January 27, 2011

Memphis Grizzly OJ Mayo Suspended

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OJ Mayo tested positive for DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), and will be suspended by the NBA for the next 10 games.

This could be fatal for the Grizzlies attempts at getting into the playoffs. Before the suspension they were actually predicted to end up in the 8th spot according to Hollinger's playoff odds / simulations (Grizzlies do have a better point differential than Portland and have had a hard schedule so far).

August 20, 2008

Quarterfinals: USA beats Aussies

bryantjoke.jpgLeBron and Kobe jokin around (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Redeem Team USA has a habit of starting off slow only to embarrass their opponents at the end. Again, this is how their Quarterfinal matchup against Australia turned out, the 4th seed in bracket A. The Aussies had felt that their Exhibition showing against USA (they lost only 85-76) would prepare them well if they were to meet in the tournament as they did today, but if anything it opened Team USA's eyes up and made them realize that every game is going to be a fight.

The game was 25-24 at the end of the 1st quarter. Even towards the end of the 1st half it was close, but the US had a few key plays notably a buzzer-beating three pointer by PG Deron Williams. This put the lead to 12 at the half. Team US just ran away with it starting the third quarter, with Kobe knocking down a few threes and other shots, and soon enough the score was 69-43.

Kobe Bryant had his best game of the Olympics, churning out 25 points in 25 minutes along with 5 rebounds and 4 / 7 from three point land. LeBron James had 16 points 9 rebounds 4 steals and Carmelo Anthony put up 15 points 5 rebounds and 2 / 5 three pointers. USA continues to be extremely efficient from the floor, shooting 66% thanks to plenty of easy baskets. One negative sign is that Team USA continues to shoot free throws poorly (18 of 31 for 58%) and was shooting three pointers poorly until a barrage in the 2nd half got their percentage up to 41% for the game.

Australia's stud NBA player Andrew Bogut suffered through foul trouble and contributed just 4 points and 2 rebounds to go with 2 turnovers and 3 fouls in 11 minutes. The Aussies grabbed just 28 rebounds to Team USA's 57, doubled up by the athleticism from the USA wing players. Australia began to show their frustration as the game got away, with Mark Worthington taking a hack at Carmelo Anthony and inciting the USA team further. Patrick Mills had a nice effort with 20 points 2 threes and 3 steals.

Greece and Argentina are playing right now in the other Olympic Quarterfinal matchup to decide who goes on to play Team USA. Greece is looking to avenge the Athens loss in 2004 to Argentina.

August 16, 2008

Team USA Routs Spain by 37

kobebehind.jpgPhoto by Kristian Dowling/Getty Images

The toughest matchup has come and gone, with the Americans still standing on top. Teams are learning that while the 2004 team was stacked with All-stars as well, this new generation is something different. The athleticism is leading to plenty of steals and an outrageous 32-0 fast break difference between the Spaniards and USA.

The US thrashing of Spain showed off the efficiency of the American team. From three point land, Spain shot 6 / 28 (21%) and US shot 12 / 25 (48%). The first few games USA could not knock down three point shots, but seemed to create more open looks with penetration and good ball movement in this one.

More than anything, when you shoot 58% from the floor and you hold the opponent to 39%, you are going to win. Same goes for the 28 Spain turnovers to 16 US turnovers, again because of 16 USA steals. Teams are applying pressure on the USA guards but they are getting burned, and on the other end USA is using their depth and athleticism to create turnovers and fast break points.

Maybe the worst thing to be said of USA at this point is that they have not been challenged yet. That would have been helpful going into the medal round, as the preliminaries are nearly over sans for a pointless matchup against Germany on Monday night in China. But with Spain being the top challenger, who is to say anyone will give the US a run for their money and test their mettle?

Group A and B are starting to shake out a bit, with USA clinching the top seed in the B bracket. They likely will face 4th seed Australia in Group A for the Quarterfinal matchup. Then, USA is likely to see Argentina in the Semis, and then Spain again or Lithuania in the Finals. Much is to be determined come Monday the final Preliminary day. The US and Germany's match at 8am eastern however has no bearing on the rankings.

August 9, 2008

2008 Beijing Olympics Redeem Team

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Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The 2008 NBA Finals has long past.

Olympic Basketball has never had a bigger stage than the one it is on in China in 2008. The US team has gone through quite the metamorphosis since the Dream Teams in the 1990's. After all the 1992-1996-2000 success, the US fell on hard times in Athens in 2004 and had another bronze showing at the World Championships in 2006.

