Dancing With Noah

Just messing around, getting triple doubles

Category Archives: Atlantic Division

Day One: Agony & Ecstasy Already?

It didn’t take long for the big red balloon of optimism to pop over the city of Chicago and rain down tears in the shapes of dripping red-hued question marks. All the finger pointing in the world (at Thibodeau, at the shortened season, at Derrick’s delicate 2012 body) won’t put Derrick’s ACL back together again, so let’s march on for a quick review of Saturday’s agonies and ecstasies:

Philly at Chicago, game one: The Bulls were their controlled, dominant selves with Rip Hamilton flashing and dashing off baseline screens and running Philly defenders ragged like it was 2004 all over again. If the Bulls, sans Rose, can somehow continue to score close to 100 points, this series won’t last long. They know how to behave with C.J. Watson at the helm and will continue to execute Thibodeau’s air tight game plans, but can Doug Collins’s squad find a way to step up their defense and put points on the board against a stubborn Bulls team? I don’t know, but I’m guessing Lavoy Allen is not the answer.

Random fact: Chicago was 22-0 when scoring 100 points or more this season.

New York at Miami, game one: 100 to 67? So much for the hype machine, Melo vs. Bron, Amar’e vs. Bosh, Shumpert vs. Wade (?) and New York’s three-point bombing bench. This was supposed to be the matchup we were all slobbering over, but instead game one had that dreamlike falling feeling, but we never woke up; or at least the Knicks didn’t wake up. Since no one really knows who the Knicks are (Knicks included), it’s impossible to imagine what we’ll get in the next three to six games, but my buddy Bug made a great, although mostly unrelated, point: Miami with Tyson Chandler instead of Chris Bosh would be a nightmare.

Random fact: Miami finished the regular season 18-0 when shooting over 50% as a team. Translation: LeBron and Dwyane: Don’t give into temptation, avoid the three.

Tragic ending: To Iman Shumpert’s season. Like Rose an hour or so before, the rookie who’d been somewhat prematurely anointed as one of the league’s top perimeter defenders (already?) tore his ACL as well.

Orlando at Indiana, game one: Here’s another one I caught on the highlight reel. The stories of this game: Danny Granger wet the bed, Roy Hibbert blocked nine shots (life’s a lot simpler when you get Big Baby instead of Dwight Howard) and Stan Van Gundy continues to build support in the ongoing Dwight vs. Stan feud.

Random fact: The Magic is 10-1 all-time when winning game one of a series.

Dallas at OKC, game one: The legend of Kevin Durant continues to grow. He got a true shooter’s bounce to win the game for OKC and send the bench and hometown fans in euphoria. Even though some of the names and faces have changed and James Harden’s beard takes up a little more mass, it felt like carryover from last year’s Western Conference Finals—minus Dirk being perpetually en fuego.

Rejected!: OKC led the league in blocks per game and their 8.2bpg is the fifth most per-game total in league history. They tallied eleven blocks on Saturday.

Sunday’s games added more piss and vinegar to the mix (we see you, Rajon). I’ll be back here tomorrow with another recap. And in the meantime, leave us all to ponder if anyone plays with a Marc Gasolian zeal for the game. It’s like he took all that energy his brother has channeled into primordial roars and re-directed it to positivity and an acknowledgement that he’s paid to play basketball for a living.

3 x 15 Club welcomes Rajon!

In a week when rumors ran rampant that the Celtics were “aggressively” looking to trade their enigmatically styled point guard, little Rajon Rondo responded by blowing the dust off his headband and putting Boston on his back in a Sunday matinee against the Knicks. Rondo went for 18 points, 17 rebounds and 20 assists in the overtime victory. That line is crazy even if came with a D’Antoni caveat.

To put Rondo’s statistical performance into context, I took a journey to Basketball-Reference.com’s Player Game Finder and found out that since 1985, only three other players have performed the improbable 3 x 15 (15 points, 15 rebounds, 15 assists in one game):

Rondo, more exclusive than secret societies.

**I didn’t see the tail end of ABC’s Knicks-Celtics broadcast today, so if they flashed some stat graphs referencing the numbers above, I can’t be accused of stat-jacking since I had no awareness of its existence.

