the point.
However, as with most title contenders the fate of the Clippers banner hopes may rest with the production they get from their bench. The production of their guards leave very little to question but their lack of depth in the front court may become a tremendous liability. When the starting forwards (Blake Griffin & Caron Butler) and center (De’Andre Jordan) need a breather or get into foul trouble veterans Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf, and Matt Barnes so far have provided very little production.
A lot can change during an 82-game season and although the Lakers continue to be the talk of the town evenwith a losing record (14-15) another deep playoff run by the Clippers will silence the critics once and for all. As long as Chris Paul avoids the injury bug and theClippers big men avoid foul trouble at all cost at season’s end they certainly will be in the discussion with the other preeminent title favorites. I can not wait to witness what the future has in store. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark
by: (Anthony Denmark @eatdrkslpsprtz2 12.16.2012)
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 Grizzlies.
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?’
With 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 capable 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.
Although 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 Sportscenter 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
Dwight Howard – ailing back, 4th quarter liability, questionable work ethic = Max contract?? #dwightmare
by: (Anthony Denmark @eatdrkslpsprtz2 12.14.2012)
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 already 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.
Yes, 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:
- Wilt Chamberlin
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
- Shaquille O’Neal
- George Mikan
- Bill Walton
- Pau Gasol
- 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 questfor 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.
Dwight 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
by: (Anthony Denmark @eatdrkslpsprtz2 12.13.2012)
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 the 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.
With 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 acomplete 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 this 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
by: (Anthony Denmark @eatdrkslpsprtz2 12.09.2012)
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-sanity 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 the 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.
Once 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 Iman Shumpert follow suit. As the season progresses the expectations for the New York Knicks will continue to mount. It has beennearly 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
by: (Anthony Denmark @eatdrkslpsprtz2 11.19.2012)
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
by: (Anthony Denmark 11.14.2012)
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
Los Angeles Lakers: 2 Hall of Fame Additions Take 2 – After 3 games fans are already wonder what if #lakernation
by: (Anthony Denmark 11.04.2012)
The pressure to win in now in the NBA is immense, after three games several fans and pundits are calling for Lakers Head Coach Mike Brown to be fired after an 0-3 start. After a busy off-season that made Steve Nash and Dwight Howard Staple Center’s latest permanent residence many including Vegas odds makers had them pinned to challenge the Miami Heat and the OKC Thunder for an NBA Championship. Although the NBA season has not even reached its second week yet the Lakers have made a number of correctable mistakes that is common for a team with new pieces and aging players.
Kobe Bryant has been called a lot of things during his 15-year career but he was on point when he told the media and Laker-nation to relax that all is not lost. The ‘Black Mamba’s’ assessment may be accurate but the Laker faithful have seen this scenario once before during the Kobe era. In 2004, the Lakers front office added two future Hall of Famers in Gary Payton and Karl Malone and just like this year many considered them a lock to contend for an NBA title. However due to the diminishing talents of those aging stars and their inability to play within the triangle offense this team was swept in the first round of the NBA playoffs in an embarrassing fashion.
The red flags for a repeat of the 2004 season are there; the Lakers are the third oldest team in the NBA, both of their off-season additions Nash and Howard have serious injury concerns that may plague them all season. However, their biggest concern is that Mike Brown’s recently installed Princeton offense resembles the 1-on-5 Kobe show, which is the same offense that got him fired in Cleveland.
Many may ask why Coach Brown must go? But I ask you to take a moment to consider the championship caliber coaches who are currently sipping mai-tais and enjoying their time off (Rudy Tomjanovich, Phil Jackson, and Mike Dantoni). Just for a moment imagine how explosive the Laker offense would be with Dantoni at the helm. Dantoni would unclog the lane and spread the floor, Nash and Kobe have experienced great success in this offense.
Or how about someone already on the Laker payroll, Rudy Tomjanovich who won three NBA titles with the Houston Rockets setting an NBA record for being the lowest seeded team to ever win three consecutive titles. Although he was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 1998 latest reports indicate that he still has the itch to return to coaching. During his tenure with the Rockets his teams finished in the top-five in scoring and defense.
Last and definitely not least the great Phil Jackson who many believe is return to an NBA bench seems like a forgone conclusion once he has fully recovered from hip surgery. The thought of the winningest coach in NBA history teaming up with Kobe Bryant for one last hooray with Steve Nash as his point guard and Dwight Howard terrorizing down low must tantalizing for fans to imagine.
Despite their slow start the Lakers will still make the playoffs probably finishing no worst than third in the Western Conference. Although winning another division title is a good achievement if the season does not end with a championship everyone will spend another off-season wonder what-if.
The NBA season is only in its infancy but the questions surrounding the Lakers will continue to make headlines. How will their season turn out, so far not good but there is still 79 more games to go Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark
by: (Anthony Denmark 10.23.2012)
The stars who I grew up rooting for and against like Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett are literally on their last legs and knees. Although the Miami Heat and the OKC Thunder are the prohibitive favorites to contend for an NBA title I truly believe that the San Antonio Spurs, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics are being foolishly overlooked. This season promises to be a farewell tour of sort for many of these soon-to-be first ballot Hall-of-Famers but despite their age I assure you that they will not go quietly into the night.