The US is a hungry team with players like Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade eager to cleanse their names from the disappointment in 2004. An experienced veteran in Jason Kidd has been added to provide stability in someone who has won Gold in the past for USA.

In terms of athleticism especially for Wings / Guards, the US is unmatched in the tournament. Where they are thin is at the big position, where Dwight Howard was slowed earlier with a sternum issue and Tyson Chandler was hurt as well (prompting USA to bring Tayshaun Prince instead). Chris Bosh is the backup Center but his thin frame may prove troublesome. FIBA games are much more physical than the NBA, partly because they are allowed to play that way and bang inside (no three seconds, so you can clog the lane).

In the previous Olympics matchup, the USA's Achilles Heel was long distance three point shooting. Michael Redd was then added, and most of the superstar types like Wade / Lebron / Carmelo have improved their three point shooting.

2008 USA Roster for Beijing

F - Carmelo Anthony (2004 Olympics 2006 World's)
F - Carlos Boozer (2004 Olympics)
C - Chris Bosh (2006 World's)
G - Kobe Bryant
C - Dwight Howard (2006 World's)
G - LeBron James (2004 Olympics 2006 World's)
G - Jason Kidd (2000 Olympics)
G - Chris Paul (2006 World's)
F - Tayshaun Prince
G - Michael Redd
G - Dwyane Wade (2004 Olympics 2006 World's)
G - Deron Williams

Group A
Argentina
Australia
Croatia
Iran
Lithuania
Russia

Group B
Angola
China
Germany
Greece
Spain
United States


Be sure to catch the NBA Olympic Superstars on TV - Preliminary Round
starts August 10th. USA opens up against Yao Ming and China at 10:15 AM Eastern Time August 10th.

July 16, 2008

Camby traded to Clips by Nuggets

cambyjr.jpgPhoto by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

The LA Clippers have found an interesting way to recover from the Elton Brand defection to Philly. With the Denver Nuggets looking to purge salary from their team, the Nuggets agreed to send Marcus Camby to the LA Clippers for the rights to switch 2nd round picks. That's it.

Simply, the Nuggets are admitting that their current core is not going to get it done in the West, so they are retooling and cutting back costs. They have been over the NBA luxury tax for some time and have grown tired of 1st round flame outs for such an expensive roster. Kenyon Martin's max salary is the major culprit, as Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson are at least earning their money. Nene Hilario also has a 10+ million per year contract.

You will probably just see the Nuggets now play much smaller, with Carmelo Anthony assuming the power forward slot. Nene should provide more offense, especially interior scoring. He has the bulk to finish at high percentages, but lacks Camby's athleticism and length for blocks. So a porous defense may be even worse in 2008. With Allen Iverson's monster contract off the books, they can either resign him to a more reasonable amount or use that cap space after the 2008-09 season to completely reform their team.

This deal is very similar to last year's trade of Jason Richardson from Golden State traded to the Charlotte Bobcats for nothing. The Warriors knew they had a lot of young, guard talent they were going to need to sign and the Bobcats like the Clippers had cap space to offer.

Camby with the Clippers should provide an interesting combination with Chris Kaman. Both can block shots, but Camby being a league leader type will likely have the lion's share of chances at the rim now. This should allow Kaman to focus his energy on his post scoring, and overall the defense will be aided by Camby's 3+ blocks per game. Camby at 8 million per year is a steal for his all around production.

This is assuming he stays healthy. Camby has been fortunate the last few years to show up for 70 and 79 games respectively after being very brittle early on in his career (~50 games per year in the 90's).

The same problem can be said about Nene, who has been even more injury prone. The Nuggets were probably unwise to lock up both him and Kenyon Martin for long contracts, but they will have to ride them out and hope both players can stay on the court.

July 10, 2008

Sir Elton Brand signs with 76ers

sixerbrand.jpgAP Photo/Tom Mihalek

The LA Clippers internal plans for an Elton Brand / Baron Davis combo have been dashed. Brand has spurned the Clippers after talks "fell through", and he began to look at other offers from Golden State and Philadelphia. The 76ers initially did not have the room to sign Brand, but after a contract dump trade to Minnesota (Calvin Booth and Rodney Carney) the 76ers had room to offer Brand a near 80 million dollar deal.

