Tag Archives: Los Angeles Lakers

Celtics Win as Heat’s Growing Pains Continue

The NBA has taken a back seat as of late, and with good reason, as the NFL season hits full stride. But it’s tough to forget — this year is easily one of the most anticipated NBA seasons in recent memory, if not ever. And while I haven’t caught much of the Lakers yet this season, they are undefeated. The Celtics have looked very impressive, led by the play of Rajon Rondo, and have shown incredible depth. Which brings us to the newcomers on the block — the Miami Heat. I’ve now watched them play the Celtics twice, and the growing pains are very evident. Last night’s 112-107 victory was not nearly as close as the score suggests.

Ray Allen dropped 35 points and was 7-7 from behind the arc at one point, equaling Lebron’s point total for the game. Rondo had 16 assists and an incredible dunk (shown above), and both Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett had good games. In other words, the Celtics were clicking on all cylinders. Lebron’s 35 points aside, Dwayne Wade had 8 points and Chris Bosh played poorly.

Since Lebron’s trade to Miami, I have been one of the few who whole-heartedly and without hesitation bought into the Heat. I think they will learn to click, and I think they will be a major force in the league. I’m sticking by that. But at this point, I think they need to take a page out of the Celtic’s playbook. I see Lebron playing much as he did in Cleveland — the offense seems to be running almost completely through him at this point. He had 35 points, great, but Wade had 8 and Bosh mine as well have not been on the floor. This team needs to learn to let a new star step up each night — they need to learn to feed the hot hand. And many nights that might not be any of the big 3, but rather a role player who is left wide open.

We’ll see if the Heat can get it together — I’m sure they will. But for right now, it certainly looks like we are steering towards another Celtics-Lakers NBA Finals. And God knows I’m good with that.

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Heat? Celtics? Lakers? 2011 NBA Predictions

Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers

By Jon Levin, howiGit Contributing Writer, Los Angeles, CA

The NFL’s preseason is officially underway and baseball is in its final regular season stretch, yet I find myself primarily intrigued by the NBA – basketball hasn’t managed to disappear this offseason.  This summer will go down as one of the more wild and significant off-seasons in the league’s history.  Numerous perennial all stars and franchise players changed teams to drastically shift the NBA’s balance of power.  Specifically, the Eastern Conference got much stronger. 

Chicago has gone from a low playoff seed to a championship contender with the acquisitions of Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer (basically half of the 2009 Utah Jazz), and CJ Watson.  They already had a great core with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Taj Gibson — now they have another beast inside, shooters/perimeter defenders to compliment them, and a new coach in Tom Thibodeau — who in my opinion has the best defensive mind in the game.

Milwaukee had a tremendous year last year considering everyone’s expectations for them.  They ended up a six seed and played extremely well against Atlanta.  Brandon Jennings has the potential to be a top 5 point guard in the next few years; the Bucks resigned John Salmons, traded for Corey Maggette, and drafted a huge sleeper in my eyes in Larry Sanders.  If Andrew Bogut comes back healthy and playing at the level he was last year (a top 5 center), the Bucks will continue on their path of improvement and could easily sneak out of the 1st round of playoffs. 

The Knicks are also a team that greatly improved.  Their starting lineup last year looked something like this: Toney Douglas, Wilson Chandler, Tracy McGrady, Danillo Gallinari, and David Lee.  Now, it’s probably going to look more like this: Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler/Roger Mason, Danilo Gallinari, Anthony Randolph, and Amare Stoudemire.  With Amare, Randolph, and Felton coming in, the Knicks have a new look of veteran players that aren’t past their prime and still have a lot left in the tank.  They also have depth with guys like Toney Douglas, Ronny Turiaf, and Bill Walker coming off the bench.  While they’re not seriously going to contend for a title, they made good moves this summer and have put themselves in a position to get into the playoffs and make another splash in the free agency market next summer (Carmelo?). 