The Lakers garnered most of the attention when they won the coupe of the summer by signing both Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. These additions along made the Lakers an immediate favorite to challenge for the NBA title but the play of their bench will be the true deciding factor. Although he did not get a press conference holding up his Laker Jersey or a team photo with the more popular acquisitions, Antawn Jamison will be relied on heavily to provide invaluable minutes off the bench. Laker nation are already envisioning a return of the showtime Lakers but when the two of the three stars are nearly 40 and their stars having a laundry list of injuries (ankle,knees, back, fingers) the need for significant contributions from their bench will be crucial.
Although the Boston Celtics are down one amigo with Ray Allen signing with the Heat their off-season acquisitions via the draft and free agency gave them more depth on the front court and quality defenders at both guard positions. To replace the NBA’s All-Time 3-pt leader the Celtics signed Courtney Lee and Jason Terry who are great defenders and serviceable three-point marksmen in their own right. Jared Sullinger has already earned the respect of veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, and based of of his play in the preseason he will certainly be an invaluable contributor on the Celtics bench.
As usual the San Antonio Spurs registered little media attention as expected. After registering the best record in the NBA for two straight seasons the Spurs signed Tim Duncan to an extension and retained its core from the past two seasons turning a blind eye to free agency all together. Coach Popovich has done a masterful job of managing the minutes of his veterans (Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker) while also developing the talent of his younger stars (Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and T-I-A-G-O Splitter)
These three teams certainly have the talent and the experience to not only contend for an NBA title, but also to win it as well. How their coaches manage the minutes of their veterans will play a huge factor in ensuring that they enter postseason play healthy and injury free. Although the young thoroughbreds in OKC and Miami may get off to a fast start, do not be surprised if you see these more veteran laden squads concede home court and in efforts to gear up for the REAL 16 GAME SEASON, known as the playoffs.
Will the Spurs register more DNPs for their star players again this season? Will chemistry be an issue in Boston and Los Angeles? Will any of these three teams road to retirement include an NBA Championship in 2013? Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark
by: (Anthony Denmark 10.04.2012)
During 66 NBA seasons several players have attempted to try to see if their immense talents on the basketball court would translate to the big screen. Poor showings by prominent stars and future Hall of Famers have discouraged many athletes from taking the leap to the big screen out of fear of embarrassment or risking being the next ongoing punchline i.e.. Shazam with Shaquille O’Neal or the recently released Thunderstruck starring Kevin Durant.
Unable to get reputable acting gigs on television or the big screen several players have garnered premiere acting roles in the NBA, Oscar worthy. Past winners for NBA’s most prestigious award, Actor of the Year aka ‘flopper of the year’ has gone to Manu Ginobili, Derek Fisher, and Jame Harden has recently garnered acclaim for this prestigious award along with several other prominent NBA veterans.
However, the NBA has recently passed a new rule that will completely do away with NBA’s Actor of the Year award all together. Yesterday the NBA’s Board of Governors and the Competition Committee have agreed to enforce an anti-flopping rule. Fed up with player’s exaggerated falls to the floor in efforts to trick fans and referees into calling fouls the NBA will now issue fines and enforce suspensions for players found guilty of this act.
Players will get a warning the first time, then be fined $5,000 for a second violation. The fines increase to $10,000 for a third offense, $15,000 for a fourth and $30,000 for the fifth. Six or more could lead to a suspension.
The amount of flopping has become so excessive the NBA Commissioner voiced his disgust stating that flopping was ruining the NBA brand and it had no place in the game of basketball. Flopping has not only decided the outcomes of games but also has impacted the NBA playoff picture and also determined which team hoisted NBA Finals Trophy at season’s end.
Just in last year’s playoffs we witnessed 6 ft 9 280 lb two-time MVP, Lebron James make a plumb fool of himself in the playoffs with his flops against player he outweighed by nearly a 100 lbs and who can forget his fake eye poking incident which led to the Heat ending a Bulls run and ultimately winning their first round playoff series.
The NBA certainly deserve kudos for trying to improve the quality of basketball that NBA fans around the world pay to see. The NBA Players Association has already filed an appeal to the new anti-flopping penalty calling the rule an unfair labor practice.
I will be deeply intrigued to see how this new penalty be enforced, will there be a board of referees who will use instant replay to determine the validity of the foul? What will the appeals process look like? Who will be the first player to be fined for flopping? Flopping has been a reoccurring problem since the days of Bill Laimbeer and Dennis Rodman of the Detroit ‘Bad Boy’ Pistons, and who can forget the Emperor of Flop ‘ Vlade Divac of the Sacramento Kings. How will this anti-flopping rule affect the game? Stay tuned… I know I will. – A Denmark (@eatdrnkslpsprtz)
Eatdrnkslpsprtz All-Time Flop Team
PG. Derek Fisher SG. Reggie Miller SF. Manu Ginobili PF. Dennis Rodman C. Bill Laimbeer
by: (Anthony Denmark 09.26.2012)
It feels like only yesterday that the Miami Heat were crowned NBA Champions but the 2012-13 season is now on the horizon. This off-season many teams made costly make-overs in an effort to improve their chances of dethroning the World Champion Miami Heat.
After a dismal postseason performance the Los Angeles Lakers entered into the off-season with a lot of questions. The Lakers front office swore up and down that they were going to stand pat and would not make any major off-season moves. The Lakers clearly had other plans and made waves when they signed two-time League MVP Steve Nash and also solved their concern at center by trading for three-time defensive MVP Dwight Howard.
