This season, the Knicks have 99 problems and Brooklyn isn’t one of them. While I’m not discrediting anything that Brooklyn accomplished last year or during this off-season, but in my mind it is no question that the Knicks are the creme of the crop in the Atlantic Division. The rivalry between these two teams grew to record levels in Brooklyn’s inaugural season last year and with the way this off-season has gone, we can expect the same intensity this season. We are still nearly 3 months away from the opening tip yet these two squads are already talking shit and ready to claw each others faces off. Here’s why I feel the Nets will be watching the Knicks throne once again.
Lets start with each teams off-season moves and how they will affect this years outcome. Without question, the biggest move this summer came from the Brooklyn Nets when they acquired Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry from the Celtics for basically nothing but picks…sorry Kris Kardashian Humphries. The signing of Andrei Kirilenko will end up paying huge dividends as he will bring a defensive intensity that Joe Johnson never brings. Add these 4 new veterans with the core group built from a year ago of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez and you can say that the Nets had the best off-season in the league…that is unless you believe Dwight will actually do something this year. This team will definitely outperform itself from a year ago mainly because of the experience they added.
What’s amazing to me is that with the great moves Brooklyn has made, the Knicks have been overshadowed all Summer. What people aren’t talking about is the vast improvements the Knicks have made without losing much at all. New York has brought in 3 veterans that are all upgrades from a season ago. The Knicks picked up the one man that can defend any 2/3/4 in the NBA and who can also show some signs of offensive intelligence at the same time. Metta World Peace might be everything that is wrong with the NBA but he can sure play with the best of ’em. The Knicks also acquired Andrea Bargnani and Beno Udrih who will both provide extremely solid production off the bench alongside JR and Kenyon. The Knicks still have the best scorer in the game and if Tyson and Amare can come back healthy and Shumpert is the player everyone assumes he is then New York will be a tough team to tango with all year long.
Last year, Brooklyn and New York split the season series and each game was just as exciting as the next. One of the craziest things that happened between these teams this Summer was the retirement of the Knicks Jason Kidd and his hiring as the new Head Coach of the Nets. That move alone is enough to ignite the fire between these teams but add that in with Paul Pierce declaring his immense hatred of the Knicks and there are bound to be sparks flying all year. Pierce had this to say on the Michael Kay Show;
“I think the hate for the Knicks has grown a little. Everybody knows how much I disliked the Knicks when I was with the Celtics, but I think it’s grown to another level. I think it’s time for the Nets to start running this city.” Pierce also had a lot to say about the rivalry at a Sprint Charity event; “The only thing that separates the two teams is a bridge. And both of them are in the same division and both of them are considered contenders. You can’t help but say this is probably gonna be the best rivalry in sports next year.”
I definitely agree that this will be the most exciting rivalry in sports this year. I am looking more forward to the Nets coming to town than I am the Heat or Pacers. I only say that because of the inner city battle; I think the Heat and Pacers both pose a much bigger threat than the Nets do this year. The main reason that I feel the Knicks will win the Atlantic Division, I’m estimating by 2 to 3 games, is because of chemistry and depth. The only everyday player that the Knicks are changing this season will be Kidd and we all know how he played down the stretch last year. This Knicks team is familiar with each other and have proven they belong the elite Eastern teams. The Nets will be right there with them this year but since there is truly no chemistry on the roster and the fact that their newly acquired players are all in the waning stages of their careers tells me that they are not ready to dethrone the Knicks from atop the Atlantic Division.
Let the biased Knicks hatred begin!
My favorite time of year is among us as the NBA Playoffs kick off tomorrow afternoon. This has been quite a crazy season for the NBA with new teams, (Rockets, Nuggets, Warriors, Nets) emerging as contenders and some of our perennial postseason mainstays, (Mavericks, 76ers, Jazz) find themselves watching from home with the rest of us. Regardless of who takes the hardwood, (insert joke here), we are sure to get some great competition and I am sure there will be an upset or two that will have critics and gamblers both up in arms. Here is a breakdown of how the Sports Debaters feel the first round will go down.
