Written by Tom Mullins, TRST NBA columnist. Follow him on Twitter @tomullins
Now that we’ve seen plenty of basketball this season, teams can be separated more easily, the good from the bad, and then there’s the Wizards.
While it’s slim pickings in the Eastern Conference, out West there are several championship contenders. As usual the Spurs and Thunder are the teams to beat, with the Clippers and Grizzlies close behind. As we all know the Lakers are struggling early, and young teams such as Golden State can seize the opportunity.
Other than Miami and New York, yes that’s right, the Knicks are a championship caliber team, the Eastern Conference lacks the ‘elite’ teams. Atlanta and Chicago have played well to date without a true star, while Boston, Brooklyn and Indiana are barely over .500.
Right now you can’t look past Oklahoma City, despite their loss to the Timberwolves last night. Durant’s continuing his brilliant play from last season, looking like a serious MVP candidate. Russell Westbrook has kept improving, now distributing the ball better to his teammates. Losing Harden hasn’t impacted the Thunder, with Kevin Martin fitting in perfectly to the offense and giving them a dangerous weapon from beyond the arc. Serge Ibaka is playing like a borderline All-Star, making consistent mid-range baskets, it almost seems unfair. OKC will probably finish with the top seed in the West, and don’t be surprised if they’re in the Finals for a second consecutive year.
Defending champions the Miami Heat haven’t looked quite as good just yet, especially defensively, though they are still playing at a level greater than most other teams around the league. LeBron James is unstoppable as usual and Chris Bosh is playing efficiently on offense, however Dwyane Wade needs to recover from a slow start in order for this Miami team to be successful down the track. They should be able to escape the East for the third season in a row and defend their title, though the Knicks could challenge them in the playoffs.
Who would have thought the Knicks would be on top of the East only days away from Christmas? Carmelo Anthony has led this new look outfit to the second best record in the league. If their threes keep falling and Amar’e Stoudemire can play effectively with Melo, this New York team could be very dangerous.
Tim Duncan has turned back the clock so far this season and is playing at an extremely high level. The Spurs have cooled down a bit recently, but are still an elite team with guards such as Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, along with a solid bench. They’re not going to let young teams such as the Thunder, Clippers and Grizzlies take over the West without a fight.
The Clippers are the best team in LA right now, thanks to the best point guard in the league, Chris Paul. It’s scary to think how good they could be, as they’re arguably the deepest team in the league with role players still on the sideline (Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups). Expect a deep playoff run from them, with a WCF’s berth in sight.
After a disappointing exit to the playoffs earlier this year, the Memphis Grizzlies look to go much further this season, and with the best frontcourt in the NBA, they have a great chance to succeed. It’ll be tough to get out of the West, though if their key players in Gay, Gasol and Randolph play efficient basketball, along with Conley and production from the bench, Memphis could definitely make some noise.
Look out for teams like the Bulls (if Rose is back healthy), Hawks and Warriors come the playoffs, who have played well early and won’t get the same amount of hype as the true contenders.
Teams who will improve as the season wears on include the Lakers, Celtics, Nets and Pacers. The Mavericks and Sixers should also step up their level of play when their star players return, if Bynum ever plays in Philly.
by Akiem Bailum
On Twitter: @Li495Akiem
And as we know, no one likes to be teased, especially this much.
Remember back in your school days when there was someone you had a huge crush on and really wanted to talk to that person. Surprisingly, that person starts talking to you first and things start to go extremely well for about until you find you that he or she’s already taken.
Laker fans can now relate.
A few days ago, we found out that the Los Angeles Lakers had indeed parted ways head coach Mike Brown after only their first 5 games. The Lake Show had become a boring infomercial as they had lost 4 of their first five in the regular season and went 0 for 8 in the preseason (if it means anything).
Laker brass had all but admitted that Mike Brown’s implementation of the “Princeton Offense” that involves continuous ball movement and spacing out was not compatible with this star-studded Laker squad.
With the unceremonious Brown-out taking place in LA, all eyes and indications seemed to turn to Phil Jackson. The number one question was did Phil even want to coach anymore. After numerous reported conversations Mitch Kupchak & Jim Buss had with Phil, the vibes were positive that Phil was preparing to come back. He even cancelled a speaking engagement in Chicago to prepare to return to the Laker bench.
