Saturday, December 24, 2011

NBA Week 1 (Christmas Games)

The NBA is BACK - probably the best xmas present I could have asked for - you know, if Santa Claus was real... New players in new cities (CP3 is a Clipper / Mike Dunleavy is a Buck), the Mavs are flying completely under the radar with no one giving them a chance to repeat, the Heat will look to improve on their runner up finish last year with the Big Three. But arguably the best reason to have the NBA back is that we get our first legitimate contributor to the blog - Ram Narayanan (NBA extraordinaire). There's really not much of an intro needed, so I'll let the blog speak for itself. Check out the Xmas game picks after the jump...

Boston @ New York (-4), Noon - TNT
Paul Pierce injured. Jeff Green out for season with a heart. Rajon Rondo likely going to be demonstrating some vintage immature bitterness about being potentially traded for Chris Paul? Seriously? If he’s bitter, he really shouldn’t be, because he’s nowhere near as good as CP3. He should be honored to be the centerpiece of a trade for CP3. But we all know he’s immature and a baby, so one of two things will happen: he’ll either be the little bitch that we all think he is or he’ll come out with something to prove (which would be kind of funny because he legitimately has no redeemable scoring ability, so it would be like “IM SO MAD THAT IM GONNA PASS TO RAY ALLEN FOR A WIDE OPEN THREE. YEAH! PROVED THOSE HATERS WRONG! HI RIHANNA!”)
Anyways, you want my two cents: Rondo is the most overrated point guard in the league. Yes he’s good, but he’s a product of his circumstances. I’m not mad at him. I’m just saying he shouldn’t get gassed off Ray Allen and KG hitting wide-open shots and then him getting 10 assists a game. How many wide open shots do you think Kris Humphries and Travis Outlaw are missing each game for Deron Williams? Yeah…(funny stat that I’m going to throw in here because I can do whatever the hell I want: apparently Lebron James has the lowest percentage of assists in the league of players that average over some random number of assists that result in layups/dunks…basically he produces the least “valuable” assists – the Rondo kind. I don’t have a similar stat for Rondo, but I imagine a lot of his assists are for mid-range and long-distance shots. Alternatively, those alley-oops that CP3 tosses up are the most valuable kind.)
I want to believe that this New York team could be pretty damn legit, sporting the best front-court in the league (barely beating out Memphis. LAL would probably be number one if Lamar was still around, so I’m gonna keep them here tentatively until we find out what they do with that second round pick they got for him). Buuuuut here’s the thing: with teams having an egregious number of back-to-backs this year (and even a few back-to-back-to-backs), can I safely assume that Mike D’Antoni’s offense won’t just destroy Amare’s knees? (I think Tyson should be getting the benefit of the doubt injury-wise after last year, but we do need to remember that the Thunder had to cancel a trade for him last second a couple years ago because their doctors said his toe was too much of an injury-risk for the owner’s small pockets to assume). Also, even if they do stay healthy, they’re going to be dealing with the issue that they’re going to have minimal practice-time to gel. Amare and Carmelo could barely figure it out last year with Chauncey running the show. How are they going to integrate Tyson Chandler and Baron Davis? (I’m trying soooo hard to remember that current Baron is not the Warriors-over-the-#1-seed-Mavs Baron).
Also, side note to Knicks fans: you’re like the NBA’s version of all NFC East fans. Figure it out.
Pick: Still not sure the Celtics still have a full roster – doesn’t matter – they’ll handle the Knicks at MSG. Take Boston and the points.
 Miami (-4.5) @ Dallas, 2:30 ET – ABC
Let’s get one thing clear here: losing Tyson Chandler is huge. I lied. Two things need to be made clear: losing JJ Barrea is not. Sure it was cute what he did in the finals. His game is gimmicky – it’s not going to last long-term. Let me caveat all of that with this: there is a 75% chance that I’m just bitter about the fact that he’s dating the former Miss Universe and that he claims that their relationship started by him getting her number and texting her “Hi I hope you’re doing good,” but whatever. Fuck JJ Barrea.