I won’t waste too much time on this one. The Heat have the best team in the NBA and the best player in world to go with it. Lebron James has a huge point to make and that is to let his critics, which there shouldn’t be many of anymore, know that last year was not a fluke. If you want to be better than Jordan you are going to have to get 5 more of those nice shinny things for your fingers that they give you with that beautiful gold trophy. The Bucks don’t stand a shot in hell and if Milwaukee’s sub-.500 record is any indication of how this series will go then the Heat will have plenty of time to prepare for their second round matchup. We are predicting the easy sweep for Miami in this one.
Series: Heat 4-0
What has already been a storied rivalry is about to get more intense then ever. Between the horrific Boston Bombings on top of the altercation between Melo and Garnett in the beginning of the year, this series has a shit load of emotional baggage entering the first round. Boston and New York have historic rivalries in pretty much every sport and competition, so when these two cities meet in a postseason it is nothing short of bananas. This Knicks won the regular season series against Boston 3-1 and they look to carry their current hot streak into the playoffs. With Rondo out with his torn ACL and Melo playing better then he ever has, I expect the Knicks to be able to win their first playoff series in over a decade.
Series: Knicks 4-1
The Indiana Pacers started this season on fire. They seemed to be able to shut down any offense with their stingy defense and it really seemed as if they could solidify themselves as the second best team in the East. Fast forward to today and the Pacers ended the season very sloppy and they have a lot of negative momentum entering the postseason. Having said that, the only team in the Eastern Conference Playoffs that has looked worse than the Pacers in the final month would have to be their first round opponent, the Atlanta Hawks. They will definitely deny it, but the Hawks tanked the end of the season just so they wouldn’t have to face the Heat in the second round. Don’t you worry Hawks fans because you will not have a second round to stress about.
Series: Pacers 4-2
The Brooklyn Nets entered this season with extremely high expectations due to their owner guaranteeing a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in their first year in Brooklyn. They did have a fairly impressive regular season and have the honor of hosting the nitty gritty Rose-less Bulls in the first round. This will be a tough battle for both sides and the entire series will come down to 3 points; 1) Will Deron Williams keep up this amazing stretch that he is currently on? 2) Will Brook Lopez be able to prove that he is the best offensive center in the East? and 3) Will Nate Robinson be able to shoot 60%+ from the floor while running a fluid offense? Luckily for the Nets, I think the answers to those 3 questions are Yes, Yes and No! Expect this series to be close but I feel that the Nets will have the honor of losing to the Heat in round numero dos.
Series: Nets 4-3
All season long there have been endless debates on whether the Harden deal was good or bad for the Thunder. One thing is for sure, it was definitely good for Houston. The Rockets boasted one of the most efficient offenses in the NBA and it was 100% due to the fact that James Harden separated himself as one of the leagues elite players. Sure Lin, Parsons and Asik all played important roles, but Harden put the Rockets on his back and helped them just sneak into that eighth spot in the West. Harden is going to try and prove the Thunder organization wrong as he will try and upset them in the first round, but the dominant scoring duo of Durant and Westbrook will prove far to lethal for the Rockets to handle. I do feel that Houston will be able to squeak one victory out of this series tho.
Series: Thunder 4-1
If Sunday’s matchup between these two teams is any indication of how this series will go, we are in store for an instant classic. Without Kobe, the Lakers seem to be playing with a new sense of physicality and a whole new game plan. The inside-out game that the Lakers have gone to these past 2 games is really proving to be effective. Both Dwight and Pau have each lead their own respective teams in the playoffs and they seemed poised to give the Spurs a run for their money this year. Some people are calling me crazy with this prediction but i feel that this series will be going into 7 games and while I do feel that the Spurs will pull it out with their home court advantage, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go the other way.
Series: Spurs 4-3
The Denver Nuggets have been the silent killers this year as they have quietly inched their way into the tough fought for third seed in the West. Denver’s best trait throughout this season was their home court dominance (38-3). Even with Danilo Gallinari going down for the season with a torn ACL, the Nuggets still have a ridiculously solid rotation top to bottom. The matchup I will be watching in this series is the battle between Curry and Lawson. These two young dynamic point guards is going to be the deciding factor in the series. While Curry has one of the smoothest strokes in the game, Lawson has developed into one of the best all-around PG’s there is. The Warriors have had a great season and their head coach, Mark Jackson, may very well take home Coach of the Year honors, but the Nuggets are too deep and too good at home.
