Chronicle of Couch: Three Time Zones, Two Continents, Three Sports and One Couch

You thought the whole Los Angeles feat was impressive. Get a load of this one, one couch for three different sporting events in one day. Yes, more impressive than hosting multiple playoff games by three different franchises in a couple days. I’m taking one for the team and watching the Italy-Germany soccer match followed by (pending MLB Network’s cooperation) the Tigers-Rays game and the NBA draft.

Just to give you an idea, “Chronicle of Couch” was the winner of a very tight race for the naming rights. Here’s a quick peak at the Knowhitter drawing board.

Couchaggedon

Diary of a Couch

The Couch Diaries

And there you have the long, drawn out process of how I got to the highly acclaimed “Chronicle of Couch”.

10:38:

This isn’t necessarily a bunch of playoff games like the aforementioned LA mess, but the games still hold water. Italy-Germany not only figures to be a closer game than people think, but it should be pointed out that the winner gets the right to play the overhyped Spaniards in the Euro 2012 Final. I don’t think the Spanish are bad mind you, it’s just that I watched their 1-1 draw with the Azzuri and they didn’t scream “Winners”. As stated, the game is going to be much better than people think. I’ll take the Italians in an upset, 2-0. This might be a bogus looking prediction because I’m posting this after it all happens, but that’s why I’m putting the respective times in. From an analysis point of view, if the Italians can control the game through Andrea Pirlo, then they have an excellent shot to beat the Germans. However, that certain sword is double sided: if the Germans can silence Pirlo, the Italians could have some trouble.

11:18:

Since I’ll be absorbed in the Italy-Germany tussle, here’s why the regular season matchup between the Tigers and the Rays is so important for Detroit. The Tigers need to take the series and they might as well do it. A quick aside, here is one of the few things that baffle me about baseball, in the last two years the Tigers are 8-2 against Tampa Bay. As good as the Rays have been in recent years, they have only mustered two winners in their last ten against Detroit. It should also be noted that the Tigers beat-every-team-in-plain-sight tear that propelled the squad to its first AL Central Division title last season originated with a strong showing in where? Tampa.

11:33: 

Kickoff coming soon, the tactical lineups are out and the Italians have key defenseman Girorgio Cheiellini back in the lineup after going down with a leg injury versus the Irish in the group stage. It’ll be interesting to see how he holds up. Sorry to get all soccer-y on you there.

11:52:

Just wanted to point out that the Germans have never beat Italy in a major competition. I should also try not to make this a twitterfeed. Sorry readers.

12:10:

Mario Balotelli scores with a “noggin toboggan” for Italy, it looks like we’ll be getting the Super Mario instead of the other guy who shows up. Here’s my take on Balotelli. He’s deemed as “disruptive,” maybe the Terrell Owens or Chad Ochocinco of European soccer, maybe even Milton Bradley. The point is, I Wikipedia’d him and his “antics” are bad, but wouldn’t be considered too terrible if he were playing in America. I‘m not saying that I approve of some of his actions, but that just shows you why people are so much nicer and have higher expectations  in Europe than in the US.

12:26:

Balotelli scores again; rocketing it past the German keeper. He got carded for the whole shirt-taking-off celebration, but let’s remember, Germany hasn’t trailed in a game in around two years. They’re down two-nil already. If Mario Balotelli is Super Mario then the Germans are playing like Bowser who keeps getting beat. Sorry, nerdy I know, but it makes works.

1:27:

The Italians nearly scored twice on tries by Juventus mid-fielder Claudi Marchisio. The substitutes have also come on in force. Antonio Di Natale is on for “Super” Mario Balotelli, who left with supposed cramps. Thiago Matta has also checked in for another midfielder, Riccardo Montolivo. The last substitute of mention and the first chronologically was the swap of Alessandro Diamanti taking the place of Antonio Cassano. I won’t say that the Germans have given in here, but they seem a bit sluggish. With all the crosses being crossed in, the Germans have the air of a basketball team down twenty with two minutes left that just starts hucking up threes.

1:34:

Gianluigi Buffon has been spectacular in goal for the Azzuri. As I say this, Frederico Balzaretti got called for a handball in the box and the Germans score on the PK. The German keeper is playing in the Italian half now, but it’s too late. Italia wins 2-1. I honestly did call the win, no going back and editing the previous prediction here. Italy-Spain is going to be quiet a game this weekend.  I’ll take the Italians again. Now a break and then the NBA Draft and the Tigers game.

2:00:

One of my favorite parts of soccer: when the team is down and the keeper plays up with the midfielders.

2:28

We get a break in the break because of news via Jason Beck and other sources which report that Victor Martinez could return in mid-late September. That’s great news for V-Mart and the Tigers after he tore his ACL in the off-season. I’m sensing something along the lines of Martinez coming back and going beenaners (That’s bananas for all you folks who don’t know) in the playoffs.

4:03:

Almost draft time and MLB Network is cooperating, so the Tigers-Draft back-and-forth is going to be tricky. I’ll be flipping back and forth with the analysis/commentary/occasional babble and such. As stated earlier, I’m looking forward to the Tigers playing in Tampa. For some odd reason the Tigers do well against Tampa Bay and if all goes as it did last year, the Tigers should turn their season around tonight.

4:16:

After Austin Jackson and Quintin Berry go down in order, Miguel Cabrera shoots a double into right-center with two outs in the first. The Rays amaze me that they are still contending with an infield cobbled together with the likes of Elliot Johnson, Jeff Keppinger and Brooks Conrad. Hopefully I’ll get in as much of the Tigers game as possible before switching back to see Northwesterner’s favorite commissioner shake Anthony Davis’ hand.

(The Secret Word is… sarcasm).

 4:21:

Joe Maddon’s lineup choices are curious to say the least. This is the guy who hit John Jaso leadoff a fair number of times before the backstop was dealt to Seattle. He now has Carlos Pena in the two hole. Which, you know, makes sense because Pena hits a robust .198.

4:24:

Pena’s first AB of the night currently, and I’ve already been showed up by the Rays broadcasters. Apparently Pena draws a ton of walks. I’m sorry for the skepticism Joe Maddon.

4:28:

Still confused as to why the draft is in New Jersey. I guess that’s David Stern’s way of saying, “I’m sorry for making you drive to Brooklyn to see your team”. Also confused as to why we didn’t have the ping pong balls at the lottery. Stern is asking for conspiracy theories, which most of them about Seattle are probably true.

4:29:

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Sorry had to boo Stern when he came out to talk. Got to take every chance I get. I know Miami just won the title, but Stern’s asking for it by bringing up the Heat.

4:36:

Back to the Tigers game, Cabrera a double in first, Young and Peralta get on here in the second. Shields is striking guys out, but can he keep this up against this good of an offense?

Nope.

4:39:

Anthony Davis is picked first overall. No one, absolutely no one, saw that coming. Otherwise a great piece for New Orleans to build their franchise around.

4:42:

Now here’s where the draft really starts. Does Brad Beal go to Charlotte and play for the ‘Cats? Is he picked and dealt to say Cleveland or maybe, gasp, OKC? Is someone else picked? Say Thomas Robinson? Remember, the Bobcats traded for Ben Gordon, so who knows?

4:44:

Wow, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist goes to Charlotte, a high motor guy, going to outplay you every day of the week. A good pick for the Bobcats, he isn’t going to carry this team, but he is going to be a little Gerald Wallace-esque. So that’s settled, this pick probably isn’t going anywhere. Kentucky is the first school with the first two pick in modern era draft history.