Brand leaves what seemed to be a rejuvenated Clipper squad with the addition of a real PG in Baron Davis. Now he leaves the Clippers with a lot of question marks and a lot of cap space to spend on someone else. They just lost Corey Maggette a few days ago to Golden State, so maybe the Clips will wait to use their cap space later or throw some money at restricted free agents like Andre Iguodala or Emeka Okafor?

Meanwhile in Philadelphia, the addition of Brand moves this team to a top 5 team in the East with the potential to compete for the conference title in a few years. Whereas in the unforgiving Western Conference, the Clippers would have been lucky to make the playoffs with Brand. Remember, the 76ers had the Pistons down 2-1, including winning the 1st game of the series in Detroit. The series then was dominated by Detroit because of Philly's lack of a threat in the half court game (notably Andre Iguodala's 33% from the floor with 2 / 14 from three point land). Adding Brand solves the post scoring woes and along with Dalembert, the two should provide a solid defense at the basket.

The one thing the 76ers are really lacking is an outside shooter. Andre Iguodala and Andre Miller are not proficient in three point shooting. Kyle Korver was traded in the middle of last season to create some cap room, and they could really use him now. Quality shooters like Ben Gordon are on the market but he exceeds the dollar amount that the 76ers can go over with a maxed out Brand signed.

One idea is to let Andre Iguodala walk. Sure he is young and athletic, but he is demanding superstar, max contract type money after performing poorly as the top offensive option in the Eastern Conference NBA Playoffs against Detroit. Ultimately Iguodala is better as a 2nd option with someone setting him up for athletic plays at the hoop. Teams do not respect his jump shot and he does not shoot 3's. So why not let him walk to see if you might find a more complete superstar next summer or in the talent rich 2010 summer. If they were to commit to Iguodala they might regret not having that flexibility when Wade, Lebron, Bosh, Melo, etc are available.

As currently constructed, the boost with Brand should push the 76ers back into the top half of the Eastern Conference. They are finally on the upswing after the mediocrity that followed their 2001 NBA Finals run, and the Allen Iverson trade helped open up the room for all of this to happen.

July 2, 2008

LA Clippers sign FA PG Baron Davis

baronwarrior.jpgAFP/Getty Images/File/Jed Jacobsohn

It did not take long for Baron Davis to bolt the Golden State Warriors. It seemed like just yesterday watching him carve up the 67 win Dallas Mavericks in 07.

Davis followed that playoff series with one of his most productive and healthiest years in the NBA. With 21.8 pounds 4.7 rebounds 7.6 assists and 2.3 steals, Davis put up numbers all around the board. He will be taking his act to the Los Angeles Clippers.

A bold move by Clippers owner Donald Sterling, but I think now you see why Brand opted out. Corey Maggette is likely gone, so with Brand resigning at a pay cut, the Clippers could afford a big splash at point guard with Baron Davis. Beno Udrih was actually a target of Mike Dunleavy's, but was snatched back up quickly by Sacramento.

The NBA Western Conference is stacked, but look for the Clippers to fight for one of the 6-8 playoff spots with this addition (assuming Brand / Davis stay healthy). The good part of their porous 2007-08 is that players like Chris Kaman and Al Thornton got a chance to log major minutes and ball opportunities, preparing them for this moment.

The LA Clippers also drafted Indiana Guard Eric Gordon to provide a scoring spark at the 2 spot, taking over for Cuttino Mobley in what has long been a problem for the Clippers. With the addition of Gordon and Davis, there may not be enough balls to go around Gordon / Thornton / Kaman may suffer in production.

Baron Davis' LA Clippers deal is 5 years 65 million dollars. Considering how close of a max-type player Davis is, this is a steal of a deal assuming he can stay healthy until he is 34 (a big if). At least for the short term, the LA Clippers are back on the board after having a few off years following their Western Conference Semifinals year.

June 30, 2008

2008 Restricted Free Agent List

joshsmith.jpgMIKE ZARRILLI / GETTY IMAGES
A restricted agent in the NBA means that the team that holds the player has a chance to match the offer that the opposing team offers. However there are not many teams in the NBA who have significant cap room to sign the best restricted free agents. The cap has been set at 56.7 million for 2008-09 and the only team to be significantly below that for the time being is Philadelphia. Also, most of the teams with the lowest salaries for 2008-09 have their own restricted free agents to worry about like the Bobcats, Hawks, and the Warriors.