I don’t get many Compliments, but I am Confident – Sixers Preview

I can’t quite put a finger or a thumb on it, but I feel like this year’s Philadelphia 76ers are going to improve on last year’s 41-41 record and 7th seed in the playoffs. If I had big ol’, Elton Brand mitts, I bet I could get a better grasp on it, but as it stands, I just have a few ideas sketched out below. These ideas are subject to refutation by fans of the Pacers, Bucks, Knicks, Bobcats or anyone else who stands to gain from Philly failure.

Where to begin with the squad housed in the City of Brotherly Love, the home of the (Legendary) Roots Crew and formerly the greatest court in league history? Let’s start with Coach Doug Collins who’s played, coached and commentated on the league since 1973. I was aware of Doug’s reputation as somewhat of a fixer-upper of a coach, but didn’t realize how serious it was until I took a look at his career performance as a coach:

Coach Season Team W L Win Change
Stan   Albeck 1985-86 Bulls

30

52

N/A

Doug   Collins 1986-87 Bulls

40

42

+10

Doug   Collins 1987-88 Bulls

50

32

+10

Don Chaney 1994-95 Pistons

28

52

N/A

Doug   Collins 1995-96 Pistons

46

36

+18

Doug   Collins 1996-97 Pistons

54

28

+8

Leonard   Hamilton 2000-01 Wizards

19

63

N/A

Doug   Collins 2001-02 Wizards

37

45

+18

Doug   Collins 2002-03 Wizards

37

45

0

Eddie   Jordan 2009-10 Sixers

27

55

N/A

Doug   Collins 2010-11 Sixers

41

41

+14

Doug   Collins 2011-12 Sixers

?

?

?

How great would it be to see Doug Collins host an NBA version of This Old House where he takes a poorly managed or neglected roster and walks us through the remodeling job? I’d watch for sure. Back to the straight dope…I’d be intentionally deceiving you if I didn’t recognize injuries and acquisitions played a role in Collins’s ability to turn a loser into a winner. The cynic might say he’s just savvy at accepting the right jobs at the right time (kind of like Red Auerbach trying to poo poo Phil Jackson’s rings) and that may be the case. But given his nearly 40 years of experience in the NBA and irrefutable successes, I would passionately disagree with those cynics.

Collins runs his team like a basketball communal. Eight players played between 21 and 37 minutes per night and six of those eight averaged double digit points with Brand leading the way at 15. Everyone contributed and did so at different positions which added to their versatility. If Evan Turner is able to develop his offensive skills and maturity and start at the two, they’ll have a pair of strong ball-handling, multi-dimensional wings to play alongside the most captivating player on the team and the primary reason I expect the Doug Collins magic to continue: Jrue Holiday: A 6’3” point guard who’s only 21, rebounds well for his position, started all 82 games last year, consistently funked up defenders with a compact spin move and has tremendous feel for the game. Part of me thinks it’s a shame that the majority of casual or local NBA fans live in the darkness when it comes to the ways of the Jrue. But then I think about it a little more and in a world where we’re saturated to the center of our beings with nonstop information to the point that we’re stressed out, anxious and distracted, I’m thankful for the truths that have yet to be mass-marketed, consumed, regurgitated and then demanded a trade…I’m thankful for Jrue Holiday.

With the natural blends of youth (Holiday, Turner, Lou Williams and maybe Thad Young and Spencer Hawes), experience (Andre Iguodala) and wisdom (Brand and Collins), and a core group that includes six to eight of their top producers from last year, Philly’s ready for organic growth and progression.

Waiting for Super Men – New York Knicks Preview

*The following was contributed by the homie Milton

When I think of the New York Knicks, the word that first comes to mind is trying. There’s been a lot of trying going on in New York for years but very little to show for it.

Sure, they’ve got two of the biggest names in the NBA under contract and fans are willing to pay admission to see them put up gaudy offensive stats and brutalize opposing defenders from 16 feet and closer, but where has this all really gotten them? In order to go forward with this team, we need to review how they got here.

When the Knicks landed Amare Stoudemire as a consolation prize in free agency 2010, the NBA was abuzz with the upcoming Stoudemire/Mike D’Antoni reunion. Amare did his part early in the 2010 season by putting up MVP numbers – 30 points in nine consecutive games is impressive. What matters more perhaps is that eight of those nine games were Knick wins and in the 9th (a home loss to Boston) Amare’s just-a-split-second-too-late-3 from the top of the key would have been the game winner. Stoudemire has never been known for his rebounding, but he was doing plenty of that early last year reaching double-digit boards in 16 of 32 games and 8+ in six more.