4:48:

A quick check on the Tigers has Max Scherzer cruising through the sides of Tampa Bay’s lineup. By sides I mean this, if the middle of the order is the meat of the order, then the bottom or less potent part of the lineup is the sides, or sides of the meal.

4:49:

Bradley Beal is finally off the board going to Washington. The SEC party continues. I know its Beal’s birthday, but that’s a crap birthday present from the NBA: “Look kid, welcome to the league, say hello to David Stern.” Like I said, great birthday present. Quick side note on the Ben Gordon-Corey Maggette deal, have you noticed that he’s (Maggette) played for a good deal of lottery teams in the past couple years? Charlotte, Golden State, Milwaukee and now Detroit. Nothing says “Lottery Bound” like Corey Maggette.

4:56:

Wow, Dion Waters, who didn’t start at Syracuse, going to Cleveland at four. I haven’t seen a lot of tape, but he’s supposedly a potent scorer. That’s a solid, young back court for the Cavs to build on with him and Kyrie Irving.

 

5:00:

Back to Tampa, after Austin Jackson gets on, Quintin Berry drops down a beauty of a bunt to put two men on for Miguel Cabrera. As I say this Jeff Keppinger makes a spectacular play to not only grab the ball out of the air, but to then outrun a fast Jackson to second to double him off. Prince Fielder then gets on after Keppinger can’t make a dandy of a play again in the shift. It must be a little troubling for Tampa seeing as the Tigers’ hitters 1-5 all have two ABs through the third. You give this team that many chances and you’re going to get hurt. And again, as I write this, the Rays get hurt by former Devil Ray’s number-one-overall-pick Delmon Young hits a single through the left side, and Berry beats the throw easily to score from second.

5:05:

Alex Avila is really getting back into the swing of things here, a couple of hits yesterday and today he’s got an RBI double. Fielder comes huffing and puffing around to score. Jhonny Peralta followed up by grounding out, which is unusual because he generally eats James Shields for breakfast when they play the Rays. You know, a little break from the egg-white omelet.

5:07:

Let’s recap the Delmon Young thing for un minuto. What a great deal for the Rays. Yes, he gave Minnesota some nice years and one really good one, but Minny gave up Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett to get him. Throw in the ridiculous return obtained by the Cubs for Garza as well as the solid bullpen arms picked up in exchange for Bartlett from the Padres, and it makes the Rays look pretty darn good. Minnesota didn’t get short ended by the whole process though, they picked up Jason Pridie and Brendan Harris in the trade. That more than made up for the other losses.

(The Secret Word, again, is … sarcasm)

5:14:

Great pick by Sacramento. They needed a four, and Thomas Robinson is a great option for them. Real happy for Thomas Robinson after all that’s happened to him. An NBA PF in the fullest.

(If you’re wondering, I don’t have quick typing skills at all here; I’m just pushing my DVR to its limit.)

5:21:

Portland about to pick…(waits for Stern to announce the pick)… Portland selects Damian Lilard. A guy with in-the-gym range gets to the rim. Nice pick for Portland. That whole Andre Miller/Raymond Felton thing the last couple years hasn’t been amazing. Nice pick here. Plus, when is the next Weber State lottery pick going to come along?

5:25:

Gotta love the constant booing of Stern. Warriors take Harrison Barnes, a great pick to add to the wing spot for Golden State. You talk about Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee and Andrew Bogut. That’s a lot of offense there. Young offense. Golden State has wanted to run in the past and drive up the score, but now they can do it successfully too.

5:29:

Back to the Deeetroit Tigers, Max Scherzer continues to mow through the Rays lineup. That’s the one thing with Tampa, if they get behind, and a few guys are cold at the plate… well let’s just say that a shutout or knowhitter (see what I did there?) could come into play. Lots of potential 0-4s in the Rays lineup.

5:33:

Carlos Pena has won some hardware for his fielding, but here he commits a big miscue. Could have tagged Berry on the way to first, can’t get him, Boesch scores. Next play Austin Jackson supposedly tagged out at home on a Miguel Cabrera single. After that, Jeff Keppinger is in the right place for once on the shift and gets Prince out at first. Underlying theme, the Tigers get another run early off “Big Game” James Shields. Commercial time, back to the draft.

5:33:

Toronto takes Terrence Ross, a UW product. Good shot, really good shot, he’s probably a prototypical wing. I know Toronto liked Dion Waters, so maybe they picked Ross as an alternative. Not sure there. I’m obviously not inside of the Toronto brasses’ collective heads so I don’t know. All this Nash-to-Toronto talk with Ross and Bargnani is pretty exciting.

5:42:

Pistons on the clock, Andre Drummond would be potential pick here… and yep, it’s Drummond. Great pick by Detroit. They get the guy they wanted for the third year. Monroe, Knight and now Drummond, a great nucleus there.

5:46:

With the 10th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the David Stern cronies 2.0 select… Austin Rivers. A pure scorer. Nice paring with Anthony Davis to couple with Eric Gordon for a growing nucleus. Anyone else noticed we haven’t had any movements on the trade front? The draft could have gone like this or have trades every-which-where.

5:53:

Meyers Leonard is the pick for Portland. An athletic big guy with good potential. Some nice post moves. He’s got some big potential, but is still very unproven.

5:55:

Here’s the weird part of the draft where guys like Tyler Zeller, John Henson, Jared Sullinger, guys that could go anywhere from the top ten to maybe the late teens. Not sure who goes here, especially with Houston picking three times in the next half hour-ish. Notice that they didn’t move up? Maybe they are some pieces to throw at Orlando for Dwight Howard (probably) or maybe even Pau Gasol (probably not). It’s going to be interesting. On that note, we’re going back to baseball for the Tigers update.

5:58:

Max Scherzer continues to mow through the Rays lineup with relative ease. As I say that, Brooks Conrad leads off with a double. As we get into the sides. There is potential to get out of this unscathed. And again as I say that, the Rays get on the board. No more damage after that. Tigers batting again with Jackson on base, yet again.

6:03:

Houston on the clock for the first of their many picks, they go with… Jeremy Lamb. Great pick either way. Lamb can fill it up and fill in for Kevin Martin when and/or if he leaves. He could be a really good player for the Rockets, or he could be a centerpiece for a Dwight Howard-like trade. Either way, nice pick.

6:07:

MOVEMENT!… Nope, it’s just Bucher announcing that the Raptors want to get Steve Nash. Right after this Phoenix takes point guard Kendall Marshall. I’m pulling for him to wear number eleven in the league due to all the double L’s in his name. This also proves that the NBA isn’t right with their whole green room ordeal. Marshall wasn’t invited. He won’t necessarily push Nash out, but he might be the heir apparent or what not to Nash.

6:13:

John Henson is going to Milwaukee. On a random side note, maybe my favorite headline on ESPN.com, Gym Henson. Moving on, UNC killing Kentucky so far in players drafted.

6:16:

Back to Tampa again. James Shields goes to pick off Austin Jackson and is charged with an error after the ball goes into foul turf. Shields comes back with a strong throw to get Berry at first on a really good bunt. Nothing Berry can do on that one. Cabrera follows it up with a single that bounces off the mound, Keppinger misses it. The Tigers have now set new career highs for both Roy Oswalt and James Shields in terms of hits allowed in back-to-back games.

6:22:

Philly takes Maurice Harkless. They add yet another athletic wing player to their team of seemingly all athletic wing players.