These two off-season moves have brought excitement back to Laker-nation with many envisioning another NBA Championship banner being hoisted in the rafters at season’s end. However, the fate of the Los Angeles Lakers will largely be determined by the knees of Kobe Bryant and how quickly his new running mates assimilate into the Laker way. Obtaining Dwight Howard and Steve Nash were costly acquisitions that will place the Lakers well above the salary cap which result in huge penalties that will only be softened by a NBA Championship.
The Oklahoma City Thunder stayed pat with the hope that their core of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, James Harden and Serge Ibaka would improve with another off-season of experience. Each of their star players gained invaluable experience playing in this summer’s Olympics in London. The Thunder will also welcome back PG Eric Maynor who will provide an additional spark of the bench and also give Russell Westbrook a much-needed breather in the second half. The chemistry of the Thunder is unquestioned but may be threatened as long as the future of reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden remains uncertain. After making it to the NBA Finals last year the Thunder appear poised to take the next step and challenge the Miami Heat for the NBA Title.
In the Eastern Conference the Boston Celtics made so much-needed additions by acquiring Jason Terry and resigning Jeff Green which they hope will soften the blow of losing Ray Allen to their rival the Miami Heat. The Celtics also added length and depth to their front court in the NBA Draft in center Fab Melo and power forward Jared Sullinger who fell in the draft due to health concerns. Kevin Garnett’s move to center has brought a spring to his step and hopes to the fans in Boston that there is hope for one last championship run before retirement.
Not to be outdone the Miami Heat improve their chances of repeating as NBA Champions by adding shooting guard Ray Allen and his former teammate small forward Rashard Lewis. The Heat front office were able to add each of these pieces at a bargain price that did not put them over the salary cap. Although the Heat will remain considerably thin in the front-line the versatility of reigning MVP Lebron James and recently turned center Chris Bosh will continue to be a match up nightmare for the opposing teams.
When training camp opens on Oct 6th the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference and the Los Angeles Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder will start the season as favorites to win the title. Several other teams made moves to enter the conversation such as the New Jersey Nets who resigned Deron Williams, extended center Robin Lopez and traded for a talented scored in former Atlanta Hawk, shooting guard Joe Johnson.
Although last season was cut short due to the NBA lockout, next season promises to be one filled with excitement and uncertainty. Do the Heat repeat? Do the Thunder resign or trade James Harden? Will the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics and their aging stars have one last run in them as they edge closer to retirement. After 82 games we will have an idea. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark (@eatdrnkslpsprtz)
Jeremy Lin and New York Knicks No Match Made in Heaven: Lin signs with Rockets
Like a shooting star Jeremy Lin landed into the laps of the New York Knicks bringing excitement back to Madison Square Garden. The Lin-sanity phenomenon took the entire country by storm and everyone from the avid sports fan to the unaware stay at home mom knew the story of the Harvard graduate who slept on his brother’s couch in the day and hit game winners against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers at night.
However, just like a shooting star the Lin-sanity phenomenon quietly faded into the abyss, due to an injury to his knee Jeremy Lin sat out the rest of the season and missed the playoffs entirely. Despite his game winners and jaw dropping performances that can be viewed on youtube.com no New York Knicks fan will forget his decision not to suit up in the first round of the playoffs against the Miami Heat, after publicly admitting being at 85%. Although Lin’s decision to not play was a good business decision, I believe it was one of the main reasons why the New York Knicks declined to match the Houston Rockets $25 Million Offer Sheet.
Several pundits will say that the Knicks did not match the offer sheet because of the money, but when your billionaire owner, Jim Dolan gives you a blank check its then necessary to consider another reason. In order to play in the NBA it requires a certain amount of toughness, to play through pain, ignore injuries, and ultimately sacrifice your body for the sake of your team.
As the NBA regular season comes to a close there are no players at 100% but despite their ailments they continued to press onward, delaying surgery and recovery dates until their season has ended either in the regular season or after the playoffs. For example, Dwayne Wade was clearly operating at less than capacity but never reported the obvious choosing to wait until after he won his second NBA Championship with the Miami Heat.
In order to have SUSTAINED success in the NBA toughness is required, and Lin’s decision to not play during the playoffs clearly did not sit well with his former Knicks teammates who initially rallied around the Lin. Carmelo Anthony called Lin’s $25 million offer sheet ridiculous and JR Smith said that Lin’s contract would cause division in the locker room. These do not appear to be ringing endorsements but appear to the voices of angry and frustrated teammates, who played through their own ailments and injuries without excuse, unlike Lin who chose to wear a suit when his teammates could have used him on the floor.
At the end of the day the New York Knicks honored Jeremy Lin’s business decision with a decision of their own. Although a promising future as the Houston Rockets premier player awaits him I believe the Knicks got him Lin at his peak.With his tendencies now known and his toughness questioned everyone will be intrigued to see if Lin-sanity returns in Houston or disappears like a fading star into the dark night. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark (@eatdrnkslpsprtz)
Lakernation: No Excuses No Apologies, Championship or Bust
The same Los Angeles Laker franchise that have collected their fair share of NBA Championships and Hall-of-Fame players was exposed this season. Another early exit in the second round of the NBA Playoffs revealed that this was franchise in decline and the days of championship glory appeared to be distant memories.
At season’s end it was clear that changes needed to be made in order to field a team that was worthy of wearing the same Laker jersey that was worn by some of the greatest basketball players to EVER play the game. Weighed down by big contracts by their two aging stars Kobe Bryant and Paul Gasol the odds of the front office being able to make any considerable offseason moves appeared to be very slim.