When it really comes down to it, the NBA only has three teams in each conference with any legitimate chance of making the finals.  In the East, its Miami, Boston, and Orlando.  In the West, it’s the Lakers, Thunder, and Mavericks.  Orlando still has the best interior defender in the league and has surrounded Mr. Howard with tons of perimeter shooters to help run their inside-out offensive game plan.  It has worked quite well for them the last few years, however they just don’t seem to have enough consistency with their outside shot (what 3-point shooting team really does?) as they have fallen to the Lakers and Celtics respectively.  Vince Carter also completely disappeared in the playoffs last year, and for a guy who makes over $16 million a year, you just can’t expect to win it all when your secondary option on offense falls apart when you need him the most.

 Boston has a very similar look to last year with the return of all five of their starters, yet their bench will have a very different look.  You can tell their focus was on bolstering up their frontcourt with the signings of Jermaine O’Neal and Shaq due to the serious knee injury Kendrick Perkins suffered in game 6 of the Finals.  However, I think the loss of Tony Allen is much bigger than it may seem right now.  I watched this guy give LeBron the hardest time he may have ever experienced on a basketball court in the 2nd round this year.  It was actually really fun to watch how well Tony Allen was able to stay in front of LeBron and deny his ability to get to the line, which he tried to do even more than usual due to his “injured” elbow.  Allen also did a solid job making life much more difficult on Kobe than most wing defenders are capable of.  The Celtics are hoping young rookie Avery Bradley will be their backup two-guard who can come in and replace Tony Allen’s defensive-minded approach off the bench.  In that respect, he has some large shoes to fill. 

 The Heat have gotten a ton of attention this summer, and rightfully so.  They went from irrelevant to having 2 top 5 players in the league and arguably 3 of the top 10.  I find it hard to imagine them struggling in the regular season, but when the playoffs come around, injuries affect everyone and players’ true colors always shine brightest.  The Heat represent a “wait and see” championship contender for me.  If one of the big three goes down or is half the player he can be because of an injury (especially Chris Bosh), their chances decrease much more drastically than other teams like Boston and LA, who have serious depth off the bench.

The Thunder have the best young core of players in the NBA.  I truly believe they will be a top 4 seed in the West this year and they’re only going to continue to get better.  Kevin Durant is a superstar, Russell Westbrook is a consistent jump shot away from being a star, Jeff Green is a great third option, and James Harden’s role and impact are going to increase.  The Thunder also showed a level of effort last year that I haven’t seen from a team in a long time.  I really don’t see any team but the Lakers giving them serious problems for the next few years. 

 The Mavericks on paper look pretty crazy.  Kidd, Marion, Nowitzki, Butler, Haywood, Chandler, and Beaubois.  I see the Mavericks having another successful regular season, yet even with all that talent, I cant see them beating the Lakers (or even the Thunder) in a 7 game series that they probably wont have home court advantage in.  Their level of talent and established veteran roster still keep them relevant in the discussion.

Last, but certainly not least, we have the Lakers.  I know its going to come off as being a homer, but I still think the Lakers are the best team in the NBA.  They still have the best player in the game, the best starting frontcourt in the game in Gasol & Bynum, a top 3 perimeter defender in Ron Artest, a clutch performer in Derek Fisher, and the greatest coach of all-time in Phil Jackson.  Oh, and they got better this summer too.  They added Steve Blake, Matt Barnes (who was a starting SF on a 59 win team last year – he’ll be the 8th man on this team?), and don’t forget Lamar Odom (a member of Team USA this year).  Both on paper, and considering they are back-to-back defending champions, you can’t really dethrone the champs just yet. 

 PREDICTION: Heat vs. Lakers Finals, Lakers win in 6 games.  The NBA has wanted LeBron in the finals these past three seasons and now that he joined Wade’s team in Miami, they finally just might get their wish (and no way he gets swept out of the finals again, not that I would mind that). 

A final thought – I couldn’t help but notice the past few weeks that Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson, and Tracy McGrady were all having an extremely difficult time finding a job and all weren’t considered the top free agent available.  For the first time in my life, I feel old.

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Shaq, Youkilis — Thoughts on Boston Sports

Shaq

The Celtics signing Shaq and Kevin Youkilis’ thumb injury are both topics that deserve their own posts, but I have a video too good to not share with you all today — in lieu of time we will keep this brief.