6:24:

The Rockets are still reaping the benefits of the Tracy McGrady deal, and get Knicks pick here because of it. More future trade piece fodder. Tyler Zeller would make sense for them, though if the picks for someone else, we’re not totally sure. Pick is in… Kevin McHale’s team picks Royce White. Such a versatile player. He could play multiple positions on the offense end and is a great passer. This is a good pick for the Rockets or whoever gets this pick in the end.

6:29:

Dallas picking… Dirk with his lowest point total (21.9) since the beginning of the current century. Ho hum. That’s not too bad, not great for Dirk, but still a good output. Mavs and Tyler Zeller would make sense; I said that for Houston too. I like Zeller, he’s going to go at some point. Also grounds for gambling with a Sullinger or Jones. Nope it is Zeller. Good pick, he’ll contribute right away for Dallas.

6:34:

Another Rockets pick… La di da di da. And it’s Terrence Jones, second Terrence to go here in the draft, athletic power forward. Joins another former Wildcat in Houston: Patrick Peterson. Lamb, White and Jones form a solid group of wings for the Rockets.

6:37:

Tyler Zeller going from Dallas to Cleveland for a host of the Cavs picks. Orlando is now on the clock, Dwight Howard not going anywhere yet. The Magic need to do well with this pick after struggling with their last couple first rounders. ST. BONNIES Andrew Nicholson is the pick for Orlando. When did we have a draft with a St. Bonnies and a Weber State player drafted in the first round? When will we again?

6:43:

Evan Fornier is the first international pick of the draft. I don’t know a ton about the guy, but after his highlight package, he looks like a pretty good player. Good, potential stash pick for Denver.

6:44:

Before the Celtics hogging of the podium, we’ll switch back to the Tigers game for some somewhat, in-depth analysis.

Nothing new to note other than a few stranded base runners and Phil Coke’s comical entrance where he sprints in. It’s pretty funny. Scherzer in line for the win, another run comes home though as the sides of the Rays’ lineup get it done. Coke gets out of a jam and Austin Jackson shows his wheels with a two out triple to the wall in the next inning. Quintin Berry up, he can’t plate the run, but the Tigers stay on top. Back to Boston’s picks.

6:51:

Boston has some interesting decisions.  KG is probably back, but Ray Allen is a different story. Should he come back and maybe come off the bench behind Avery Bradley?  Allen has supposedly looked at Miami and New York as options. If he stays in Boston, the Celtics should be in the playoffs again next year. Boston has the opportunity to take a gamble on a guy like a Jared Sullinger or Perry Jones III here. Toney Wroten, Jr might make sense as a combo-point guard type. Jones is tabbed as the tenth best player available by ESPN’s Jay Bilas. He’s still on the board at 21, worth a flyer here. Maybe. Nope, not there. Sullinger is the pick. Remember when we were talking about him being a lottery pick as late as last year? Either a great steal for Boston, or a low-ish risk here at the bottom end of the first round.

7:02:

Boston goes with seven-footer Fab Melo with the next pick. Another big body to throw out there, he’s an ever-improving player with some potential. A great value for Boston in the first round. I would have gone with Jones, but that’s just me.

7:05:

Atlanta on the clock, the oldest team in the league, lots of puzzling contracts. The pick is in; they go with John Jenkins the sharpshooter. Good pick for the Hawks to improve offensively.

It sounds very unprofessional, but I’m going to go eat.

7:26:

And we’re back. A handful of teams picked, including Miami while I ate, and no one took Perry Jones III. Very surprising. More surprising picks include Miles Plumlee to Indiana and Jared Cunningham to Cleveland, or probably Dallas after the Tyler Zeller trade.

7:28:

The Raiders are on the clock next, and they’re showing the team’s respective contracts, one of which is Thabo Sefolosha through 2013-2014. I can’t fathom the length of that contract. Must be a terrible owner dolling out that money. Oh wait…

7:32:

OKC takes Perry Jones. I’m convinced David Stern published the doctor’s report that said Jones had a bum knee that made him plummet to the Raiders so his little buddy could take PJIII (Does anybody call him that yet?).

7:37:

Bucher gets another morsel of air time as the Heat deal Arnett Moultrie (the 27th pick) to Philly for the 45th pick and a future first rounder. A great pickup for Miami in terms of future trade ammo.

7:41:

First off, I love how the crowd booed off Stern and cheered when he announced that he was done and Adam Silver was taking over. I now love New York/New Jersey fans.

7:42:

Festus Ezeli goes to Golden State at the end of the first round. The pick was acquired in the Stephen Jackson trade, a great name and talent.

7:44:

With the first round over, we are going to go check on Detroit, who I think is done according to the DVR. Sorry Tigers-Rays game. When we left off it was 4-2 Tigers and Detroit was well into their bullpen with the lead. Generally that means a win. Last year the team was lights out when having the lead with their bullpen entering the tail end of the game. Hopefully all goes as planned and the Tigers get a win. As it stands, the Tigers have the lead by the same aforementioned score with a run tacked on going into the ninth. Here comes the Big Potato, and here comes the antics.

7:49:

Tigers win 5-2. Austin Jackson and Miguel Cabrera each had four hits apiece, and Miguel Cabrera made his sixteenth foray into “Souveeenir City” as the Tigers roll. The Tigers are now 9-2 in their last 11 over Tampa. That’s a rap on Detroit as my teams improve to 2-0 today. Now back to the draft.

7:53:

Got to love the applause for Silver instead. Nobody likes Stern. Well, outside of the state of Oklahoma.

8:00:

Also got to love the Bernard James pick, a great story. He plays hard and is a great rebounder.

8:03:

I’m getting a little more blippy as the draft goes on. I’m not going to comment on everything because I don’t know a ton about some of the second round guys. Just a warning.

8:04:

Jae Crowder comes off the board as well as Draymond Green as the seniors start to go here in the second round.

8:06:

Orlando Johnson can fill it up. No bones about it. Good value for Sacramento.

8:09:

Quincy Acy, big time energy guy going north of the border.

8:10:

Quincy Miller, it’s a “Baylorpalooza”. Thanks Reece Davis.

8:11:

Orlando Johnson actually going to Indiana for cash from Sacramento.

8:15:

Efficient three-point-marksmen Doron Lamb going to Milwaukee, fifth Wildcat taken in the draft. UNC down 5-4 in terms of number of players picked this year. See? I’m getting blippy.

8:24:

Darius Miller going to New Orleans with Anthony Davis. He’s also the sixth Kentucky player to be drafted, modern era record right there.

8:31:

Kyle O’Quinn, a good rebounder goes to Orlando to beef up the Magic’s frontline.

9:03:

Robert Sacre taken with the last pick by the Lakers. Great value pick, the best free-throw-shooting big man in the league right now. You heard it here first.

So that’s it for the “Chronicle of Couch Volume I.” I should throw in other tidbits such as the Rafael Nadal loss as well as the fact that Dwayne Wade is going to miss the Olympics.

I also applaud any of you who are still ready after 4,000 plus-odd words. Thank you and good night.

NBA Off-Season “Hot Topics”

(Never thought I’d write “Hot Topics”….moving on.)

Is it too early to discuss the NBA offseason?

Is it premature to speculate about the goings on in the offseason?