But like a lion waiting to pounce on his gazelle, the Lakers added 2-time MVP Steve Nash into the fold, which immediately made the Lakers a favorite to contend for yet another NBA Championship. Although the Lakers added another aging star (Steve Nash is 37) to the fold his addition will improve the Lakers offensive production by leaps and bounds.
Nash will be able to spread the floor which would make life much easier for Kobe Bryant. He will also open up the paint for the two 7 footers down low (Bynum/Howard and Gasol). Thanks to Mitch Kupchak and the Laker front office the future appears to be bright, and this sudden change in fortune was made possible by the $8.9 million dollar trade exception they received when the traded Lamar Odom for “nothing” to the Dallas Mavericks. Although the front office was heavily scrutinized by Kobe Bryant and pundits around the league for the Odom “giveaway” it is now evident that they had a plan in place all along.
The front office is officially off the hook and the focus now turn to Coach Mike Brown he has very little room for error. Although no one questions Mike Brown’s basketball IQ his inability to make in-game adjustment was exposed in the regular season. Andrew Bynum’s abysmal attempt to shoot a three and frequently playing outside of the offense indicate that Coach Brown is not respected by his own team and has lost control of the locker room.
Coach Mike Brown, you have officially been put on notice, due to the recent off-season moves if the Lakers fail to meet Lakers Showtime expectations he risk being fired before the All-Star break. Their will be several talented coaches like Mike D’Antoni salivating on the sideline waiting to step in and lead the Lakers to the promise land.
Expectations are high and anything less than a championship will simply not do. How will Coach Brown and the Los Angeles Lakers Respond? Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark (follow me on twitter @eatdrnkslpsprtz)
Brooklyn Nets: Buyers Beware, Be Careful What You Ask For #dwightwatch2012
For over a year the Brooklyn Nets have made endless overtures to the Orlando Magics try to acquire Dwight Howard, the most dominant big man in the NBA. In only five short seasons in the league Dwight Howard has won back-2-back defensive MVP awards, an Olympic Gold Medal, and gained world-wide infamy when he won the dunk contest wearing a superman costume and cape. Pundits and scouts around league consider Dwight Howard to be one of the top five players in the entire league due to his offensive production, his elite rebounding on the glass, and ability to change the game on the defensive end of the court.
Despite the endless accolades, awards, and jaw dropping highlight reels I believe that the Brooklyn Nets are making huge mistake. During the NBA shortened season fans and pundits alike bared witness to an indecisive superstar who quit on his team, demonstrated several instances of immaturity and worst of all exhibited no leadership qualities at all frequently pouting on the court and not sitting away from his teammate in team huddles.
His behavior this past season was deplorable and the Nets should consider how Dwight will respond if he became a third option on a loaded Nets squad with Deron William, Joe Johnson, and Gerald Wallace. How will Dwight respond if he is not the primary option? Will throw his coach or teammates under the bus like he did in Orlando? Will he join the huddle if the play is not called for him?
The Nets will be taking a huge risk in gutting their current roster and future draft picks (rumor says 10 players and 4 teams are involved in trade) for Dwight Howard because he has yet to display the maturity to match his Superman-like physique and play on the court. The Nets risk tying up nearly $100 million to sign Dwight in addition to the franchise having to pay $172 million luxury tax for being over the cap.
Although Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is a billionaire please believe he accrued his wealth by making wise investments and avoid fools gold despite its illustrious shine and glimmer. If Dwight is traded to the Nets his addition will certainly be very profitable. But in the beginning isn’t everyone happy? I am sure the Nets owner will know when to buy and when to sell. Another day, another rumor,stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark (@eatdrnkslpsprtz)
Lebron James: A Ring for the King, his rise to greatness
On Thursday night the self-appointed Lebron ‘King’ James finally gained his crown by leading the Miami Heat to their second NBA Championship. Since gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated hailed as the ‘The Chosen One’ as only a sophomore in high school everyone witnessed the growing pains of a phenom striving to fulfill his promise.Thousands filled college arenas as Lebron James and his high school team traveled the country playing on national television facing traditional high school powers such as Oak Hill Academy (VA) and Germantown Academy (PA).
Despite possessing the size of Goliath and the speed of gazelle the expectations that awaited him once he shook NBA Commissioner David Stern’s hand as the first pick in the 2007 NBA Draft was far too much for his strong broad shoulders to bare alone. At the young age of 19 his network was valued at over 125 million dollars and his giant-like appearance and superior play on the court made pundits forget that he was still only a young teenage boy.
His seamless transition to the NBA instantly made fans and pundits increase their expectation due to his freakish size and dominance on the court. As his game continued to expand the Cleveland Cavaliers record began to improve. The expectations for Lebron grew immensely after leading his hometown Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in only his third year. These heightened expectations of a cap strapped franchise unable to lure other star players to play in Cleveland made winning a title for his hometown appear nearly impossible.
Once praised and hailed for his abilities on the court the criticism that once began only as whispers grew louder with each missed jumper or due to his inability to single-handedly lead his undermanned Cavalier franchise over the Boston Celtics which included 3 first ballot Hall of Famers: Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett.
We watched as this young man struggled to carry a franchise on his shoulders in the public eye while also experiencing the same growing pains common for young adults struggling to find their identity and place in the world. This lapse in judgment manifested itself in his now infamous Decision Special where he announced that he was taking his talents to South Beach.