Of course, when you are an 11-time champion in Phil Jackson, you come with a rather hefty price tag. Reportedly, he demanded $10 million a year, full power over basketball decisions, and the ability to take off the majority of road games (most likely to those games contested east of the state of Texas).
Phil clearly wanted the job. The fans were preparing for Phil to take the job. Reportedly, Dwight Howard even wanted Phil to get the job.
Phil didn’t get the job.
Instead, that went to former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni. The entire Southern California region spat out their morning coffee as they heard the news. So was Phil himself.
D’Antoni’s price tag isn’t as hefty as that of the 11-time champ. He’ll only be paid $12 million over 3 years (3 years guaranteed, 4th year being a team option).
Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak, for whatever reason, just teased the entire Southern California region into believing that Phil Jackson would be returning to run things once again. If it’s one thing you don’t do, it’s tease Laker fans. Los Angeles is first-and-foremost a Laker town with no professional football team (for now) in that city. Many in Laker Nation are ticked enough that not all of the team’s games are available on TV in the region because not every cable company has agreed to carry their new network.
There’s been much speculation as to why Phil Jackson didn’t get the job. It could’ve been because the Triangle Offense was incompatible with Steve Nash. It could’ve been because his demands were too high.
And let’s not forget that whole thing about him dating Jeanie Buss. Even when he’s not visible, he’s still very close to the team.
If they felt the Triangle Offense wasn’t compatible with this cast of characters on this team, why even talk to or interview Phil? It’s clear that his relationship with the Buss family is so close-knit that they don’t know how to move on from him even if they want to. If they’re trying to move on from the Phil Jackson era, it’s admirable since he won’t want to coach forever, but the 11 championships are hard to pass up even if he wants more money.
Also, if Jim Buss didn’t give him the job because Jackson wanted to control the basketball making decisions, it’s clear that Jim Buss is nothing but a son playing with daddy’s toys.
Anyone who heard the Laker fans at the Staples Center on Friday Night knew that they had already made their choice with the chants of “We Want Phil”. Every indication was that they were going to get Phil. Given his track record in LA, that’s what makes this such an egregious tease.
That was only the first. The second is just around the corner.
Mike D’Antoni’s track record as a head coach is most remembered for his Phoenix Suns teams flaming out in the playoffs after having great regular seasons. D’Antoni was Nash’s coach in Phoenix. In 2005, they lost in the Western Conference Finals to the eventual NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs—a team that actually did practice defense that year. In 2006, they’d lose in the postseason to the Dallas Mavericks.
D’Antoni’s style is to turn every basketball game into a track meet. The word “defense” is a foreign word to Mike D’Antoni.
That’s where’s the tease comes in. Every Laker game for the rest of the year just became the All-Star Game. D’Antoni’s style of ball will bring excitement, it’ll create highlight reels on Sports Center, and it will put fannies into the seats at Staples Center.
But, Laker fans are similar to fans of the Yankees or Manchester United. Anything less than a championship ring for the purple and gold is considered a failure of a season. D’Antoni’s track record does not exude much confidence that it’ll change in LA especially when he had those Phoenix Suns teams that looked like the league’s best team.
Plus, Kupchak and Buss have a bigger problem looming this summer if they fail to hoist a championship banner. Dwight Howard can leave Los Angeles after this year and they could find themselves in the exact same fix that the Orlando Magic did after this year. I saw when the media talked to Howard about the hire today and his body language didn’t look like that of someone who felt the team made the correct hire.
To make a long story short, if Howard doesn’t feel the Lakers are where he’ll win a championship, the Brooklyn Nets (where he really wants to be) are right there waiting.
Let the Showtime begin! Lights…Camera…Action! Take 1!
Follow Tom Mullins on Twitter @TomMullinsTRST
Which games should you tune into this season? It’s impossible to watch all 1230 games, so here’s a list of some of the more interesting matchups early on in the season.
Boston Celtics at Miami Heat: October 30, 2012
LeBron becomes a king and Ray Allen joins the Heat, on the same night the Celtics come to town to get revenge. There’s no better way to start the season, should be a classic.
San Antonio Spurs at New Orleans Hornets: October 31, 2012
Future star Anthony Davis makes his much anticipated NBA debut, but it won’t be easy, facing off with legend Tim Duncan. Austin Rivers will also get his chance to shine in front of a home crowd.