Kevin Youkilis — Youk is out for the rest of the season with a rare thumb injury — suffered against the stupid Cleveland Indians. This is just too much. Youk is probably our best all around player, and we simply can’t make the run that we need to without him and Pedroia in the line-up. We need Pedroia back asap, but frankly, I think this is the injury that pushes the Red Sox over the edge — and ultimately out of the playoffs. I hope I’m wrong. Notes: On a slightly brighter note, Adrian Beltre hit a grand slam last night, following the Indians intentionally throwing at him and the benches clearing the previous night. Way to go, Adrian.

Shaq — Although Jim Rome and the rest of the world seem to be hating on the Celtics move in picking up Shaq, I honestly love it. When Kendrick Perkins went down in the NBA finals versus the Lakers, we suddenly didn’t have a single player capable of defending the Lakers’ big men. Now, all of a sudden, we can choose from Shaq, Kendrick Perkins, or Jermaine O’neil. That’s pretty awesome in my book. Sure Shaq is 38, slowed up, and not the player he used to be. But he’s still a huge body that smaller centers need help to defend, and he can open up looks for Ray Allen and Paul Pierce when he’s not turning and dunking. He averaged something like 13 points and 7 boards a game last year, but he did it in 23 minutes per game. That’s still pretty damn good production, and that’s exactly how the Celtics should use him — sparingly, but effectively. Plus, he adds to the Celtics already awesome chemistry. Plus plus, he cost us nothing. My picks for the NBA’s best team next year, in order: Heat, Celtics, Lakers.

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Lebron James — The King and His Men

A Guest Post By: Mark McCorrmick, Boston, MA

After much deliberation, one thing is clear – Lebron James will be chasing championships – and all other NBA teams should take notice. Unlike most other NBA stars, James decided not to blindly follow a maximum money contract, thus ignoring a shot at a NBA Championship (Joe Johnson, please stand up).  Lebron will be ready, poised and almost expecting the Championship trophy upon the completion of the 2010-‘11 NBA season. By joining the Miami Heat, Lebron is joining forces with Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade – an unbelievable combination of players that all share one powerful trait: a ferocious desire to win. 

James already has an amazing supporting cast, and only three other players are under contract – Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and Mike Miller. This classy trio of veterans understands how to work together and succeed.  While often overshadowed by Kobe and Lebron, it is imperative to not forget how dynamic of a player Dwayne Wade is.  He can flat out do it all. Wade is as good and selfess as they get and always stayed loyal to the Heat during the entire free agent process. 

Instead of Wade County, the County of Pat Riley could be a more appropriate name. Heat fans should feel blessed to have such a negotiating genius in Riley, a proven winner. He approached free agency like a chess match, every move calculating, ultimately putting the rest of the league in check by landing Bosh and James.  The overwhelming sentiment seems to be that James made a mockery of his legacy and everything he stood for as a result of his public relations free for all. It was a selfish act that will not soon be forgotten by Cleveland, New York, New Jersey and Chicago fans. Cleveland, I regret to inform you, but you’re irrelevant status is back and firmly cemented for the immediate future. 

 I want Lebron to be happy and win many championships – clearly he desires the same things.  He understands that regardless of personal prowess, his journey both on and off the court will never be truly complete without him hoisting the trophy in the last game of the season.  It is ironic that the notion of Wade, Bosh and James merging into an NBA juggernaut is perceived as selfish; the new and imposing big three will all be taking pay cuts for the next six years.  How does this not speak to their unconditional devotion to winning? They also all seem to understand that signing versatile role players is a major key to their championship hopes.  Teams need cap space to do this; the John Paxson’s and James Posey’s of the world that every GM salivates at bringing in, especially at a reduced price, is now an absolute requirement to bringing Miami a NBA championship.  Many modern day role players entering the twilight of their careers will take pay cuts because they have financial security that is more than sustainable and just want to win championships, knowing the end is near. 