Restricted free agents

Atlanta Hawks
Josh Childress - Childress has been an extremely efficient player since coming into the league. Does not shoot threes, but has a terrific % from the floor and the line (and a high volume shooter at the line to boot). In addition to solid perimeter defense. Other teams probably notice this, and if there were more teams with cap room he would have plenty of suitors. The Hawks may luck out if Childress does not get a big offer, because if some team jumps at him with a high price tag, the Hawks likely will have to choose Smith and let Childress go.

Josh Smith - Smith is certainly one of the best players available, restricted or not restricted free agents. He is young and emerging superstar who plays electric defense, racking up steals and blocks. His shot selection can be poor at times as he is a terrible 3 point shooter, but to his credit he cut down on that a bit in 2007-08. Smith is a better player finishing at the hoop. Because he is probably the best free agent available he may get an offer, but the Hawks are more than likely to match no matter what. Smith was an unstoppable force at times against Boston in the 2007-08 NBA Finals playoffs despite his inconsistency. However, Atlanta may be forced to let Childress go.

Also: Salim Stoudamire

Charlotte Bobcats
Emeka Okafor
- Okafor turned down a big deal from the Bobcats for 13+ million a year. It is unlikely he will find a team looking to pay him more than that with his limited offensive game and injury history. No doubt he is a rock defensively in a weak center market, but again it is an issue with the lack of teams having room for him. Philadelphia already has Sam Dalembert and the Grizzlies are really the only team with a low enough cap to offer Okafor anything. But the Bobcats also have a decent amount of room and you can bet they'd match the highest offer, since they were already planning on overpaying him.

Chicago Bulls
Luol Deng
- Deng was offered 5 years 50+ million from the Bulls, as was Ben Gordon below. They both rejected, hoping to build off solid seasons in 2006-07. Then the entire Bull team laid an egg in 2007-08. Deng was less efficient from the floor and he missed 20 games, so it is unlikely he will find a deal that beats the one he didn't sign the year before.

Ben Gordon - Gordon at times can score at a superstar rate and has been noted for his late game scoring surges. He doesn't have the all around game that Deng has though and definitely should have committed to that 5 year 50 million dollar deal last year. He lost about 3 points off his scoring average and the Bulls have about 15 guards on the team including one with a huge contract in Larry Hughes. The Bulls may not be willing to give him a lot of money but not a lot of other teams have money to throw around either, so he may be forced to take a 1 year deal and hope for a better situation next year.

Cleveland Cavaliers
Daniel Gibson
- Will Gibson ever escape his identity as a three point specialist? The Cavaliers run to the playoffs showed he could be put up 20, 30 points a game in key games. He was a huge beneficiary of Lebron's driving and kicking ability and in turn will need to work on creating his own shot consistently. Cleveland might be more infatuated with Delonte West, who came over in a previous trade and was the #2 guy for the 07-08 Cavaliers with LeBron.

Delonte West - West's proven versatility make him a lock to stay in Cleveland. He was able to play off Lebron well, driving to the hoop and the free throw line at an impressive clip. Delonte can play d as well, but he may get a qualifying offer and have to sustain his play for another year to get a huge contract. His current numbers make him a mid-level signing.

Denver Nuggets
JR Smith
- JR is erratic but can be a high volume three point scorer with the athletic ability to get to the rim and create his own shot (though he is much better catching and shooting). He can play d also. His attitude is suspect and he played less than 20 minutes a game in 2007-08, so he may just have to accept the qualifying offer sent to him by Denver to prove himself again in 2008-09.

Golden State Warriors
Monta Ellis
- This guy is an underrated talent who won't get paid as much as he deserves. The Warriors know this guy is a big part of their future with his terrific finishing ability and speed in the open court. He also gets to the line at a decent rate and only his long range jumper needs work offensively.

Andris Biedrins - Another guy who has not been appreciated for his work in recent years. Biedrins is an athletic double double every night, and he can provide some blocks. He has a thin frame so he can be muscled around and his offensive game is not much besides putbacks. Still, a tall and athletic center is a valuable commodity. Nellie has not played him as much as he probably should have, but that should keep the money down that is thrown at him. Expect both of these guys to be in Golden State next year.