Another side note for the fans: when me and my friends were in High School (probably some point in 2005), we had a discussion about who the best starting five of all time would be. Then we would come up with another one to try and beat the previous one. At one point, out friend Kunle decided to exclude Michael Jordon from his team (blasphemy) and insert Dirk Nowitzki instead. I think we took his piece of paper from him and slapped him in the face with it until he cried, but that’s neither here nor there. For 4 games in the NBA Finals, Dirk was the most unstoppable offensive force I have ever seen. (I put it above Kobe’s 81 because it was the Finals and above Lebron’s 25 straight points because when Dirk does it, I feel like its replicable) My point: Kunle, you were still wrong for putting Dirk in your 5 over the GOAT, but I forgive you for crying when Drew slapped you with your roster.
 Word on the road is that Lebron is finally committing to developing a post-game. Lebron, of the “I’ll do whatever it takes to win” ilk but simultaneously cut from the “it’s not fun to play in the post” cloth. Whatever man. This whole Lebron has a high basketball IQ thing is just silly talk. He doesn’t. He’s good at basketball. If he had a high basketball IQ, he would have developed a post game last offseason, knowing that it would be invaluable to a team with this personnel. As a matter of fact, let’s just call him out on his general IQ while we’re at it: Lebron, please learn what the word ”humble” means. Please learn how to correctly use the word “myself” in a sentence. Throwing those words around doesn’t make you sound intelligent. I know you think it does, but it doesn’t. (He didn’t go to college, so maybe that explains it?) Getting a lot of assists doesn’t mean you have a high basketball IQ. It just means you’re bigger and more skilled than other players.
I also want to comment on the Shane Battier addition. Do I think it’s a good one? Yes. Do I think that money would have been better spent on a center? Yes. But whatever. I really just wanted to bring him up so I could talk about J. Cole. How funny do you think it was when someone told Shane Battier that he got a shoutout on a J. Cole track? I mean, obviously Shane Battier only listens to Mozart and Norah Jones, but he must’ve gotten a little bit excited, thinking that maybe now people will stop making fun of him. Imagine that guys face when he turned on “Rise and Shine” and just heard “brother you’re lame, you’re Shane Battier.” That’s gotta be rough. Sorry Shane. Go put your hand in people’s face while they’re dribbling.
Pick: In this NBA finals rematch both teams will definitely give their best – Unfortunately for the Mavericks, the Heat’s best is better than their best. Take the Heat to roll in this one.
Chicago (-2) @ LA Lakers, 5 ET - ABC
Really couldn’t care less about this game anymore. No Andrew Bynum due to suspension (hitting JJ Barrea like that is really the definition of “studio gangster,” isn’t it?). Kobe probably out due to a torn wrist ligament. No Khloe K to annoy the opposing team. No Lamar Odom to fill in for Bynum and carry the second unit. Derek Fisher has probably lost a lot of blood cutting his wrists after each of his meetings with David Stern. This Laker team looks doomed for a first-round playoff series on the road followed by Kobe calling to ship someone out.
Rip Hamilton to Chicago is really the only thing intriguing about this Bulls team right now. We got their whole schtick last year: play swarming defense and rely on Derrick Rose to bail us out. It’s almost like the Cavs-with-Lebron except that every non-Rose position on the Bulls is filled by a better player than the Cavs had at every non-Lebron position. If Rip is any semblance of his old self (and I honestly have no idea what his deal is because I instantly turn off games that the Pistons are in), this is a good addition for this team.
Long story short, everything at this point in the East just seems like a formality until we get to a final four where the Knicks and Celtics get left behind for an exciting Bulls-Heat ECF.
Pick: This game is asking us to take the Bulls. I can literally see the line as Chicago (-2?). Seems too easy to jump on – which means we’ll roll with the Lake-Show to get things started on the right foot in La La land.
Orlando @ OKC (-8), 8 ET - ESPN
Russell Westbrook for Dwight Howard. Dwight re-signs with OKC. OKC flips Kendrick Perkins for a respectable starting PG (Kyle Lowry??). Dwight, Ibaka, Durant, Harden, Lowry with Thabo and Collison and Maynor coming off the bench? YES PLEASE.