After his announcement the self-appointed King immediately became villainized. He watched in shock as fans burned his jersey in the same streets where he grew up. Dumbfounded as the owner of the Cavaliers publicly criticized and questioned his leadership, selling his memorabilia for 17.41 which was the year that Revolutionary War Traitor Benedict Arnold was born.
Lebron played last year with a chip on his shoulder, full of bitterness for the city who hated him and anger at the thousands who no longer embraced him but greeted him with boos and harsh words. However, the hardships of last year and an abysmal performance against the Dallas Mavericks in his second NBA Finals causing humility which fostered a fire that helped him rediscover his love for the game he once only played for himself and not for the approval of others.
This season we bared witness to a player tortured by the mistakes from his past take steps toward reaching hisfull potential. In route to collecting his third MVP award Lebron became the leader that few thought he would be capable of attaining. Effectively blending his superior athleticism with a high basketball IQ often barking out the offensive sets of the opposition before they had even reached half court.
The young high school phenom has grown before our eyes, and like the Nike commercial we have all witnessed greatness grow before our eyes. Congratulations Lebron James on winning your first NBA championship, everyone can not wait to see what you will do for an encore.
Stay tuned… I know I will. – A. Denmark (@eatdrnkslpsprtz)
NBA Finals Primer: Kevin Durant v. Lebron James, 2 Phenoms, 1 Ring #nbafinals2012
It is rare that two players ranked at the top of their high school recruiting classes have been able to fulfill their promise and potential by becoming stars in the NBA. As early as middle school Lebron James and Kevin Durant had been projected through summer AAU and shoe sponsors as the future of the NBA destined to shake the hand of David Stern and be lottery selections in the NBA Draft.
Despite Lebron James and Kevin Durant’s superior NBA talent, their journey to the NBA Finals has been remarkably different. After graduating from high school Lebron bypassed college and went straight to the NBA signing a $100 million deal with Nike immediately becoming the face of his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. Pundits and fans bared witness to Lebron James’ bout of immaturity and the endless demands of his entourage who wanted luxury suites and seats on the franchise’s private jet.
The self anointed ‘King’ James quickly outgrew his hometown of Akron, Ohio and in the now infamous ‘Decision Special with Jim Gray’ where he decided to take his talent and his ever-growing ego to South Beach. Accompanied by every increasing scrutiny Lebron has improved each year refining his post game and becoming one of the best on ball defenders in the entire league.
Unlike his predecessor Kevin Durant, a phenom no less decided to attend college and despite his nightly dominant performances for the Texas Longhorns his humble demeanor and clutch performances made him an instant fan favorite. Devoid of an entourage the ‘Humble One’ surrounded himself with his family with his mother always sitting court-side.
Possessing the same game and charm of fellow Baltimore/DC natives Michael Beasley and Carmelo Anthony his smile and demeanor enticed the then Seattle Supersonics to draft him second in the 2007 NBA Draft to become the face of their franchise. Despite the franchise moving to OKC and experiencing two consecutive losing seasons, Kevin Durant along with his fellow young stars Russell Westbrook and Jame Harden served as a reminder to their fans of greater days ahead.
Despite both of these phenoms taking different routes to greatness NBA fans will be treated to championship series to remember.How each player responds to the pressure will impact their legacy and determine how each will be remembered once their careers have come to an end. The potential for future duels for NBA Championships like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson appears likely due to the youthful talent of both of their franchises and aging stars and gaping holes on other teams.
Throughout the playoffs the officiating has been heavily scrutinized by pundits and even by NBA Commissioner, David Stern. Although there will a number of missed calls and failed flop attempts by Mario Chalmers and James Harden, I am hopeful that at the end of the day the NBA’s two biggest stars will determine who wins their first NBA Championship, and not the MEN IN BLACK….AND WHITE. Stay tuned.. I know I will – A. Denmark (@eatdrnkslpsprtz).
Heat wins Games 6: No Ring No Glory, the pressure of being King James
Last night everyone bared witness to one of the greatest playoff performances by 2-time MVP, Lebron James. His dominance on both sides of the ball reminded many of the ability he possess to be one of the greatest basketball players to ever play the game. Although there will be many pundits who will question his ‘clutch gene’ his play last night officially anointed him as the new leader of the Miami Heat and relegated Dwayne Wade to sidekick status.
For the first time in his career Lebron appeared focused on the task at hand, undeterred by fatigue and the trash talk by his opposition. Throughout the night Boston Celtics Coach Doc Rivers changed his defensive sets and on guard defenders to no avail: Paul Pierce’s sprained knee made him a step to slow, Michael Pietrus could not resist his head fakes, and Brandon Bass was unable to stay in front of this focused freight train whose quest for a Game 7 in South Beach appearing inevitable.
In the past Lebron has been criticized for being immature and afraid of the big moment, but last night’s performance left little doubt as to what he can accomplished when he is zoned in on the task at hand. However, with Game 7 on the horizon the need for him to repeat this performance may be necessary for the Heat to punch their ticket to the NBA Finals to face the Oklahoma City Thunder.
On his broad shoulders Lebron is not only caring his on legacy but the future of the Heat franchise as well. If the Heat lose tomorrow to the Celtics, wholesale changes are on the horizon and the future of the Big Three will certainly be in doubt. However, if the Heat reach the NBA Finals and hoist the Dave O’Brien Trophy at season’s end, all will be forgotten and talks of fulfilling the promise of multiple championships will reverberate from the lips of fans and pundits everywhere.