Series: Nuggets 4-2
In this repeat matchup from last years first round between the 4 and 5 seeds in the West, we are sure to get our money’s worth. The Memphis Grizzlies are trying to seek revenge for their game 7 loss at home last year to the Clippers. Now that the Grizzlies got rid of their top scorer and go to guy at the end of games, who are they going to turn to at the end of a close game? I’ll tell you who; no one! I think that the Grizzlies over performed all season long and now that the playoffs are here, I feel that the Clippers will show why this is their best team in franchise history. I expect Griffin and Jordan to dominate Marc Gasol and Randolph all series long. Chris Paul is going to have a field day with Mike Conley Jr as well. Don’t expect to see this series go to 7.
Series: Clippers 4-2
An 82 game NBA season can have a lot of ups and downs and can often be very unpredictable. While a lot of people don’t put to much emphasis on the early season, I find every game as important as the next and think that you can see a teams true colors right from the get go. I have always had a huge passion for NBA basketball. I mean I am such an NBA nerd that my family was introduced at my Bar Mitzvah to the “We Are the New York Knicks” theme song. So in this article I have decided to take the majority of things that have been happening around the NBA through the first fifth of the season and break it all down. There have been some predictable outcomes so far but there have also been some great new surprises.
I’ll start with the topic I am most proud to talk about; the standings. While everyone could have predicted that the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs would be among the leaders in the their respective conferences, no one would have been able to foresee who would be on the top of the East and West at this point in the season. Right now, my New York Knicks are on top of the Eastern Conference with a 12-4 record while the Memphis Grizzlies sit on top the the Western Conference with an NBA best 13-3 record. Both of these teams have come out of the gates determined to place themselves among the perennially elite teams. Other surprises thus far include the great starts by the Brooklyn Nets (11-6) and the consistently awful Golden State Warriors (10-7). The Nets and Warriors are two franchises that haven’t seen much success in their past but this year seems to be a redeeming light for them both. On the negative end we have our usual bottom dwellers like the Wizards, Raptors, Kings and Hornets but I am positive that no one expected the Lakers to be an abysmal 8-10 or even the Rose-less Bulls, who had the best record in the NBA last year, at 8-8. The Lakers fired Coach Brown and hired the much maligned Coach D’Antoni, who is off to an embarrassing 3-5 start. He might be more hated in LA then he was in NY and I know Phil Jackson is just sitting back laughing.
On to my favorite aspect of the game; the statistics. If I started by asking who are the top 4 scorers in the NBA, I am pretty sure that most people would be able to guess it correctly even if they haven’t been following this season too closely. Kobe, Melo, Durant and Lebron always find themselves among the scoring leaders but the real surprise is the 80 million dollar man who now ranks fifth in the NBA in scoring, James Harden. Harden is proving that he is an elite scorer when he’s not shadowed by Durant and Westbrook. When it comes to dropping dimes, no one in the league does it as well as the man I said would finish this season as the NBA MVP; Rajon Rondo. Rondo is averaging a staggering 12.9 assists per game and had a ridiculous streak of 37 straight games with at least 10 assists until he decided to body check Kris Humphries Kardashian which resulted in him getting ejected. The surprise name in the top 5 in assists has to be Greivis Vasquez. You might be asking yourself who the fuck is that. He is a 2nd year Venezuelan man out of Maryland and plays for the lowly Hornets. Vasquez will soon be a household name and can be connecting with the Unibrow for years to come. There are a lot teams that don’t value rebounding the way I think they should. I mean my Knicks have the best record in the East but they are among the bottom 5 teams in rebounding so there are ways to win without it. Having said that, I am a firm believer that if you want a Championship you need to rebound. Someone with a team that stands a chance this year needs to trade for Anderson Varejao, who is averaging an NBA leading 15.4 RPG, because I haven’t seen a player attack the glass the way he does since Dennis Rodman. Zach Randolph is 2nd in the NBA with 13.3 RPG and he is doing most of his damage on the offensive boards. I feel Randolph has not been getting his proper accolades because in my mind he is the main reason the Grizzlies have the best record in the NBA.