The cast around Amare was playing well too. Danilo Gallinari emerged as a guy that can’t be left open. Notorious fat kid and crybaby Raymond Felton was enjoying a career year. Lightly-sought-after rookie Landry Fields (Isaiah’s apologetic olive branch to NYK?) looked like a legit ROY candidate and Wilson Chandler did what he does – play good basketball and keep his mouth shut. It all seemed too good to be true. And it was.

One thing was clear from the beginning with this team: They weren’t supposed to be good yet.  James Dolan’s vision of the Knicks’ return to Eastern Conference supremacy needed two things: more time and more money spent.

Carmelo Anthony made it very clear he wanted a trade to the Knicks and would only sign an extension with them. Denver, not wanting to get left with nothing in return, found itself in a bad spot. No team would give them meaningful pieces to rent Melo for the remainder of the season but Denver wasn’t going to just give him away either. For weeks the back and forth went on, the speculation in the media clearly bothered Denver and George Karl. When the deal was finally done on Feb 22nd, the Knicks gave up three key pieces (Felton, Chandler and Timofey Mozgov) for Melo, Chauncey Billups’s ball and chain of a contract, and a few other players. The Minnesota T-Wolves were involved in the deal as well, but giving David Kahn any space in this post would be wasteful, so we’ll just move on.

The results for the Knicks were nothing spectacular. The pre trade 5-man starting unit of Felton-Fields-Chandler-Gallinari-Stoudemire won 62.8% of its games while the 5-man unit of Billups-Fields-Anthony-Stoudemire-Turiaf won 50% of its games. In fact, no 5-man unit post Melo trade won more 55% of its games and each unit had a positive net turnover percentage (giving up more TOs than taking from the opposition).  The Knicks made the playoffs and were promptly swept by an aging Celtics team that showed little fight in a 2nd round smothering at the hands of Lebron and D Wade. That’s all fine with Dolan and D’Antoni. 2011 was never supposed to be the Knicks’ year. This was just another season of trying because incremental improvement can be sold to fans.

As for the 2011-12 season, there’s really not too much to say about this group. They drafted Iman Shumpert from Georgia Tech – a player who rocketed up the draft board the way freak athletes do following absurd NFL combine performances but doesn’t have a true position. They’re still largely the same team that Boston swept in Round 1: Chauncey Billups is a year older. Landry Fields should be better and in my opinion is the most interesting player on this team. Melo and Amar’e will get buckets and thrill the crowd, but won’t guard anyone. And it won’t matter because Mike D’Antoni doesn’t care if they guard people. He’s been trying to win with an ill-suited system for several years. 7 Seconds or Less sounds like fun to play in but, in my view, it won’t win any rings. As constructed, I don’t think this is even a playoff team and I’ve got them penciled in for #3 in the Atlantic behind Boston and Philly.

The Knicks want Chris Paul. CP3 wants the Knicks too, in the worst of ways. If you spend any time online, you’re aware of this. If you follow the NBA, you know the Knicks don’t have the hustle to get it done. Stoudemire ($16.4 mil), Melo ($17.1 mil) and Billups ($13.1 mil) make up the vast majority of the payroll – there’s just one other player under contract set to make more than $4 million and that’s Ronny Turiaf. Zeke mortgaged their future to get guys like Eddy Curry and Jerome James so they have no picks to throw in. The only way CP ends up in a Knick uniform this year is if a third team is willing to get involved. If that’s to happen you can bet a lot of real shitty contracts will be on the move … Or CP3 can wait until next year and sign with them for dirt cheap. Not likely.

If Dolan can find a way to keep building without giving up too much of the future, the only chance they have to compete for titles is to find a coach that values both ends of the floor and all aspects of the game including developing a bench (D’Antoni is known for playing his starters heavy minutes – even in blowouts).  Maybe the Knicks’ endgame is luring a highly successful, recently-retired coach back to the franchise he helped to win titles with as a player…

Phil Jackson, knicks

The Future is only a Phone Call Away

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