New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets: November 1, 2012
Barclays Center will be buzzing when Brooklyn host their first game against the Knicks. A new arena, along with some fresh jerseys and players will give the Nets a great chance of starting their new era with a bang.
Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers: November 2, 2012
A heated rivalry will continue with Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers taking on Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the Clippers.
Denver Nuggets at Orlando Magic: November 2, 2012
Even though neither is a championship calibre team, these two playoff sides square off in Orlando, but will Dwight be playing?
These are just some of many great games in the 2012-13 NBA Season. Click here to see the full schedule.
It may not have been the most talented draft in terms of all-stars, according to some people, however there certainly are many solid NBA players amongst these young prospects.
1 New Orleans Hornets: F Anthony Davis
Obvious pick for New Orleans, Davis will make an immediate impact especially on defense.
2 Charlotte Bobcats: F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Great pick by Jordan and the Bobcats, although I thought they would go with Robinson.
3 Washington Wizards: G Bradley Beal
Couldn’t of asked for a better birthday present, he gives the Wizards a much needed shooter.
4 Cleveland Cavaliers: G Dion Waiters
Came as a surprise to some, will give Kyrie some help in the young backcourt.
5 Sacramento Kings: F Thomas Robinson
Didn’t think he would be available at 5, smart option for the Kings. Cousins and Robinson could be a dominant force up front.
6 Portland Trail Blazers: G Damian Lillard
Some thought they should of taken a risk and selected Andre Drummond, but Lillard was the better choice and the top PG in this class.
7 Golden State Warriors: F Harrison Barnes
Barnes will boost the offensive production of the Warriors and play along side Curry and Thompson, the future of Golden State.
8 Toronto Raptors: G Terrence Ross
Exciting player with great athleticism and perimeter shooting. If the Raptors can land Nash, a playoff birth could be a possibility.
9 Detroit Pistons: C Andre Drummond
Could be somewhat of a risk, but Drummond could develop into an elite big man in the NBA.
10 New Orleans Hornets: G Austin Rivers
Provides the Hornets with a good scoring option, though he has to improve on the defensive end.
11 Portland Trail Blazers: C Meyers Leonard
12 Houston Rockets: G Jeremy Lamb
13 Phoenix Suns: G Kendall Marshall
14 Milwaukee Bucks: F John Henson
15 Philadelphia 76ers: F Maurice Harkless
16 Houston Rockets: F Royce White
17 Dallas Mavericks (traded to Cleveland): F Tyler Zeller
18 Houston Rockets: F Terrence Jones
19 Orlando Magic: F Andrew Nicholson
20 Denver Nuggets: G Evan Fournier
21 Boston Celtics: F Jared Sullinger
22 Boston Celtics: C Fab Melo
23 Atlanta Hawks: G John Jenkins
24 Cleveland Cavaliers (traded to Dallas): G Jared Cunningham
25 Memphis Grizzlies: G Tony Wroten Jr.
26 Indiana Pacers: F Miles Plumlee
27 Miami Heat (traded to Philadelphia): F Arnett Moultrie
28 Oklahoma City Thunder: F Perry Jones III
29 Chicago Bulls: G Marquis Teague
30 Golden State Warriors: C Festus Ezeli
31 Charlotte Bobcats: F Jeff Taylor
32 Washington Wizards: G Tomas Satoransky
33 Cleveland Cavaliers (traded to Dallas): C Bernard James
34 Cleveland Cavaliers (traded to Dallas): F Jae Crowder
35 Golden State Warriors: F Draymond Green
36 Sacramento Kings (traded to Indiana): F Orlando Johnson
37 Toronto Raptors: F Quincy Acy
38 Denver Nuggets: F Quincy Miller
39 Detroit Pistons: F Khris Middleton
40 Portland Trail Blazers: G Will Barton
41 Portland Trail Blazers (traded to Brooklyn): G Tyshawn Taylor
42 Milwaukee Bucks: G Doron Lamb
43 Atlanta Hawks: F Mike Scott
44 Detroit Pistons: G Kim English
45 Philadelphia 76ers (traded to Miami): C Justin Hamilton
46 New Orleans Hornets: F Darius Miller
47 Utah Jazz: G Kevin Murphy
48 New York Knicks: F Kostas Papanikolaou
49 Orlando Magic: C Kyle O’Quinn
50 Denver Nuggets: C Izzet Turkyilmaz
51 Boston Celtics: F Kris Joseph
52 Golden State Warriors: C Ognjen Kuzmic
53 Los Angeles Clippers: F Furkan Aldemir
54 Philadelphia 76ers (traded to Brooklyn): F Tornike Shengelia
55 Dallas Mavericks (traded to Los Angeles Lakers): G Darius Johnson-Odom
56 Toronto Raptors: F Tomislav Zubcic
57 Brooklyn Nets: F Ilkan Karaman
58 Minnesota Timberwolves: F Robbie Hummel
59 San Antonio Spurs: G Marcus Denmon
60 Los Angeles Lakers: C Robert Sacre
by Tom Mullins- TRST NBA Writer
LeBron James is a champion. Sounds right doesn’t it? A champion player has finally won a deserved championship. Not many people expected the Heat to win in five, but with James’ domination and the contribution from Miami’s role players, they were able to prevent the series from returning to Oklahoma and win their second championship in franchise history.