The final topic I want to talk about is my picks for the end of season awards thus far.
MVP: Rajon Rondo – I picked him before the season started and I am sticking with him for the time being. Rondo is averaging 13 PPG, 13 APG, 5 RPG and he is shooting an impressive 50% from the field. The Celtics aren’t nearly as good as they used to be, but Rondo is showing signs that he is only getting better every time on the court. For my Knicks fans, Melo was #2 on my list for MVP so far.
ROY: Damian Lillard – I talked about this rookie out of Weber State before the season started stating that he is the 2nd best rookie behind Anthony “Unibrow” Davis. Since Unibrow has been plagued with injuries, Lillard is my current front runner for rookie of the year. Damien is averaging 19.1 PPG, good for 11th in the NBA, to go along with 3.3 RPG and 6.3 APG. His connection with Lamarcus Aldridge will only get stronger and Portland will be a relevant team once again some time soon.
6th Man: Jamal Crawford – The 12 year veteran out of Michigan is arguably off to his best start of his career and is one of the main reasons why the LA Clippers are an impressive 11-6. Crawford is averaging nearly 18 PPG off the bench and every time he enters the game he brings the type of electricity that makes teams more fearful of the reserves than the actual starting lineup. With more consistency, JR Smith can give Crawford a run for his money.
Coach of the Year: Lionel Hollins – His Grizzlies record of 13-3 speaks for itself, but the former Portland Trailblazers star has his team buying into his philosophy that is perplexing any opponent that faces them. Grizzlies are super efficient on both the offensive and defensive ends and Hollins is the main reason why. My boy Mike Woodson would definitely be second on my list for COY followed by the Nets Avery Johnson.
It’s been a great season so far, especially for my Knicks, and I look forward to what the nest few months will bring. I’ll make sure to keep everyone posted.
Every season the NBA General Managers and front office’s get surveyed and vote on the regular season awards, trophies and titles that will be given out throughout the year. This is an anonymous survey and no teams can vote for themselves or their players. The most intriguing vote is obviously who will take home the grand prize of NBA Champion. This season, there was an overwhelming dominance in votes for the Miami Heat to repeat as champions. 70% of executives voted for the Heat to win it all while the Lakers received 23% and the Thunder closed it out with 7%. I know that Miami and the Thunder made it to the Finals last year and the Lakers had the biggest offseason of any team in the league, but does that make the 3 of them the only viable candidates to win the whole thing? With teams like the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks and San Antonio Spurs filled with quality veteran rosters and new young and developing teams like the Memphis Grizzlies, Denver Nuggets and even the Brooklyn Nets, I feel that there is a lot more competition out there than the NBA executives seem to think. I don’t feel this season is so cut and dry and I would like to see who everyone out there feels will win it all this year.
Even though “flopping” has become an NBA enigma over the past two years, it really has been around since the days of Celtics great, Frank Ramsey, and his famous flailing arms he used time and again. While Ramsey might have been the first recognized “flopper” that the NBA had to offer, the true art of flopping wasn’t mastered until a scrawny big eared sharp shooter out of UCLA entered the league. Growing up a die-hard Knicks fan, I had to suffer through many beatings by Reggie Miller. While Miller will go down as one of the NBA’s greatest shooters of all-time, he will also be remembered as the best “flopper” ever. Reggie made it an art form. He was so good at deceiving the referees that it seemed towards the waning years of his career that he depended more on the foul line then on his natural-born talents of shooting. Now, flopping has gotten way out of control in the NBA and it has taken from the integrity of the game. NBA Commissioner, David Stern, and his crew have helped develop a rule that will fine guilty flopper’s and could even lead to a suspension.