Houston Rockets
Carl Landry
- Per minute, this guy was an absolute monster the first half of the year. His play slowed down towards the end of the year including a rash of injuries. A cheaper restricted free agent option but another guy who will likely stick around Houston for a little while longer in hopes of receiving more playing time to prove his high PER was not a fluke.

Memphis Grizzlies
Juan Carlos Navarro
- Juan Carlos Navarro will be returning to Europe to play. Despite his claims to be fine with playing in Memphis, there was no point to stay once his friend Pau Gasol was traded to the Lakers.

Minnesota Timberwolves
Ryan Gomes
- A solid player on a bad team last year. Possibly the most consistent all around player for the Twolves, not necessarily great at any one thing but was an efficient scorer with an occasional breakout game. Another guy who might get some cheaper offers to see if the depth-packed Wolves will let him walk.

New Jersey Nets
Nenad Krstic
- Krstic at times has looked like a solid 16 points - 8 rebounds per night offensive player, but has battled injuries the last year and really throughout his career. Nenad does not play much defense but can be a solid big option for scoring, while Brook Lopez or Sean Williams focuses on interior defense. Because of his questionable health you'll likely see the Nets extend a qualifying offer for Krstic to give himself a chance to earn more money.

Philadelphia 76ers
Andre Iguodala
- Arguably the best player on this board with Okafor and Josh Smith. Probably would have been if this was rated in 2006-07 where Iguodala was a fantastic player. But Iggy has shown his offensive deficiencies, namely a poor jump shot and being prone to turnovers. For a guy looking for superstar type money, he is more of a solid #2 guy who relies on someone else to create driving / finishing opportunities. In turn Iguodala probably should have signed the big deal the Sixers offered him previously and like Okafor he will need to accept more money than he probably thinks he should be worth.

Seattle Supersonics
Robert Swift
- Swift has been one of the most injury prone players in the NBA in recent years. Long ago he was a top high school prospect, but has never panned out for a long period of time in the NBA (though he has had flashes of brilliance). His 7+ million would open things up for the Sonics, and he likely won't find that much money per year anywhere else.

Toronto Raptors
Jose Calderon
- Calderon's situation looked to be a confusing one heading into the off-season. But with the TJ Ford trade, it is more clear than ever that Calderon is the PG of the future in Toronto. Jose Calderon defines efficiency. He finished the season with a 78 assist - 2 turnover ratio, and that pretty much summed up his year. A 6 to 1 assist / turnover ratio is unheard of. Calderon's scoring was explosive earlier in the year but then he became more of a one dimensional point guard towards the end of the year. Still, he would shoot threes at a scorching 43% and 52% from the floor. He is injury prone too like Ford, but the Raptors made the right choice in trading Ford. Don't expect them to let Ford get away.

June 18, 2008

17th NBA Finals Title for Celtics

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Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics hammered the Los Angeles Lakers, 131-92, in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, leaving no question who the NBA Champion is for the 2007-2008 season. The Celtic defense continued to hound MVP Kobe Bryant, who shot a putrid 40% in this series.

Ultimately, like so many champions before them, the Celtics played dominating defense that no team or superstar could handle. The Lakers had made strides defensively, but had no where near the talent and cohesion of the Celtic defense, especially at home.

The NBA Finals MVP was Paul Pierce, who has been the scoring leader all year (all decade, really) for the Celtics. In Game 1 Pierce came back from what looked to be a scary leg injury. And came back he did, knocking down clutch 3's throughout the series and being one of the gang of Celtic wing defenders to slow down Kobe Bryant.

Ray Allen's inconsistency in the earlier part of the playoffs disappeared later on, and his 7 / 9 three point shooting for 26 points helped put the Lakers away early in Game 6. Allen also has been well documented for his work on the perimeter defending Bryant and the other Laker guards, and was doing well in the previous series' too (except against Joe Johnson).

Kendrick Perkins was striken with foul trouble and was not really a factor, but James Posey hit 3 threes and had 3 steals to help off the bench. Rondo had a beastly game defensively with 6 steals, and despite 8 / 20 shooting Rajon had 21 points 7 rebounds 8 assists to go with the steals. Besides Kevin Garnett, no player for the Celtics has had the type of impact on defense than Rajon Rondo.

Kevin Garnett had one of his best games in the playoffs in Game 6 at Boston, with 26 points 14 rebounds 4 assists 3 steals. More importantly it was Garnett's role as the anchor of this top-notch defense. This Laker team was not slowed down much by San Antonio but they were definitely at a loss for handling the Celtics. Even in the Celtic losses, it was close.