If Lebron thought he was under pressure last night, that pressure has just been multiplied by ten for the South Beach Showdown. How he responds to this pressure will cause a ripple effect that will impact every franchise in the NBA. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark (@eatdrnkslpsprtz)
Heat Lose to Celtics: Win or Lose, Coach Spoelstra days are numbered
It was only two summers ago the Miami Heat fans had high hopes of decorating their arena with ‘not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4 (well you get the point) NBA championship banners. Despite the highlight dunks and spectacular regular season records the Heat have failed to meet expectation, losing to the Dallas Mavericks in last year’s NBA Finals and being on the brink of elimination this year to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Miami Heat President, Pat Riley was praised for his ability to assemble such a talented collection of NBA All-Stars, all in their prime in his Lebron James & Chris Bosh coup d’état. However, Riley failed to add the most essential element needed to lead a team to a NBA Championship, a first class head coach.
Since Pat Riley won his first NBA Championship with the showtime Lakers in 1981 every NBA franchise that has won a title has been led by a coach who had been inducted into the Hall-of Fame or may be destined for future consideration such as Coach Doc Rivers of the Boston Celtics.
One would have assumed that Riley would know the importance of having a first-class coach due to his own extensive head coaching experience as well his failed Stan van Gundy experiment which required Riley to come out of retirement to lead the Heat to their only NBA title in 2006. After stepping down Riley appointed a little known Erik Spoelstra to be his heir apparent, former team video coordinator who had no previous head coaching experience.
Despite amassing an impressive regular season record, two Eastern Conference Finals, and one NBA Finals appearance it has become glaringly obvious that Erik Spoelstra days in South Beach are numbered because he is in way in over his head. He has been totally outclassed by his opposition Doc Rivers, often left speechless and unable to provide a reason for his poor play calling and dismal coaching decisions like: Where was Bosh in the 2nd half of Game 5? What was Chalmers doing in the final seconds of Game 4?
Tomorrow several pundits will place the blame on the Heat players for their ineffective showing on their home floor, however Pat Riley is also deserving of blame as well. Riley broke the bank to bring Chris Bosh and Lebron James to South Beach but resorted to having a bargain price head coach lead them.
Horse trainers just don’t let anyone ride their thoroughbreds, only the best are reserved that honor. For the Heat faithful it is unfortunate that Riley did not attempt to do the same when assembling this Heat team which is now on the brink of elimination.
If the Heat fail to win a championship for the second year there will be wholesale changes to the Heat franchise. I believe that the return of Pat Riley to the coaching bench is imminent, and its only fair that he lead the team that he helped to construct. Stay tuned… – A. Denmark (@eatdrnkslpsprtz)
The Quest to Win a NBA Championship: Assessing the NBA Final 4
In the last 48 hours fans have witnessed basketball being played at its best: excellent guard play, masterful defensive execution, highlight worthy dunks, and superb second half coaching adjustments. Each day this week fans have seen the NBAs brightest stars as well as a glimpse at the stars to come with the NBA Draft Lottery being televised.
Every playoff game promo will include highlights of the franchises star player and at the end of the game one of these promising stars will get the interview or make front page headlines for their play on the court and their decorum during the interview. However, despite the fan fare, banners and endorsements, stars alone do not guarantee you a championship.
During the Bulls Dynasty when Michael Jordan ‘led’ the Bulls to six championships cementing his place as the greatest player of all time. However, if it was not for the clutch shooting of John Paxson in the 1993 NBA Finals it is possible that league MVP Charles Barkley may have won a NBA Championship. Or again in the 1997 NBA Finals when Steve Kerr hit the game winning shot in Game 6 to clinch another NBA Championship for the Chicago Bulls.
The contributions by role players is a key ingredient to winning an NBA Championship, without their contribution hoisting the trophy at the end of the season is not possible.
In Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Miami’s bench played a major role in the Heat defeating Celtics, offsetting the spectacular performance by Rajon Rondo (44 pts 10 asst 8 reb). Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem have played extremely well during the playoffs, making defensive stops and hitting jumpers in the clutch. In all honesty, if it was not for the play of their bench, Miami may have lost Game 2 due to Dwayne Wade and Lebron James missing free throws that would have ended the game during regulation.
In Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, the bench of the OKC Thunder finally showed some life, and spearheaded their victory over the Spurs who appeared to be shell-shocked by the pace and play of the Thunder bench. Although Russell Westbrook fashion cents will be front page headlines, the grit of Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins was infectious, their effort on the court made the rest of the team play harder. Not known for their defense, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook fed off of the play of their two best defensive players and made the Spurs winning streak a thing of the past.
With two games on the horizon it will be interesting to see how each team adjusts and observe how much home court will play a role in deciding who wins the next game. Three factors will ultimately determine the outcome of the upcoming cames and the eventual NBA champion:
- How the upcoming games are officiated
- Which role player will develop the clutch gene
- What second half adjustments will the coach make to give his team an edge
There are times when you learn from losing and I believe the Spurs got a well-needed reality check. I still believe the Spurs will beat the Thunder in six games and face the Miami Heat in the NBA Championship. If Lebron wants to win his first championship he will have to beat the team who swept him in his first NBA Finals Appearance. Stay tuned, I know I will – A. Denmark (@eatdrnkslpsprtz)
Youth Got Served: Spurs Win, Veterans 1 Young Guns 0
The outcome of Game 1 of the Western Conference Championship was decided by the two players who did not record a single rebound, assist, or steal in the regular season series between the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Round one of the Battle of the Alamo went to the Spurs, whose 19-game win streak remains intact due to the offensive outburst of Manu Ginobili and the defensive play of Stephen Jackson in the second half.