My favorite NBA personality, and former NBA head coach, Jeff Van Gundy, has been at the forefront of battling flopping and making it a penalized offense. While Jeff has made exaggerated remarks claiming that he wanted players to be fined millions of dollars for these cowardly plays, really all he was trying to do was bring order back to the game. Flopping has gotten so out of control, that is became distracting topics of debate on popular shows like Sportscenter, Mike and Mike, First Take and many other sports media platforms. To me, it’s an extremely embarrassing thing when a player dives on the floor in attempt to deceive the referee and get a foul call, rather than manning up and just playing the game the way it was meant to be played. Now, these dastardly acts will cost their makers a lot of money or even have them suspended for a period of time.
While it’s nearly impossible to see every flop live, the NBA will put together a committee that will review accused flops days after the game and then announce whether or not a player has been hit with one of these fines. Here is how the fines and possible suspension will go.
- Violation 1: Warning
- Violation 2: $5,000 fine
- Violation 3: $10,000 fine
- Violation 4: $15,000 fine
- Violation 5: $30,000 fine
- Violation 6 and above: According to the NBA, “He will be subject to discipline that is reasonable under the circumstances, including an increased fine and/or suspension.”
I don’t agree with the first violation being a warning, because every player in the league knows when they are flopping, so that in itself should be enough warning. I do like the fact that the NBA said they were going to do something about these outlandish flops and now they have. While a lot of people have different definitions of what a flop actually is, the NBA released their statement today defining it:
“Flopping will be defined as any physical act that appears to have been intended to cause the referees to call a foul on another player. The primary factor in determining whether a player committed a flop is whether his physical reaction to contact with another player is inconsistent with what would reasonably be expected given the force or direction of the contact.”
If this rule was intact in the 90’s, when Reggie was in his prime, I believe that Miller would be nearly bankrupt today. That being said, I am very happy that the NBA has made moves to fix this epidemic and I have hope that there will be no more flopping soon enough. We can celebrate this minor victory for the league once the season starts, but for now, enjoy this hilarious video of some of the greatest flops and flopper’s that the NBA has ever seen.
“Thank you for helping me keep my job,” is probably exactly what Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra was thinking as the final seconds of Miami’s game 7 101-88 victory over the Boston Celtics wound down. Before the game started, a stoic Lebron James was asked how he felt about the game 7 matchup, since he had lost in his previous 2 game 7’s, and James responded with “I won’t regret it!” That type of confidence would intimidate anyone, but coming from arguably the best basketball player on the planet would make even Chuck Norris shit his pants. After the disappointing game 5 loss to Boston that put Miami down 3-2 in the best-of-seven series, critics were trashing Lebron’s “lack of a clutch factor,” while Miami fans were begging for Spoelstra’s head/resignation form.
Game 6 was a breeze and entering game 7, Miami was considered a big favorite on their home court. As the game started it was lead change after lead change with both teams countering their opponents attacks. When the third quarter approached, Boston came out of the gates fast and built an 11 point lead. At that point you could see the fear in Spoelstra’s eyes as he was about to lead the favored Miami Heat to yet another disheartening early exit from the playoffs. Luckily for Spoelstra, James didn’t show that same fear. Lebron had a sense of motivation and determination that I have personally never seen him have. There was absolutely no way that Lebron was not going to face off with OKC in the NBA Finals. Even though James was the clear reason that Miami won this game and the series, he gave credit to a player that made a huge difference in games 6 and 7. “He was big time — every shot, every defensive play, every rebound — we missed him,” James said of Chris Bosh. “We’re just happy to have him back at the right time. If it wasn’t for him and the rest of the guys that stepped up, we don’t win this game.” Classy statement from Lebron, but the truth of the matter is that without James, Miami would have been swept by the Knicks in the first round.
I have to give Boston a lot of credit, because during the regular season they were under .500 going into the all-star break. For them to completely turn their season around and make it all the way to game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals is an impressive feat in itself, but to do it with a team filled with players that will be using walkers and wearing Depends in a few years is all the more extraordinary. This was most likely the last game that Boston’s “Big 4,” (Rondo, Garnett, Pierce, and Allen) will ever play together. I’m a die-hard Knicks fan so I am not to unhappy with that news, but as a sports fan it is always sad to see a dynasty die.