Pau Gasol was rendered ineffective throughout as well, clearly frustrated by the physicality in the post from Perkins and Garnett's athleticism. Gasol collected a fair amount of rebounds, but recorded just 3 blocks in the entire series which is indicative of the defense at the Laker rim. Having a healthy Andrew Bynum would have and will make the Lakers defense much better, but the fact of the matter for this series is that Paul Pierce and the Celtics got to the rim with little trouble.

June 6, 2008

NBA Finals Game 1 home Celtics win

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AP Photo / Charles Krupa

After a week's worth of anticipation, the LA Lakers go into the Boston Garden but are held off by the resilient Boston Celtics, 98-88. MVP Kobe Bryant has a rough night offensively, shooting 9 / 26 from the floor with nary a three pointer. Meanwhile, Paul Pierce goes down after a weird twist in his knee, but returns shortly thereafter to lead the team.

The Los Angeles Lakers actually held a five point lead going into halftime despite Bryant's struggles from the floor. Fisher (15 pts 4 rebs 6 assists), Odom (14 points 5 rebs), and Gasol (15 pts 8 rebs 4 assists) had solid if not unspectacular showings.

A big turning point in the game was in the 3rd quarter, after a struggling Radmanovic knocked down a three, he was called for a questionable foul to put him in dire foul trouble at the time. This stunted the momentum from Radmanovic's three pointer that tied the game, and the Celtics went on to outscore the Lakers by 15 points in the second half.

On Boston's side, the big turn of events for the night occurred when Bryant drove to the lane and Paul Pierce landed awkwardly, holding his knee. Pierce was fortunate to come out shortly after from the training room, as he could have been looking at his first Finals from the sideline. Instead Pierce came back into the game and hit a key three to lead the second half charge.

Kevin Garnett started off hot with 20 quick points, but as usual his scoring dipped towards the end. Still, 24 points 13 rebounds 3 assists is a nice first Finals game for KG. That he shot 9 / 22 is a sign that he is settling a bit too much for jump shots in the second half and needs to keep his first half aggression up to get high percentage shots for himself or teammates.

Ray Allen had a decent all around game with 19 points 8 rebounds 5 assists, but marred with 4 turnovers and just 5 / 13 shooting from the field (2 / 6 from 3pt land). Allen though was one of the Celtics that hounded Bryant all night into difficult shots.

And the veteran Sam Cassell broke out of his playoff slump to produce 8 points 1 assist 0 turnovers in 12 minutes, which could have been even sleeker had he knocked down one of his two three pointers attempted. The Celts though did not get much help from the other bench members, and Kendrick Perkins had just 1 point 4 rebounds in 23 minutes.

The NBA Finals are spread out more than the other playoff series. Instead of every other day, there are a few days between games. NBA Finals Game 2 will be played at 9pm eastern Sunday Night in the Boston Garden.

June 4, 2008

Joe Dumars Fires Flip Saunders

It did not take long for the axe to fall in Detroit. There was speculating that even a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals would not save Flip Saunders job, and the former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher and Minnesota Timberwolf has just been fired from him post as Detroit Pistons Head Coach.
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AP Photo/Duane Burleson, File

The easy reason for Flip Saunders being canned in Detroit is that the Pistons made the NBA Finals the two years before, including beating the Lakers to win the 2004 title. Thus Flip walked into an impossible situation considering the expectations, but he knew that going in because it was also a great opportunity for him to coach an elite team.

Detroit actually was quite successful with Saunders including the monster 2005-06 year where they went 64-18. Unfortunately in a town like Detroit, Championships are the barometer for success. The problem with Detroit is that they lost to lesser teams in each of the last 3 Eastern Conference Finals under Flip. All series were 4-2 losses for Detroit actually.

Ultimately the Pistons underachieved with Flip as the head coach, as the veterans on the team did not respect Saunders enough for whatever reason. Rasheed Wallace in particular never was reached by Saunders and his awful Game 6 is not what the Pistons needed. Maybe the Pistons were spoiled having Larry Brown as a head coach, one of the best in the business. Saunders deserved more respect but simply never got it despite his previous success with the Minnesota Timberwolves, making the playoffs 9 straight years.

Joe Dumars and the Detroit Pistons responded quickly with the hire of up-and-coming bench coach Michael Curry. As an ex player he will earn the player's respect, and has already been coaching on the team anyway.