James, Wade, and Bosh are in the primes of their careers and could receive anything they wanted approaching the free agent market by themselves. One thing is for certain: regardless of whether or not the Heat win the championship next season, it will be fun to watch and filled with epic highlights and circus like performances on a nightly basis.  The highly touted trio could be even better than we can imagine.  Watch out South Beach, now you have something to celebrate that is hotter than JLO’s highly insured ass;  BoshWadeJames2k10.  Enjoy fans, enjoy.

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Lebron Going to Miami Means Much More than You Think

A Guest Post By: Jon Levin, Los Angeles, California

As much as everyone’s “sources” were saying LeBron was going to Miami, I thought the chances of it actually happening were slim-to-none. Maybe it’s because I’m a Lakers fan or because I’m not a LeBron James fan, but this entire free agency process made me like him even less.  I used to believe Lebron had something of a mental foundation in place, at least a  teaspoon of that “killer” in him that we see from  guys like Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett. The type of mentality that wills those around you to put forth  effort they might not have thought they had in them. Before the Boston series this year and last night’s announcement, I thought LeBron had enough of that in him to be able to be the primary leader of a team. I was  proven wrong when a mentally tougher Boston team took it to Lebron, who seemed disinterested in key stretches of the games. Now we see Lebron leaving his leadership role and his hometown to hit up Miami with D-Wade – a team with two proven stars and one in Dwyane Wade who, in my opinion, is most comparable to  Kobe Bryant in terms of displaying that “killer” mentality.

Lebron’s decision spoke volumes to me. I really think LeBron is not who many of us thought he was. LeBron seemed to desire the image of being a primary leader, a floor general as they call it. A Magic Johnson. A Larry Bird. A Michael Jordan. A Kobe Bryant.  None of these players left their team to join forces with others.  They recruited stars to their team to build a complete unit around them. They were the clear-cut leaders, both with their mentalities and with their play.  Tonight showed us who LeBron is. He joined forces with Wade and Bosh. Don’t take it from me, look what Pat Riley had to say about it,“We are thrilled that LeBron James and Chris Bosh have decided to come to Miami to join forces with our truly great player, Dwyane Wade.”

It may seem like I’m knocking LeBron’s game. That couldn’t be farther from how I feel.  He is the most incredible combination of size, speed, strength, and basketball skill that the league has ever seen. He’s the fastest and strongest guy in the NBA. It’s pretty insane to think about. I mean, he does seem to just bulrush the lane hoping to get an And-1 a lot, but it’s a smart call to make considering his size and speed even if its pretty terrible basketball to watch.

Many like to say, “Well Magic had Kareem and Worthy, Bird had McHale and Parish, Jordan had Pippen, Horace Grant and Rodman, and Kobe had Shaq” – but we can’t look at Lebron in the same light as Magic, Bird, Jordan, and Kobe anymore.  Those guys never gave up their primary role to co-lead with others on a different team.  Those four were born leaders; they weren’t forced into the role due to their overwhelming talent. I don’t blame LeBron. That type of role is an incredibly difficult role to play. It’s one you can’t force upon someone – it has to come naturally. Mr. James just isn’t that player — and therefore can’t be included in the type of discussions the legendary figures above are in.

So now to the state of the league.  Call me a homer all you want, the Lakers are still the team to beat. Period. Even without knowing the rest of the Heat’s new roster. I also still like the Celtics and semi-like the Magic over the Heat coming out of the east, but that could change with news that Mike Miller is going to be signing with the Heat and I’m sure a few other above average role players are soon to follow. I feel like the Celtics will follow a similar path leading to a deep run into the playoffs as they did last year. They will have multiple bumps in the road during the regular season and will go through stretches where they seem to be a bit disinterested in regular season action — but they are a veteran team and know how to turn it on come playoff time. Also, from personal experience, teams come out crazy-determined the year following  a Finals loss and the Celtics have retained their core players. Next year is going to be a blast to watch. I’m only three weeks off of a finals victory and I can’t wait for next year already. October can’t come soon enough.

(A side note: I don’t think the whole “King” nickname is appropriate anymore, or maybe ever was. Kings don’t leave their country (or team) to join forces as co-kings in other countries (or teams). Plus, you need to have accomplished something before being anointed a king metaphorically; something like winning a ring.)

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