Yes and yes. But I’m delving into it anyways. And don’t think I’m giving up on the playoffs yet, I’m pouring all my energy into jumping on the Spurs bandwagon. I’m not saying this because I’m heavily opposed to the Raiders, which I am by the way.  I’m saying it because San Antonio is the most complete and best team left in the playoffs. There, I said it Heat fans.

Enough about San Antonio, let’s get on to the offseason:

Uncertainty: When I say uncertainty I’m aiming right at Sacramento. David Stern needs to do something right for the first time in a of couple decades. He (and I’m sorry King fans, I feel your pain, I really do) needs to move the Kings north to Seattle. I’d like it done quickly, but honestly just the promise in writing that a team is coming at some point is fine. And no one gives a rat’s whatever about my opinion. Case-in-point-but-not-really-just-wanted-to-say-the-words-case-in-point.

It’s also that time of year when the time-old tradition of imploding-playoff-teams-if-they-can’t-work happens. The Lakers are a sure candidate for this after being bludgeoned out of the playoffs by the Raiders.  Pau Gasol is a likely trade possibility, as is Andrew Bynum if the right return presents itself (read Dwight Howard). The Boston Celtics are probably next in line at the blowing-up establishment. The Big 3 are obviously in their twilight years and even if they win a title, change could be in order. Atlanta has gone through a lot of one-and-done as well as second-round exits in the last couple years. The underlying-theme-spoiler-alert-WRITTEN-IN-ALL-CAPS theme is that the current group isn’t doing it. Joe Johnson is good, but not good to the point of warranting his contract. Josh Smith supposedly wants out, Marvin Williams is an amnesty option and Kirk Hinrich’s contract is up. Al Horford is the one sure thing on the roster. He’s backed up by a solid Zaza Pachulia and will likely be joined by the potentially-potent Jeff Teague. After those guys, and I’m not kidding you, the rest of the roster is one-year, minimum contract guys. That’s how low the Hawks are on cap space. So now that I’m done rambling about them I’ll give you the short version of the story on all the other possible roster-dynamite-lighters. Utah was a surprise playoff team and could move some of their vets toward a larger youth movement. Dallas might blow it up to get under the cap, and Orlando has the whole Dwight Howard conundrum.

If you haven’t heard (because whenever you Google “NBA free agency” you get a load of pick-your-expletive  on the Miami Heat and what not) free agency is almost upon us. That’s right, no LeBrons or Chris Boshs, but very good players none the less. Steve Nash is an option for teams looking for point guard help (just realized that might be the worst lead in on a topic ever). After Nash there’s a guy you might have heard of that kind of took the world by storm and then couldn’t make the tail end of Sportcenter: Jeremy Lin. Not because he played bad, but because he just wasn’t playing at a ridiculous level. In the rest of the free agent pool there are a lot of guys wading (pun intended… eh… not my best) for a big payday. Roy Hibbert could cash in big time after a nice bout of postseason play. Ditto JaVale McGee. Other guys waiting in line for a bigger pay check include Lavoy Allen, Omer Asik, Lopez’s Brook and Robin, Landry Fields, Ersan Ilyasova, Kris Humphries as well as Eric Gordon. Let the speculations begin.

There’s also this little thing where guys get to represent their country called the Olympics coming up, again, not sure if you’ve heard of it. There are plenty of spots available now that Dwight Howard and Derek Rose were lost to injuries. Just thought I’d mention that so you could run to the Y and practice before you try out. Anyways, the loss of Howard is a real blow to the Americans. With a daunting Spanish frontline consisting of the Gasols and Serge Ibalka, it might be a problem without one of the better rim defenders in the league. But the options after him are quite good. Tyson Chandler might be second in everything that Dwight Howard is first in defensively and Kevin Love is a rebounding monster. And I write this as I look at the roster of finalists, you thought Beijing was good? Listen to the potential here, you’ve got almost everybody from ’08. Which means Kobe, LeBron, D-Wade, Chris Paul, Deron Williams. Then there’s the “new guys” Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Iguodala and Russell Westbrook. This is going to be a really good team and a fun one to watch too.

So there it is, enjoy your off-season folks. Well, enjoy it after the finals, but enjoy it none the less. And let’s bring the NBA back to Seattle while we’re at it. (Looking at you Stern.)

Thanks David Stern (sarcasm, sarcasm, a little passive aggressiveness and, wait for it … sarcasm)

Have you been watching the NBA playoffs? Have you seen the Oklahoma City Raiders, as the politically correct people call them? Have you seen how good Kevin Durant is? Have you seen Russell Westbrook go bananas? Have you seen James Harden’s beard? And have you seen Seattle?

I cringe at the fact that the Raiders are so good. Actually, take that back, I do think they are a decent NBA team, it’s just the constant feeling that they could have been in Seattle. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. They could be the talk of Seattle now, instead the talk of Seattle probably includes the word Robbed.

Take that word and flip it into whatever synonym you see fit, because we were robbed.

It continually kills me to see the Raiders succeed. Yes, that’s right; I’m to the point of not mentioning their name.

It’s not as if this is a city like New York, or Dallas where all of the sports teams generally succeed. The Yankees seemingly always make the playoffs. The Giants won the whole thing last year, and the Jets aren’t too bad either. And in Dallas, the Mavericks went from perennial playoff squad to title winners last year. The Rangers have won the last two AL pennants.

The point with that last blip is that the pill is easier to swallow if a team leaves, and if the other professional teams in and around the area are playing at a high level.

Which brings us to our next point. Where have the big playoff moments been in Seattle? The Storm won a title in the WNBA and the Sounders are a really good side, but our last big-nationally-talked-about-you’ll-remember-where-you-where-when-it-happened-moment was when Marshawn Lynch unleashed the beast and went on a smash-and-dash 67 yard run to clinch the win over the defending champion Saints in the playoffs. And that’s coming up on two years ago. Before that it was a Seahawks Super Bowl should-have-been-win that was botched by officiating, and before that we have to go back to “the Double” by Edgar Martinez. And that’s going back a ways.

But to get back on topic, Stern and his joined-at-the-hip buddy Clay Bennett have robbed us of a successful, Big 4 (that’s MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL) team. One that would have taken the city to a whole new level of sports pandemonium. Instead we are forced to sit and watch the Raiders succeed.

Stern and Bennett not only took away our team, they took away a team that is pretty darn good. And one that might be that good for a while.

One of my favorite moments in Sonicgate is when they flash to a kid showing a sign that reads: “Clay Bennett Ruined My Childhood.”

What we should remember here is that it isn’t just Bennett’s fault. The blame falls on others shoulders as well, people like Greg Nickles and Howard Schultz. But the main culprit not named Bennett is Stern.

Isn’t it funny that when we had the Sonics situation on our hands, David Stern barely lifted a finger? And then when we see Sacramento’s arena deal and team security thrown into uncertainty, Stern does almost everything godly possible to keep the team in Sacramento. He practically got them another year in Sacramento. And that’s the problem. He is in love with small markets.

I know everyone and their dog are rooting for the Raiders in the playoffs in and around the Oklahoma area, and the revenue off that is great and all, but wouldn’t you look a lot better if that were in say, Seattle?

Anyways, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Bennett ruined my childhood. You see, my childhood has been great to this point. But I was in middle school when the Sonics left. I even wrote an essay on it for English class, saying why the Sonics should stay and all that. But that one year in middle school was also the year I really got into basketball. I mean I played it at every waking hour at school when I didn’t have classes. I was, and still am, obsessed with it. And that’s the sad thing. I never got to go to see the Sonics in person and barely saw them on TV. I’ve gone the last Andre-the-Giant-sized handful of years without an NBA team. Because the Sonics left I shifted my attention to the college ranks to get my winter basketball fill. Washington wasn’t amazing at the time so I watched a lot of Gonzaga and Washington State, seeing them both make the NCAA tourney.