It is unknown whether or not the Pistons will be making any significant moves in the offseason, but doing something with Rasheed Wallace is a possibility. That said there are few players with as versatile an in-out game, but not many players are as maddeningly inconsistent either.

May 31, 2008

1980's Celtics Lakers ABC NBA Finals

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Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

With the Boston Celtics win in Game 6 in Detroit, the Celtics will move on to face the champion of the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Lakers. Old school 1980's NBA fans will be savoring this matchup, as will David Stern and the NBA office once the ratings come out for the upcoming NBA Finals :) . Enough about that matchup for now; Game 1 is Thursday Night so we have plenty of time to talk about the NBA Finals buildup in the coming days.

Game 6 in Detroit was being controlled by Boston, but the Pistons made a 2nd half run to take the lead for the first time since very early in the game. However towards the end of that second half, some calls went the Celtics way and Rasheed Wallace had to sit on the bench with 5 fouls. The tide began to turn as Detroit began missing shots, making turnovers, committing fouls, etc. Paul Pierce then helped take control in the fourth as the Celtics outscored Detroit 29-13 in the 4th quarter to win 89-81.

Kevin Garnett was held to 8 points 1 rebound even into the third quarter, but he came on in the 4th quarter as well to knock down some shots and at least produce 16 points 5 rebs 4 assists. Ray Allen strangely had an average game (he has either been dreadfully bad, or he puts up 25+ points) dropping in 17 points on 3 / 8 three point shooting.

A very disappointing loss for the Detroit Pistons as they are only 2-4 in Conference Finals despite making it to the past 6 Eastern Conference Finals. Chauncey Billups fought through his leg injury to put up 29 points 6 rebounds 6 assists with no turnovers. Rip Hamilton was hurt with the elbow and was unsure about playing, but he came out to produce 21 points himself with a sleek 9 / 14 FG's from the floor.

The Pistons were sunk though with the performance of their other star players. Rasheed Wallace is a guy they need to be a factor and he was 2 / 12 from the floor, 0 / 6 from the 3pt line, for a pathetic 4 points and 3 turnovers. Tayshaun Prince was not better, shooting 3 / 10 from the floor for 10 points. These two have been inconsistent and the Pistons have still won at times, but it requires other players like Antonio McDyess to step up with monster efforts (who also had an off game with 6 pts 6 rebs in almost 40 minutes). Even Rodney Stuckey who had been a bench bright spot, was 1 / 5 in Game 6 for 4 points.

Heading into the offseason, the Pistons are in a position similar to the San Antonio Spurs who were just eliminated themselves. Both have veteran cores that have seen better days, but they are not at the point of a full rebuilding mode just yet. These teams have been great in part to their brilliant front office's so one would expect them to be able to retool and still make some noise.

The Detroit Pistons are doing a better job than the Spurs developing talent with Jason Maxiell coming along nicely, and really should be playing more for Rasheed Wallace and definitely should be taking Theo Ratliff's minutes. Stuckey has shown that he is playoff-ready should one of the guards depart or tail off, but it is unlikely. Players such as Billups who do not rely on athleticism age well moving into the latter parts of their career. Another stud on the Pistons bench is Amir Johnson, who has tore up D leagues in the past.

Definitely a bitter defeat for the Detroit Pistons at home in Game 6. Now the Los Angeles Lakers fly to the Boston Garden to take on the Boston Celtics Thursday Night on ABC.

Will Garnett / Allen / Pierce get their rings? Or will the MVP get his 4th? As a believer in the Western Conference every year, my money is on MVP Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers in 6 games.

May 30, 2008

Bryant, LA Lakers get Finals Ticket

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Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The defending champion San Antonio Spurs are no more. The Spurs have a ticket to San Antonio but the LA Lakers won in 5 games and have a Finals Ticket to Boston or a Finals Ticket for Detroit, whoever wins that Eastern Conference Finals matchup.

Another disappointing effort from the Spurs, yet Game 5 showed how close the Spurs were to taking a few of these games and making it a different series. The SA Spurs had a 17 point lead in the first half, not the first time they lost a huge lead to the Lakers this series. Some of the role players for LA made timely shots like Farmar and Odom, but the MVP led the way in this game.