For nearly three months the San Antonio Spurs have rarely had to break much of a sweat, wrapping up both first and second round opponents in convincingly dominant fashion, most outcomes often decided by halftime. The rust of a long layoff by Spurs was evident in a first half that included 14 turnovers and Tony Parker sputtering instead of attacking.
The Thunder’s speed was on display in the first half, making the Spurs pay for their costly turnovers with uncontested lay ups and ESPN top-ten worth highlight dunks. However, in the second half the Spurs made the appropriate adjustments and combatted the Thunders speed with defensive execution and floor spacing on offense. Although the veteran-laden Spurs will never be able to win a track meet with the Thunder, they successfully made the Thunder rely on perimeter shots by clogging the paint with big bodies and deterring dunks by taking offensive charges.
Although most of the credit for last night’s win will go to Manu Ginobili, the defensive play of Stephen Jackson in the second half against Kevin Durant was truly remarkable. Yes, I know Durant scored 27 point but he had to earn every point against the physical play of Jackson and the Spurs. By the fourth quarter the physicality of the Spurs resulted in the Thunder being winded and sloppy, Harden and Westbrook both were called for offensive fouls and Durant’s feet were like cement, unable to get lift on his shots or get past the much slower Stephen Jackson.
Last night, Youth got served a dose of reality, that highlight reel dunks and crossovers will not guarantee a win over the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs tought the young team a few lessons one only gets through the experience of winning championship, we will see Tuesday night if the Oklahoma City Thunder were paying attention. Veterans 1 Young Gun 0- A. Denmark (@eatdrnkslpsprtz)
Series Prediction: Spurs in 6!!
Hall of Fame Coach + 2 Future Hall of Fame Players + Depth + Experience = 2012 Western Conf. Champions
For the last ten years the Los Angeles Laker faithful have become accustomed to their team being in contention for NBA Championships due to their young star Kobe Bryant and his revolving door of talented big men (Shaquille O’Neal, Andrew Bynum and Paul Gasol). However, after successfully winning 5 Championships the Laker front office has failed to prepare for the future. Their once young star is now 34-years old and is nearing the end of his career and the talent that surrounds him is not the same faces Kobe Bryant won multiple championships with. The average age of the Lakers is 29 years old and the assets on their roster are deeply flawed due to character concerns, inconsistent play, and large contracts that other franchises would dare not touch.
As several pundits propose absurd trades involving Andrew Bynum, his bad knees and attitude will cause several franchises to think twice about making him their franchise player. Although Paul Gasol has become the popular target to blame for the Laker’s failings this season it is also unlikely that any team outside of the Houston Rockets will be willing to pay the remaining 38 million dollars left on the final two years of his contract.
Nevertheless, Lakernation do not fret there is still hope. There are two options that the front office can explore in order to make their roster more competitive and increase their chance of contention:
Option 1: Fire Coach Brown and hire Hall of Fame Coach Jerry Sloan
- Despite his reputation Mike Brown as a tough defensive minded coach, the truth is that the Lakers only hired him because there was no one left in the dry coaching pool to choose between other than long-time assistant coach Brian Shaw.
- The players do not respect him as a coach and often free-lancing on the court and (ex: Bynum’s 3pt attempt)ignoring the play sets Coach Brown had called.
- The pool of coaches is much better than it was a year ago. Recently retired, Jerry Sloan has the coaching itch and wants to get back into coaching. Coach Sloan’s experience would be an asset that would demand the immediate respect of Kobe Bryant and the rest of the players would follow suit.
Option 2: Trade Kobe Bryant ‘black mamba’
- Kobe is 34-years old and is owed $62.5 million dollars in the two years left on his contract which runs through 2013-14.
- Although several may consider trading Kobe Bryant to be unthinkable I ask you to consider how his one-on-five mentality in Game 4 resulted in a Laker lost to the Thunder.
- Kobe is in his prime and may be the only asset franchises would consider swallowing a huge contract to add to their team.
- Several great athletes end their careers in other uniforms because the time comes where the value of what they can fetch outweighs what they may provide their current team on the basketball court.
However, in the end I believe that Kupchak and the Laker front office will choose Option 1 by firing Mike Brown and attempt to hire a coach with more experience and a far more impressive track record. Despite the economic relief that trading Kobe Bryant may bring, it is unlikely that the front office will make such a bold move without the assurance of receiving an immediate return on both talent and fan fare.
Lakernation a long offseason awaits, but it certainly promises to be a compelling one filled with rumors, failed trade attempts and the harsh reality that the glory days of Laker dominance are behind us, and the future of the Laker franchise is unknown.
– A. Denmark (@eatdrnkslpsprtz)
Winning has become customary for the San Antonio Spurs, during the regular season they had two win streaks of eleven games and are currently on a 18 game win streak. Despite their continued dominance on the court the Spurs continue to be easily forgotten or overlooked by the national media. After running a clinic on the fundamental of basketball and execution against the young an inexperienced Clippers aka ‘Lob City’, the Spurs were relegated to the back pages while everyone focused on the inconsistent highlight friendly team in South Beach.