And that’s just the thing today. For folks to get their local basketball fix their options are UW, WSU, Gonzaga and Seattle U. That’s it in the state. Seattle U is making the transition back to D1, and WSU and Gonzaga are on the other side of the Cascade Mountains. Not too many people are going to make that trek 2-3 times a week from the Puget Sound area to see basketball. Which leaves us with the Huskies. This is the first team in NCAA history not to make the tourney after winning the regular season championship in a power conference. They lost to South Dakota State by 19…

Let me say that again. They lost to South Dakota State by nineteen whole points!

I tend to get caught up in baseball over the summer, so that makes it a bit hard to follow the Storm intensely.

So, thanks to Stern and his little buddy Bennett (and some others) the biggest basketball draw in the Pacific Northwest over the winter and spring is a team that lost to South Dakota State by 19 points. Did I mention it was at home? Maybe if the Raiders win a ring and the NBA doesn’t come back to Seattle soon you very well may have ruined my childhood, Bennett and Stern.

The Dallas Mavericks and Their Cap Space

The Mavericks would like to continue to build around Dirk Nowitzki. They would also like to add Deron Williams and Dwight Howard and basically be the Anti-Heat from a style of play perspective.

What the Mavericks do with their cap space remains to be seen. Dwight Howard is likely to play in Orlando for at least the first half of next year while Deron Williams becomes the singular big name on the market.

Dallas could make a Miami-like splash with a superstar player or a Net-like splash that brings in guys like Johan Petro and Travis Outlaw on bloated contracts.

If Mark Cuban and friends want to get the big name free agent this summer (Williams), they need to do a few things. One is to trade Shawn Marion. Marion had a nice year in the Big D and played some lock-down defense. In any other situation the Mavericks would keep him, but with the possibility of pairing the aforementioned superstars with Dirk, he probably has to go.

The Mavs will also likely have to amnesty Brendan Haywood. Haywood wasn’t exactly Tyson Chandler this year, but he was a solid replacement and better than a lot of options. Like Marion, he would probably come back, but he is one of the biggest contractual albatrosses around. He probably has to go.

Vince Carter’s contract isn’t guaranteed next season or the year after, meaning he is also likely to go if the need for money persists. Lamar Odom is also likely out of the picture.

Brandon Wright, Dominquie Jones, Kelena Azubuike and Rodrigue Beaubois represent the only other multi-year contracts on the books. However, all four are young and cheap enough to be moved easily.

Jason’s Kidd and Terry as well as Brian Cardinal, Yi Jianlian, Ian Mahinmi and Delonte West could all land elsewhere next season as the Mavericks roster could be turned upside down.

Now that you’ve digested all of that, here’s what the Mavericks should do to achieve the goal of getting Deron Williams.

  1. Amnesty Brendan Haywood. Sorry, had to be done.
  2. Continually kick themselves for not resigning Tyson Chandler. That’s assuming they have no shot at trading for Dwight Howard (which they don’t) or signing him next offseason (looking iffier by the day).
  3. Trade Shawn Marion, Jones and Beaubois to Golden State for the Warriors first-round pick. This is assuming that Golden State doesn’t land a small forward like Harrison Barnes or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the draft. Jones and Beaubois could both use the change of scenery.  Jones could play the 3 in a smaller GS lineup, and Beaubois provides the Warriors with a little bit of insurance should Stephen Curry’s ankles give out (no really, at this point it wouldn’t be a total shocker.) Dallas meanwhile gets a top ten pick to go along with the potential of Williams and Dirk.
  4. Cut Vince Carter. I thought briefly about the idea of Marion being dealt to the Warriors for Richard Jefferson, the Mavs resigning Kidd and keeping Carter, but then again that would have been exciting maybe six years ago. Not now.
  5. Trade Azubuike for a second-round pick next year and the year after. Boring, I know. But the Mavs could use some picks, and they did deal Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer for a second-round pick in 2014, so maybe this isn’t so bad.
  6. Resign Jason Terry to a deal that’s as cap friendly as possible. The Jet landing somewhere besides Dallas? Give me a break.
  7. Convince Oklahoma City that Brandon Wright is a cheaper Serge Ibalka and swap the two. This would be phenomenal, but only from a standpoint of seeing Clay Bennett falter, and gasp, take scrutiny in OKC. In which case Stern would probably legally force Kobe and/or LeBron to play in OKC for pocket change. It’s not entirely impossible, but seeing as Stern did some questionable things moving the team there, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.
  8. Sign Deron Williams. This is the big one. If the Nets were smart they’d keep Williams. If they can’t however and he signs in Dallas, the Nets should sap whatever they can out of the Mavericks in a sign and trade. Then maybe that pick from Golden State could come in handy…

The Mavericks might do some of these things, and they might not. (Side note, the OKC thing isn’t happening, I just like taking shots at Stern because I’m still irked, putting it nicely there, about what he did to the Sonics.) But all in all Dallas definitely could use some more cap room to go out and get a big name free agent.

The Nets are Still Stinging From Shooting Themselves in the Foot

Deron Williams is a New Jersey Net. He might be a Brooklyn Net next year. Or he might be on another team. Dwight Howard could too be a New Jersey/Brooklyn Net.

But, and I emphasize but, if Howard doesn’t go to the tri-state area, the Nets could be in some hot water. Without Howard, Williams isn’t going to stay with the Nets. They are terrible with Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks and Johan Petro’s contract. They aren’t getting any better, unless David Stern awards them every lottery pick this season (not out of the question). Point is that Williams probably isn’t going to stay with their current roster for the next couple years.

It all hinges on Howard. Because, to reiterate the same point, Williams is probably gone if Howard doesn’t come.

Look at New Jersey’s roster without Williams.:

PF Kris Humphries

SG Anthony Morrow

PG Jordan Farmar

C Johan Petro

C Brook Lopez

SG Deshawn Stevenson

SF Damion James

G MarShon Brooks

PF Shelden Williams

G Sundita Gaines

F Jordan Williams

SG Keith Bogans

F Gerald Wallace

These days in the NBA, and generally all professional sports, there isn’t a biggest loser team. There is no bad team laden with terrible contracts. Granted this team doesn’t have a lot of bad contracts, but you might be looking at a team with a not so bright future with the Nets. Unless the aforementioned Stern-gives-the-Nets-all-the-lottery-picks. You’ve got Brook Lopez, Wallace, some role players and a couple iffy contracts.

If the Nets let all their potential free agents walk (including Williams), you’re looking at next year’s team minus free agent signings and draft picks being Anthony Morrow, Jordan Farmar, Johan Petro, Damion James, MarShon Brooks, Wallace and Jordan Williams. That is a decent second unit-and-change at best along with Wallace. So go ahead and sell season tickets with that.

Deron Williams also was acquired for, get this: Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, the Enes Kanter draft pick, and the Warriors first rounder this year. That’s another potentially big piece. Keep the Bigs along with Lopez and another lottery pick? I’m not saying I would stand in line for the bandwagon, but that isn’t too shabby for a squad that recently rolled out some iffy squads.