NBA MVP Kobe Bryant
had 39 points on 16 / 30 shooting, doing it the hard way with only 5 points from free throws. Kobe's closing ability in the 4th quarter was the difference as he never let the Spurs get ahead. Bruce Bowen can get up in his grill, but Kobe has the athletic ability to get separation to create a shot and has the vertical and finesse to finish.

It was a heroic effort from Tim Duncan who has been laying it all on the line for the Spurs, but just has not received enough help. Duncan managed 19 points 15 rebounds 10 assists but on only 7 / 19 shooting. The length of Gasol and Odom bothered Duncan's ability to finish inside, despite the fact that he could out-muscle them at will.

Another game where Manu Ginobili just did not show up. It is no surprise that the one game Manu went off with 30 points, the Spurs win. Because that's how it went through the previous Spurs Finals runs. Whether it is that ankle injury, or whether Ginobili just did not shoot / finish like he has in the past, the Spurs have to be nervous heading into the future.

Sure Duncan will age well as a big, and Parker is still reliable. But the Spurs need scoring options badly with Manu looking inconsistent at best, and is probably suited to a role where the team is less reliant on him to be successful (maybe as a true bench player). The Spurs though do not have a lot of flexibility to make changes until 2010, but a lot of high profile free agents will be available then including LeBron James.

San Antonio Spurs fans and haters alike, be sure to remember that besides the Lakers title run, the Spurs have won every odd year title since 1999.

Celtics edge Pistons in Game 5 win

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AP Photo / Winslow Townson

In a highly contested Game 5, the Boston Celtics came out the victor at home to take a 3-2 series lead. The series moves to Detroit for a Game 6 on Friday but there are some important variables to look at before that.

Richard Hamilton scored 25 points 4 rebounds 6 assists 2 steals with an efficient shooting night in Game 5 but Rip also hurt his elbow at the end of the game. Hamilton was in a lot of pain so it remains to be seen if Hamilton will play in Game 6 as he is questionable with that elbow as of right now.

Chauncey Billups had a bounce back game with 26 points albeit on 7 / 17 shooting, but seeing him hit big 3 point shots down the stretch was a great sign for the Pistons. Rasheed Wallace also banged home 6 three points for 18 points but had some choice comments after the game. He went off on the officials in this game as the flopping got a little out of hand and there were a lot of soft touch foul calls on the Pistons. Of course Rasheed was fined 25,000$ for opening his mouth but you have to respect a guy who tells it like it is even when he knows it's going to cost him money.

The Boston Celtics were fortunate enough to get a monster performance from Kendrick Perkins with 18 points 16 rebounds 2 steals 2 blocks. With the attention the Big Three on Boston require, Perkins was able to get 5 offensive rebounds and easy baskets, making 8 out of 11 shots.

Ray Allen also decided to break out once more. He had a spectacular Game 2 and then went back to the Ray Allen of the 2008 NBA Playoffs by shooting about 33% the next two games. In Game 5 Ray Allen got hot, getting some easy baskets and 5 three pointers for 29 points on the night. This was needed because Paul Pierce had a so-so offensive game with 16 points to go with 4 rebounds and 5 assists.

Kevin Garnett has another lights out game with 33 points 7 rebounds and he even hit a three pointer. Best yet Garnett shot 10 / 12 free throws and 11 /' 17 from the floor. This type of efficiency creates so many easy baskets not only for himself but for Perkins and creates space for Allen to shoot.

Game 6 largely will depend on the health of the Pistons. With a healthy Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton, expect a gutty effort from the Pistons in a Game 6 win. If Hamilton cannot go or is ineffective, the Celtics proved they are capable of winning in Detroit.

May 27, 2008

College High School Wrestling sites

ESPN and Yahoo cover the major sports well but I'm a big fan of amateur wrestling and had a problem finding a quality site to keep up with the daily news going on in the College and High School Wrestling world. Most of the sites I found were built poorly, or you could tell they were not updated consistently.

I was checking around the UMN blogs and found a College Wrestling News website. There is a Wrestling Fan that updates the site with wrestling rankings, videos, news, and even has a wrestling talk forum.

Within this network of wrestling sites there is also a wrestling rankings website that has user-created content for each and every state. Basically it is providing a medium for groups of wrestlers / wrestling fans to keep track of the matches and overall rankings throughout the country. Having all of that data at one website makes for some interesting yet simple analysis of the best wrestlers in High School.

NCAA College Wrestling Ranking News