However, the Spurs appear unconcerned about winning popularity contests instead deciding to focus on their quest for an NBA Championship. The Spurs have taken on the personality of their head coach Gregg Popovich who I consider to be one of the greatest minds in basketball, the Bill Belichick of the NBA. If the NBA had not have implemented a dress code policy, I am sure Coach Popovich would have worn the famous hoody only adorned by true geniuses of their craft (ex. Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Belichick, and Lady Gaga).
It is unfortunate that Coach Popovich contribution to the game often get overlooked due to him coaching during the era of the Great Zin Master, Phil Jackson who won ten NBA Championships. But due to the Zin Master recent retirement Coach Popovich enshrinement as the NBA top coach in the league is no longer questioned.
Unlike the Zen who relied on the greatness of Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, Coach Popovich has created a system run by self-less players who flourish where the right pass is always made and their strengths are always enhanced. For example, Danny Green who was a NBA non factor has flourished as a starter for the Spurs posting the best numbers of his career. The value of the Spurs system only gets noticed when his former players fail to produce at the same level once they sign to play with other franchises (ex. Stephen Jackson).
As the NBA playoffs continue do not forget about the Spurs because although they appear in highlights getting posterized by their opponents at the end of the day all that really matters in the final score. With their depth, experience, and superior execution the team from the Alamo is a force to be reckoned with and although Vegas does not have them as a favorite (Heat are 2:1) to win the championship, do not be surprised if they win the title in impressive fashion this year. – A. Denmark (@eatdrnkslpsprtz)
The Lakers are on the brink of elimination and although many fans and pundits will blame Paul Gasol’s late game fourth quarter turnover for the lost in Game Four, the truth is that the Black Mamba poisoned his own team’s chances of winning with his selfishness and lack of trust in his teammates to perform in the second half.
There comes a time in every great athlete’s career when the time comes for them to usher in the future of the franchise. After sixteen glorious years five NBA titles, 2 Olympic Gold Medals, 1 MVP, and numerous record performances, at 34 years of age the time has come for Kobe Bryant to usher in the future of the Lakers franchise, the NBA next dominant center Andrew Bynum.
In the first half of Game Four Andrew Bynum put on a clinic and carried the Lakers to a halftime double-digit lead confidently utilizing the space on the floor and knocking down free throws when fouled.
However, once the second half started Bynum was totally forgotten only registering 4 points after a 14 point dominant first half. In the second half Kobe Bryant cost the Lakers the game shooting 2-10 in the fourth quarter due to his selfishness and inability to execute the plays being called by Laker Head Coach Mike Brown.
Despite this arrogant display no one appears confident enough to call out Kobe Bryant for his faults, when his teammates were interviewed after the game they did everything but state the obvious:
- Ron Artest ‘Meta World Peace’: ‘We lost because of the teams inability to execute, everyone on the team played a role in the lost’
- Andre Bynum: ‘We lost because we stopped executing, and because I didn’t get as many touches in the second half’ ‘I can’t score if I don’t have the ball’
- Kobe Bryant: ‘My teammates need to be more assertive, that is why I had to take tough shots’
During the early years of the Kobe-Shaq union the Lakers were swept three straight years by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round. Unfortunately, due to father time, at the age of 34 Kobe Bryant can not afford to wait another three years until he decides to trust his teammates.
After Monday, the Lakers front office will think long and hard about the future of the franchise, and I warn you, do not be surprised if the same team that traded Lamar Odom for tax relief purposes does not consider trading Kobe Bryant if he does not accept his new role of running the offense through the franchises future star, Andrew Bynum. – A. Denmark (@eatdrnkslpsprtz)
Well, ladies and gentleman, Thursday night Lin-sanity hits South Beach and the entire country will be tuned in. Despite the Knicks losing to the Nets on Monday the mania surrounding this upcoming come matchup will certainly have a playoff atmosphere.
The Miami Heat are going into this game with a 9-game winning streak and a lot of momentum. In addition, Lebron James is playing at a MVP level and the Big Three all seem to be on the same page. However, their momentum will all unravel and criticism would certainly ensue if the Miami Heat lose to the Knicks on Thursday.
Despite their impressive victory over the Kings last night there is cause for concern, the Heat allowed one of the worst teams in the NBA to score 108 points and despite putting up impressive offensive numbers their defensive effort in the game was unimpressive.
A similar defensive effort against the Knicks could be a cause for concern due the Knicks offensive power with Melo, Amare, and yes Lin. Wednesday night both teams get a primer before the big showdown on Thursday.
Thursday night all the pressure will be on the Miami Heat because they have the momentum and are expected my many to win this game convincingly. The Knicks enter the game with very little pressure, with the addition of their new pieces they have not had much time to play together, and Melo is clearly not in-game shape.The excuses for the Knicks are endless, but there is very little excuse for the Heat.
Will Lebron become a victim of Lin-sanity, like his peer Kobe? Will Jeremy Lin continue to put up impressive numbers or will it be turnover city? Will Melo play within the offensive or call isolation plays for himself? What the over under on alley ops from Wade and Lebron?
All these questions and more will be answered, Feb 23rd Thursday Night at 7pm in South Beach I am sure everyone from stepford wives to the residence at Saint Luke Hospital (Jeremy) will all be tuned in, I know I will be.- Eatdrnkslpsprtz Writer: A. Denmark (follow me @eatdrnkslpsprtz)