Who wouldn’t want those guys along with Brook Lopez, Wallace and Brooks instead of Williams leaving.?  Even if Williams stayed, I’d rather have Harris and two potentially, really good bigs instead of possibly four or five years of D-Will and no other superstar.

So to reiterate again, we have reality, which is a potentially lame duck in Deron Williams and a lot of iffy assets. Or we have fantasy which is Kanter, Favors, another lottery pick and Devin Harris.

The bright future that the Nets would like isn’t there. Unless Williams leaves and David Stern magically makes all the Nets’ contracts expire after the season. (Again completely plausible. Stern is probably a nice guy, but he can be a little biased towards certain people and cities. Cough, Clay Bennett, Cough, Oklahoma City).

(Had to get my annual Stern jab in there.)

Say this situation happens next year, Dwight Howard is traded to the Lakers, or the Bulls or any team frankly, anywhere but New Jersey. Let’s also say that Howard signs an extension with team x. The Nets aren’t going to let Williams walk, because he will if Howard goes elsewhere, without getting anything back. The team will try to get some pieces out of him. Whether that be picks or young pieces.

The stupid thing would be to move Williams frantically for a big expiring contract and an iffy piece.

The smart thing would be to feel out the market and take the best deal possible.

The sad thing (and looking like the likely thing) is that the Nets might lose all those potentially very good pieces for an extended rental.

Best Fits for Pau Gasol

This could be complete junk by the time you read this. Pau Gasol could be on a team that is not the mighty purple and gold Lakers (note the heavy sarcasm). He might be first fiddle. He might be second fiddle. Who really knows? But if Gasol is traded, certain situations and teams are probably better fits for the seven-footer. What we have heard from various media outlets and insiders in various cities and counties is that Houston and Minnesota are two teams who are interested in Gasol.

Houston’s interest in Gasol is natural seeing as they would have acquired him in the much-ballyhooed trade that was vetoed by the point-man behind the Hornets… David Stern. Houston would have surrendered Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic and a first round pick to the Hornets while receiving Gasol. And Houston is probably still interested in Gasol. The kicker is that Chris Paul is off the board, so there won’t be any three-team swap with the assets going to the Hornets. In any deal for Gasol, the Lakers would probably like a point guard in return, because of the whole Chris Paul thing. Houston, incidentally has a very good one named Kyle Lowry. Now, whether the Rockets want to include Lowry in any deal remains to be seen. If they wanted to include him, he’d probably be a Laker and Gasol would be a Rocket. Here is the thing with Houston, Gasol would be a good fit, but at what cost?

Houston would probably have to surrender not only Lowry, but also Scola. If this is a two-for-one, LA comes away with a seven-win improvement and Houston takes a four-game hit. All per ESPN’s trade machine. This serves up the first point, does this make Houston better? Does it? Do we, or Houston for that matter, want a reincarnation of Memphis with Pau Gasol as the centerpiece of the team? Gasol is easily one of the better 20 or 30 players in the league, but I can’t see him being a team-centerpiece at this point. Houston also sacrifices their starting point guard and power forward. I know Houston is deep with youth almost everywhere, but is sacrificing Lowry worth it? As it stands Houston would be in the playoffs if they started today. So maybe they don’t need to do anything. I just think this whole thing is a bad idea. Houston is set as it is, and they don’t need a whole lot to make noise in the playoffs. They have maybe the most valuable thing in the NBA that isn’t LeBron James: a deep bench with young, fresh legs. That might be all that Houston needs.

Minnesota has also reportedly expressed interest. This one actually makes a lot of sense. A Gasol-Love post paring seems pretty formidable. Who plays the five would be up in the air, but that’s a very good duo to dump the ball into. Both can also stretch the floor with jumpers and hurt you on the low block. If you can’t tell, I’m already jumping on the imaginary bandwagon. The other pairing that would be formidable would be Gasol with his countryman Ricky Rubio, those two along with Love and Nikola Pekovic is a very good nucleus. Throw in JJ Barea and you have, as stated, a very good team. The other key with Minnesota is that the assets LA would want from Minnesota would be some combo of Michael Beasley, Derrick Williams, a pick(s) and some other smaller pieces. Beasley will probably be traded in one way or another, so why not ship him to LA in a Gasol deal? Williams also goes to the Lakers with the Timberwolves not losing as much as other teams would be for dealing the number two overall pick from the previous year.

Minnesota doesn’t lose a whole lot, but would have to send salaries like Brad Miller’s and Anthony Randolph’s to Los Angeles to even it out.  The picks going to LA will be … well I’m not sure. These things tend to work themselves out. Maybe a future first rounder? Honestly I have no idea.

Teams who loaded up on assets to go after Dwight Howard might find Gasol a viable alternative, though I can’t see any one of the teams possibly interested in Howard (New Jersey, Golden State, etc.) making a run at Gasol.

So if I’m Minnesota, I make the call to LA and get the Gasol thing done if the Lakers are willing to do it.

The Lakers Search For a Point Guard

Derek Fisher is a veteran point guard. It’s probably safe to say that he is past his prime. That being said, the Lakers need a boost at the point. Steve Blake is currently nursing an injury and will be out for a while. Here are some trades that the Lakers could make to help themselves at the backcourt position not manned by Kobe Bryant.

The Obvious Choice- Steve Nash

Steve Nash to this day is still one of the better point guards in the league and is an obvious trade candidate.  Here’s how it could go down-

  • Steve Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers for Luke Walton, Darius Morris and Fisher. Fisher isn’t the player he once was. The Suns aren’t going to get a player to replace Nash in return. At least here the Suns get two manageable contracts that could very well be bought out (Walton and Fisher) plus a rookie who could have some upside for them (Morris).
  • Steve Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers with Hakim Warrick for Walton, Fisher and Metta World Peace. The Suns get three buy out options as well as getting out of Hakim Warrick’s contract. This saves the Suns some serious money.

The Under-the-Radar Choice- Jarrett Jack

Jarrett Jack is a good point guard despite playing for the lonely Hornets. He is a solid all-around point guard who can score, rebound and dish it.

  • Jarrett Jack to the Los Angeles Lakers for Luke Walton and a future first round pick. Jack makes a whole lot of sense in LA. The Hornets do take on a little money with Walton and lose a lot of production, but they are going to have a down year this year. They basically swap out Jack’s playing time for younger guys with a smidgen of Walton. It should also be noted that Walton and Jack’s  contracts are almost exactly the same. The Hornets (read:   David Stern and his band of team-stealing-buddies) gain another first-round pick to add to their likely growing stash of picks, which, for most GMs of young, bad teams is what you would like. If the Lakers are hell-bent on winning another ring (honestly, what contending team isn’t?) then this first rounder probably will hold as much value as an early second round pick. If not, this might be a pick around number 20 overall. Or if some key players get injured (read Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum) this might be, gasp, a late lottery pick.

The Guy From Cleveland- (Not Kyrie Irving, cool it Cavs fans) Ramon Sessions

  • Ramon Sessions to the Los Angeles Lakers for Derek Fisher and a second round pick. Sessions also makes sense in LA as does Jarrett Jack. He is a guy who can rebound and dish it. His contract is not obnoxious or ridiculous in any sense of either word. He is a solid player who will help LA a lot. There is also the likelihood that Fisher might be bought out and return to LA. So you have Sessions for a late second round pick, and you give Derek Fisher a week off. Sounds good, lock it up Lakers.

The Door is That Way, David Stern

The door is the first on the left. Or the right, frankly it could be the door at the end of the hallway. I have no idea seeing as I’ve never been in the league office.