Here’s the weird thing about this Orlando team: they’re still a really good regular season team, aren’t they? They grabbed the four seed last year off of the “we have Dwight Howard” factor. If they’re going to lose Dwight, doesn’t it kind of just make sense to deal him right away so that they can at least get a higher pick in what’s supposed to be a pretty deep draft? Are they really going to trick themselves into thinking that they can keep Dwight? With Hedo’s contract eating up space for however many years? After just giving Jason Richardson and unreasonable amount of money? I don’t get why Otis Smith still has a job – is it just because he was friends with Gilbert Arenas and everyone was afraid that Gilbert would go all Agent Zero on everyone and turn Ryan Anderson into the Magic’s Javaris Crittenden? Who knows. Side note: Ryan Anderson is still way better than he gets credit for. I think its because he’s white.
Pick: If I were into gambling, which I’m not – I’d say take Oklahoma City all day every day. The Thunder are a legitimate contender for the Western Conference – the Magic are a few weeks away from going into draft lottery mode.
LA Clippers (-5.5) @ Golden State, 10:30 ET - ESPN
Really? This was an opening night game? Or did league management decide last minute that “Hey, this whole lob city thing could be real profitable for us. This could be the Miami Heat that people love to love instead of hate. Yeah let’s cash in.” Good management? Sure. But after that whole “nixing CP3 to the Lakers” fiasco, Stern should probably consider being a little bit less transparent in terms of his business-first approach. (Side note: sure there was a serious conflict of interest at play there and sure there is the potential that the trade had been approved and Stern nixed it because owners were whining and sure there was the whole “we’re going to let Dell Demps run the show on his own” thing, but if we put allllllll of that aside, and just assume David Stern nixed this trade as an owner, then I say he did a damn good job. The league is trying to sell the team. No one wants a bunch of 30+ year olds that are going to get booted in the first round this year and then be irrelevant going forward. Even if they’re forced to flip Eric Gordon, who apparently wants out of NO, they’re still a better looking asset going forward in light of the deal that actually went down. I don’t feel bad for anyone in this deal but the Houston Rockets, who went from being on track to becoming a legit contender with a Pau Gasol and Nene frontcourt to an 8th seed/lottery team. I would feel bad for the Lakers, but that just doesn’t make any sense given the whole “they’re the Lakers” thing.) Alternatively, I don’t care about that at all and it’s going to work out really well for me, cuz all I’m going to be doing on Christmas Day is sitting at my aunt’s house watching basketball and trying to not have to talk to any of my uncles. So thanks, Stern…I guess.
Either way, we need to get real here. There’s lots of talk about how this team isn’t complete enough (lacking real shooting guards and any depth in the frontcourt) to really compete to come out of the West. Talk about how they’ll be good, they’ll make the second round of the playoffs, and it’ll be fun for Clippers fans. Let’s just get it together here basketball fans. Assuming Chris Paul’s knee doesn’t implode, this team is going to make the Western Conference Finals and play the Thunder. Somehow we forget that Chris Paul is in that rarefied air with only Lebron and Dwight. That whole “a team with me and a bunch of fetuses is at least making the first round of the playoffs and competing for the second.” Please see: NO, Orlando, and Cleveland for the last 8 years. Really? That Cavs team made it to the finals with Larry Hughes getting Ray Allen money? Really? Orlando made it to the finals with Hedo Turkoglu running the show? Give me a break. Chris Paul, Lebron James, Dwight Howard – these guys make teams instantly relevant and they make guys like Marco Bellinelli and Anthony Parker seem like legitimate rotation guys when they’re clearly not. Blake Griffin? An up and coming DeAndre Jorndan? A healthy Caron Butler? Chauncy Billups? Mo Williams? These are all above-average starters in the NBA. Chris Paul has never had more than two of those kind of guys on his team at once.  Lob City. It’s going down. (Or up? I don’t know…Again, this is all assuming that his lack of cartilage doesn’t cause serious career-ending bone erosion. Whatup Brandon Roy.)

Pick: Lob City’s first show on Christman Day – If I’m still awake for the end of these games I’ll be happy. I’ll also enjoy a Clippers romp over a Curry-less Warriors team. 

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