Miami were in control from the start and a massive third quarter guaranteed them the championship. LeBron showed the world why he’s both regular season and now Finals MVP, finishing the game with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists. Kevin Durant continued his playoff form with 32 points and 11 rebounds, but turned the ball over seven times. Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Mike Miller all scored 20+ points, which proved too much for the young Thunder team. Westbrook couldn’t repeat his Game 4 performance and struggled shooting the entire game, finishing with 19 points on 4-20 shooting.
Harden played much more effectively with 19 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds. Eleven points between Ibaka, Perkins and Sefolosha proved costly for the Thunder. Fisher missed out on another ring, although was solid coming off the bench. Battier knocked down some important shots like he did all series and Chalmers added 10 points along with 7 assists.
Now that King James has finally got the ‘monkey’ and the majority of critics off his back, the question remains how good will LeBron be? The premature comparisons to Jordan aren’t idiotic, but can’t be that legitimate quite yet. This Miami team can certainly make it back next year and it wouldn’t surprise me if they won consecutive titles. Oklahoma City is still developing, but once they lock up some key players, could be a force in the next decade to come.
Love him or hate him, LeBron’s a true champion and without a doubt one of the most talented players to ever step on to an NBA court. Whether or not he wins 1,2,3,4 or even 5 more championships shouldn’t matter, when it’s all said and done James will go down as one of the greats, and today might just be the beginning.
by Tom Mullins- TRST NBA Writer
1. New Orleans Hornets- PF Anthony Davis
Davis is a lock at the number one spot, he’s the future of the franchise and will make an immediate impact, not only on the team but in the ticket sales. His athletic game along with his defensive presence will help the Hornets notch up a few more wins next season and give the team potential moving forward. The bigger question for the Hornets is their decision with the tenth overall pick.
2. Charlotte Bobcats- PF Thomas Robinson
Since they were ‘robbed’ out of the first pick, the struggling Bobcats will take one of the most NBA ready players in the draft. Many compare Robinson to the Clippers’ Blake Griffin, but with a better jump shot and slightly less athleticism, even though he is explosive at the rim. Charlotte has also been interested in trading the pick for a young star such as Rudy Gay or James Harden.
3. Washington Wizards- SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
John Wall needs to be surrounded with talent, who better than Kidd-Gilchrist to help him out in the nation’s capital. After winning the NCAA Championship with Kentucky, the 18-year-old has been described as a natural leader with an extreme level of competiveness. He has a perfect build for the NBA and could make the Wizards a playoff team in seasons to come.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers- SG Bradley Beal
Florida’s freshman shooting guard Bradley Beal will be taken by the Cavs and be the future of Cleveland along with their exciting young point guard Kyrie Irving. He’s a solid rebounding guard and can be an offensive threat from almost anywhere on the court. Cleveland will take him if he’s available, but I could also see them selecting MKD.
5. Sacramento Kings- SF Harrison Barnes
With Tyreke Evans’ future in Sacramento uncertain, the Kings may look to trade their lottery pick or Evans in exchange for a veteran leader. If they stay put, Barnes would probably be the best available player left on the board and could definitely be part of Sacramento’s future with his outstanding work ethic and great outside game.
What to look out for?
Andre Drummond may be a ‘risky’ pick but could possibly sneak into the top five, some even predicting him to be taken by Charlotte. Also don’t be shocked if we see multiple trades occur in the top ten, or even the first five picks.