Point is David Stern has fumbled numerous times. David Stern fumbled with the Sonics situation (still bitter about that), fumbled with the first Chris Paul trade, fumbled with the PR on that, fumbled in the second Chris Paul trade and almost came away with Chris Paul still playing for the Hornets. David Stern fumbled, fumbled again and probably would fumble if he had Walter Jones and Jeff Saturday blocking for him against a bunch of pee-wee players.

Stern won his battle in Seattle because of some cheap shots among other things. He also sets off a domino effect of pain and suffering if he keeps his promise of getting Seattle another team. Stern would probably have to take someone else’s team away from them, leaving them in the situation that we are in, in Seattle. (If you can’t tell yet, I’m not David Stern’s biggest fan.) Or he can be smart about it and give Seattle an expansion team, squash the Sacramento/Anaheim business and give Anaheim a team, and everybody’s happy. Because of the state of the economy, Stern is likely to uproot a team and move them to Seattle. It would be terrible if Anaheim got a team before Seattle. Anaheim is a great town, but what is the use of getting them another team if people can sit in the car for a bit and make the trek to LA to see one of the Lakers or Clippers? The closest thing we have is the Blazers who are in an entirely different state.

Back to the commissioner’s fumble-prone habits. Episode two took place recently when he nixed a deal that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to Houston, Lamar Odom to New Orleans, Luis Scola to…. You get the point. A few days later the Clippers stepped up to the table and made a run at the talented New Orleans point guard — only to come up short when David Stern wanted the Clippers to give up their last viable trade piece that doesn’t throw down ridiculous dunks in point guard Eric Bledsoe. The Clippers thought this to be too much and backed out.

Time passed, albeit two days, and the league and one certain commissioner backed off the Bledsoe involvement and agreed to the Kaman, Gordon, Farouq Aminu, Timberwolves first rounder-for-Paul-swap.

All this mumbling-fumbling almost got Stern one of his star players being irked for an entire year, left another one of his star players (Kobe Bryant) perplexed and not liking another trade that was a domino falling over down the line (Lamar Odom trade). And oh yeah, he still has the Seattle situation to deal with.

NBA Season Predictions Western Conference

Northwest-

In the somewhat accurately named Northwest division, you have everyone’s chic pick, Oklahoma City (not mine). A rugged team that has gone through a ton of adversity, Portland. The deep team that seems built for a lockout shortened season, the Nuggets. A squad that has a lot of youth, but also a lot of veteran presence, the Utah Jazz, and a team who is looking to take their lumps in a rebuilding year, Minnesota.

Predicted Finish-

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder 40-26
  2. Portland Trailblazers 38-38
  3. Denver Nuggets 35-31
  4. Utah Jazz 34-32
  5. Minnesota Timberwolves 23-43

The Thinking:

Oklahoma City is going to be good, how good, I’m not sure. Kevin Durant will get his 20-30 something points per game, outside of that the starting five could have some problems. The Thunder has made the decision of going with defensive stopper Thabo Sefalosha over the more offensively gifted James Harden. This works when guarding the elite perimeter players, but offensively Thabo isn’t going to give you a lot. Throw in two defensive-minded bigs in Serge Ibalka and Kendrick Perkins, as well as Russell Westbrook’s streakiness and there’s some potential to have a terrible game on the offensive end if KD has a bad outing.

Rip City has been the subject of adversity as of late. Brandon Roy was forced to retire due to his knees. Greg Oden’s status is still up in the air. But Portland has rebounded in one of the better ways possible. They replaced Roy with fellow Seattle area native Jamal Crawford, and added frontcourt depth with Craig Smith and Kurt Thomas. The Blazers also swapped Andre Miller for Raymond Felton, which looks genius from a lot of different standpoints. Throw in those additions with guys like LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Mathews and Gerald Wallace. I’m telling you, Portland is going to be good.

Carmelo Anthony is gone. And quite frankly, Denver seems to have moved on just fine. The Nuggets have taken the identity of a team who can play a lot of guys and still score deep on the bench. Denver is very deep in most positions and can beat you in a number of ways. The Nuggets could be a problem come playoff time because of their depth.

Utah is a curious team. Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Devin Harris, Raja Bell and Josh Howard form a nice veteran core for the Jazz. On the flipside they have a talented young nucleus in Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. If the now Jerry-Sloan-less Jazz can find a good mix of intriguing vets and youth, it’s there in Salt Lake City. If they can’t find a good mix, it might be a long year and other teams will come calling for guys like Millsap, Bell and Howard.

Minnesota will be fun to watch. Not on par with Lob City, but a core of Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, JJ Barea, Michael Beasley  and Derrick Williams will excite. The future is there in the Twin Cities, but the present might be filled with growing pains and turnovers.

Pacific-

The California/Phoenix division is going to be fun. In LA especially, Chris Paul will lead the league in Alley-Oop passes, Kobe Bryant will lead the league in… something — you pick. Lamar Odom is out of tinsel-town for the first time in a while. His replacement is the one and only Josh McRoberts. Yes that’s right, the reigning sixth man of the year was, and is replaced by McBobs. Golden State meanwhile is ushering in the Marc Jackson era with a new found attempt at being a defensive team. I’m not messing with you. A team with a starting lineup that includes Monta Ellis, David Lee and Stephen Curry is focusing on defense. We go from one run-and-gun (though they don’t want to show it) to another in the Phoenix Suns. The Suns have Steve Nash, and if they ever lose Nash for an extended amount of time, it could be a problem. We’re talking major problems. I guess Sacramento is the same kind of team, same mold, as the last two teams listed. They are going to run, they are going to gun and a good deal of the time, they will brick. This is a team with some good players with young talents like Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins (it would probably serve them to draft strictly John Calipari guys going forward).  Throw in the Jimmer and there’s some potential for some big highlights, but also some big time bricks. The Clips might be Lob City, while the Kings might be Brick City.

Predicted Finish-

  1. Los Angeles Lakers 36-30
  2. Los Angeles Clippers 34-32
  3. Golden State Warriors 31-35
  4. Phoenix Suns 30-36
  5. Sacramento Kings 19-47

The Thinking:

The Lakers could very well finish fumbling down the stretch if Kobe gets banged up. It’s already a three man squad to begin with, with Kobe, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. There isn’t much else to be pumped up about on the bench or in the rest of the starting lineup. You’ve got nice pieces in McBobs and Steve Blake. Outside of that it’s newly dubbed Metta World Peace, Derek Fisher, Gerald Green and Luke Walton. Yikes.

The laughing stock isn’t necessarily the joke it used to be. If you have lived under a rock for the last couple months you’ve missed that A, we have basketball again, but B, the Clippers are relevant again. When I say relevant, I’m not saying a title is a distinct possibility this season, but a ring certainly isn’t out of the question in the next couple of years if a couple things go as planned. One, CP3 resigns. This is the key. Pair him with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan going forward, and there’s going to be some dunks and points scored. Two is that Blake Griffin resigns long term as well. They’ve locked up Jordan. Now they just need the other two to resign and they are golden. Oh yeah, did I mention that they brought in some guy named Chauncey Billups as well? The Playoffs this year are certainly not out of reach for the Clippers.

Tell me if you notice a theme here. Monta Ellis, strength: offense. Stephen Curry, strength: offense. David Lee, strength: offense. Klay Thompson, strength: offense. Ditto Brandon Rush and Dorrell Wright. Did I mention that new coach Marc Jackson wants to be a defensive team? Confusing, I know. There will be some growing pains in the bay area this year. Don’t be completely shell-shocked if they sneak in as an 8 seed with all the unrest out West.