The Celtics didn’t only lose this game for themselves, but they seem to have helped Timothy Bradley beat a disgruntled Boston fan in Manny Pacquiao. The two welterweights had an epic matchup of their own last night that Bradley ended up winning in a split decision. What’s incredible about this battle is that Pacquiao has been a life long Celtics fan and refused to let the match start until the Boston Miami game was over. By caring more about the basketball matchup then his own fight, Manny seemed to have had his priorities askew. “I did my best,” Pacquiao said. “I guess my best wasn’t good enough.” Don’t worry Manny, neither was Boston’s.
The other team in Florida might be named the Magic and the former NBA great and current analyst might be called Magic, but what Lebron James did last night in Boston was pure Magic. With 45 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists in Miami’s crucial 98-79 romp of Boston, Lebron put himself in the record books as one of the only two players in playoff history to boast those types of numbers. The other man was a guy called Wilt Chamberlain…have you heard of him? At halftime, with a 13 point lead over Boston, Lebron told ESPN reporter Doris Burke that he did not plan on coming out of this game at all. James shot 19 of 26 from the field and finished four points shy of his playoff career-high, while only sitting for the final 3 minutes of the game because it was long over.
I know I rag on Lebron a lot, along with the rest of the world, but James set that shit up for himself. He played with America’s minds and decided to go to a powerhouse stacked team rather than have a franchise built around him. Regardless of if you like him in Miami or not, his decision was cowardly. When I rip Lebron on the regular, it is usually about his lack of finishing out the fourth quarter strong. Now James might have done the majority of his scoring and stat building in the first 3 quarters, but to me that was a great strategy. He didn’t give himself a chance to blow it in the final minutes. James was smart enough to completely take over the game for the first 3 quarters so he wouldn’t have to worry about closing crunch time minutes. All jokes aside, Lebron put on one of the most dominant playoff game performances I have ever seen…and it made me sick. Saturday night in Miami should be a good one for the fans.
It must be tough on the Boston faithful to see their Celtics lose on their home court like this. Even their mayor seems to really be supporting their team and star players “KJ” and “Hondo,” as he has with other Boston sports teams. Take a look:
“KG” and “Rajon Rondo” were not Boston’s problem last night. I would have to take credit for yet another curse I inflicted on a player. Paul “The Truth” Pierce had his worst game in the 2012 playoffs with a pathetic 4-18 shooting and a minimal 9 points. The aging Celtics finally showed their age last night as they looked sluggish up and down the court while James absolutely took advantage of their spotty play all night. I rarely, if ever, pray for anything Boston but I would love to see them put up a good fight Saturday in Miami. Here are the highlights from last night’s game:
Many years ago in 2001, a man named Shaquille O’Neal was playing the Boston Celtics as a member of his soon to be Champion LA Lakers. After finishing off what was a 112-107 victory over the Celtics, Shaq pulled a Boston reporter over to him during the post games interviews and said, “My name is Shaquille O’Neal and Paul Pierce is the fucking truth. Quote me on that and don’t take nothing out. I knew he could play, but I didn’t know he could play like this. Paul Pierce is the truth.” Hence the nickname “The Truth” was born and has stuck through the 10-time NBA all-stars career. Last night was just another indication of why Shaq believed his statement to be true. In a 1 point game with just under a minute to play and the shot clock winding down, Pierce pulled up for a 3-pointer over James and drained it.
When James saw that ball caress the nylon as it went through the hoop, the look on his face was priceless. It was as if he had never seen a clutch fourth quarter shot go through the net before. Last night’s 94-90 Boston victory over the Heat was a backbreaking one for the Miami faithful. How can a team that just over a year ago promised all of its fans not 1, not 2, not 3, not 7…championships but more, be one game away from being eliminated from the playoffs in the Eastern Conference Finals? How can a player who had 30 points and 13 rebounds look like he was a role player throughout the fourth quarter of a game 5 where the series is tied 2-2? How could a team that was down 2-0 in a series and had all the critics writing them off for their age and their opponents talents, be on the verge of their 3rd Finals appearance in 4 years? The answer to all of these questions is simple. The Boston Celtics veterans are clutch and Lebron James is not.
This series is heading back to Boston on Thursday night and it should be a great one. Check out the highlights of last night’s game and see what the difference between a great player and a great player that is clutch is.