Welcome to Brick City! Yes, that’s what signs should read all over the capitol of California. Jimmer will make some shots that make people go Google BYU and see how they are flopping in WCC this year. Other than clicks for ESPN’s BYU page, Sacramento won’t accomplish much. And I’m serious about the whole only drafting Calipari players.

Southwest-

The real up and comers out west, the Grizzlies,(that’s right Thunder) are looking to rebound on a solid season last year in which they surprised a lot of people. Not to mention without Rudy Gay, lots to like in Memphis. Then there are the defending champs, the Dallas Mavericks. Excuse Shawn Marion’s blonde hair, I’m not disrespecting Dallas. I still think they are a likely 1-3 seed come playoff time, and I really like the Delonte West signing. A repeat is not completely obnoxious to think about. Following them down the line are the Spurs, who because of the lockout will likely give up some games to rest their Big 3 for the playoffs. Big if here, but if Houston’s clustered roster of former lottery picks plays up to the hype that made them lottery picks, then Houston could be a thorn in some higher seeded team’s side come playoff time. Then there are the Hornets who are just begging to be moved to Seattle (again had to throw a Stern jab in there), and are subsequently owned by the league. But the rebuilding process is under way in NOLA and it’s not too bad of an outlook for the Hornets.

Predicted Finish-

  1.  Dallas Mavericks 43-23
  2. Memphis Grizzlies 40-26
  3. San Antonio Spurs 37-29
  4. Houston Rockets 33-33
  5. New Orleans Hornets 22-44

The Thinking:

The Mavs will be relevant again after their title run last year. They could very well go to the Finals once again because of all the uncertainty in their very own conference. Dallas added some nice pieces (Lamar Odom, West) and lost some pieces that were extremely important to them (Tyson Chandler, JJ Barea). The regular season will likely end in a playoff berth, that much is probably true, because the Mavs are too good not to make it. The key for Dallas will be Brendan Haywood. If he plays more like Tyson Chandler than himself (another big if) then Dallas could repeat, if not, the ring ceremony on opening night might be their highlight of the year.

Memphis is the up and comer. None of the OKC business, the Grizzlies are for real. They have no glaring needs anywhere and are a complete team that can hurt you in a number of ways. Not just one, (cough: Kevin Durant) while the phrase “a lot to like” has been used probably a little more than anyone would like in this column/piece, there is a lot to like for the Grizz.

The Spurs are going to succumb to the shortened season by sitting their Big 3 on some nights for rest. Or entire road trips for that matter. The Spurs will make the playoffs, and if proper rest is used accordingly, this team could be dangerous come playoff time. (Again another overused phrase, but just roll with it.)

Kevin McHale has somewhat of a curious team in Houston. The Rockets are rich with former lottery picks, so the “rebuilding” tag is a hard sell at this point. Houston’s basketball team might be stuck in NBA no-man’s land:  middle of the pack. Like I previously said, if they play up to the potential that made them lottery picks. Watch out. (Yet another overused statement that likely is being burned out of my mental dictionary/word-bank as we speak due to over usage.)

The Seattle Sonics… Oops sorry the New Orleans Hornets, have a difficult season ahead of themselves this year. One, they just lost their starting point-guard and face-of-the-franchise: Chris Paul. And two, they have the second worst owner in the league: (only to every northwesterner’s favorite sports figure, notice the heavy sarcasm, Clay Bennett) David Stern. Plus they don’t really have ownership at all seeing as the league still owns the team (a point I can’t state enough). It might be tough in NOLA. (Yes, I just used NOLA more times than New Orleans.)

If all that becomes somewhat of a reality the playoffs would then look like this in the west:

1 Dallas Mavericks vs 8 Utah Jazz

2 Memphis Grizzlies vs 7 Los Angeles Clippers

3 Oklahoma City Thunder vs 6 San Antonio Spurs

4 Portland Trailblazers vs  5 Los Angeles Lakers

I don’t see a whole lot changing here. With the exception of a Steve Nash miracle (not out of the question) the playoff picture probably looks something like this:

1 Dallas Mavericks vs 8 Phoenix Suns

2 Memphis Grizzlies vs 7 Los Angeles Clippers

3 Oklahoma City Thunder vs 6 San Antonio Spurs

4 Portland Trailblazers vs  5 Los Angeles Lakers

Chris Paul is Going to the Clippers (and the Fit the Lakers Will Throw)

The Chris Paul saga has ended. And while the term “saga” has been used for a lot of fiascos and ongoing events, this one actually fit the definition of a saga:  A series of events or a story stretching over a long period (or so says dictionary.com). We had the vetoed Lakers-Rockets deal, the trade the Clippers pulled out of and the trade the Clippers actually made.

Paul will obviously be playing in LA. On the Hornets side of things they got a guy who could be more of a dynamic scoring threat than he already is (Eric Gordon). They also acquired a guy with a ton of upside in Al Farouq Aminu, a borderline All-Star in Chris Kaman and Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 first round pick.

Minnesota’s first rounder could end up not being the number one overall pick that everyone thinks it will be. While it’s probably a lottery pick, people have to remember that Minnesota has some talent. Kevin Love is ridiculous on the boards. Guards  Ricky Rubio and JJ Barea can fill it up along with former number two overall pick Michael Beasley. That, combined with the lottery, could sink the chances for a number one overall selection. The draft is going to be extremely deep this year, and the lottery will be the crème of the crop.

So that’s the Hornets coming away with an extremely legit shooting guard in Eric Gordon. Kaman, who could be moved for more pieces and picks, is even more of a trade piece than usual because of his expiring contract and high level of play. Farouq Aminu still has a high ceiling and will contribute to the team. You throw in Aminu and Gordon with two lottery picks in a stacked draft, and it means two potentially good to superstar type players.

On the flipside you have Chris Paul lining up with Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan as a starting five. Follow that up with Eric Bledsoe, Mo Williams, Randy Foye and Ryan Gomes off the bench. Add on a potential to bring in another big guy, which they need, and you have the potential to be really, really good long term.

On the flip-flip-side there are the Lakers. The Lakers not only lost out on Chris Paul, but lost one of their key players in the process: Lamar Odom. Throw in that with his replacement, none other than Josh McRoberts (not a bad player at all, just not Odom), and you have all the ingredients for a dismal year.

To be honest, at this point a dismal year for the Lakers is probably a loss in the conference semifinals like last year. The Lakers could be faced with the realization that not only the Clippers could be better in the long term, but also that the Lakers could be on the short end of the stick in the present. Another realization that could come to fruition is that this could be the eventual downfall of the Kobe Bryant era. Pau Gasol could be shipped out to either get Dwight Howard, or pieces for him. Ditto Andrew Bynum. If Gasol goes and Howard isn’t on the plane back to LA then we might see a string of seasons somewhere in the no man’s land that is first-round playoff losses that could happen until Kobe eventually retires (yes that will happen at some point in time Lakers fans).

Because of this the Lakers probably will throw a behind-the-scenes temper tantrum at the League and David Stern after getting their own Chris Paul deal nixed and then seeing him head to their constant-butt-of-jokes-cross-arena-more-of-a-punching-bag-than-rival-Clippers. It may surprise you, or it may not, but at season’s end the better team is probably going to be the punching bag.