Knicks and Nets: A Retrospective on How Bad New York’s Basketball Is

New York is a mess, or rather, the Knicks and Nets are. If you search “NBA Standings” on the old internet, you’ll find New York’s professional basketball clubs stuck near the bottom of the worst division in the league.

How bad is the Atlantic Conference, you say?

Well, as of late Saturday, the Raptors are leading the conference with an outstanding record of 12-15. 12 AND 15! What’s worse is that the team who sits just a game worse than the Knicks, the 76ers, was called a team of “six NBA players” and “a bunch of guys who are fighting for spots…”  Was the quoted person in this situation a controversial analyst or former player? Nope, it was the Sixers’ own coach, Brett Brown.

That is how bad the division is.

What’s even worse, and slightly funny, is how the divisional standings are laid out.

  1. Toronto 12-15
  2. Boston 13-17
  3. Brooklyn 10-19
  4. New York 9-20
  5. Philadelphia 8-20

Yeah, it’s that bad, but the aforementioned funny thing is that Toronto and Boston are ahead of the two New York clubs. During the offseason both Toronto and Boston made significant trades, dealing major pieces for long-term salary relief and younger pieces.

The Raptors traded Andrea Bargnani for Steve Novak, the now departed Marcus Camby and Quentin Richardson, a future first-round draft pick and two future second-round draft picks.

Boston, going for a larger affect, traded franchise icons Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Seattle native Jason Terry to Brooklyn for a cavalcade of cap holds and draft picks including Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Kris Joseph, MarShon Brooks, Keith Bogans and future first-round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018.

Toronto and Boston made those trades to restart, to let young players develop, gather draft picks and build for the future. The Knicks and Nets made those moves in an attempt to win now, at all costs.

In a normal world, the former two teams should be at the bottom of the division, not at the top and in contention for playoff places. But this isn’t a normal world. The east, specifically the Atlantic, and specifically the two New York teams, are really bad.

It would be strange to see the Celtics make the playoffs this season without Pierce and Garnett. What would be stranger would be seeing the two not make the playoffs with their new team. But that is the Atlantic Division, as it is.

MLB Trade Rumors: The Tigers and Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp at his best is a near flawless player. An athletic and talented center fielder, he combines that with the ability to hit for average, serious power and tremendous base running /speed to make for a potent threat. Put it this way, Kemp at his best would challenge Mike Trout for the “best five tool player” award.

Everyone is aware of what Kemp can do. He put in a wonderful season in 2011 when he posted a .324 batting average, 39 home runs, 126 RBI and 40 stolen bases. Kemp not only led the league in the two traditional run scoring stats, homers and RBI, but he also led the league in runs scored, OPS+ and total bases. Also on his resume that year? A Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove.

If you’re saying to yourself, “Wow this guy is excessively driving in the point of how good Matt Kemp is,” then we’re on the same page. Matt Kemp is good. Really good.

So why are the Dodgers considering trading someone who, when healthy, rivals Mike Trout?

This is why. Here’s a comparison of Kemp’s accolade-filled 2011 stat line compared to that of the last two years.

Matt Kemp 2011: 161 games played, 115 runs scored, 195 hits, 33 doubles, 39 homeruns, 126 RBI, 40 stolen bases, .324 batting average, 353 total bases.

Matt Kemp 2012 & 2013: 179 games played, 109 runs scored, 193 hits, 37 doubles, 29 homeruns, 102 RBI, 18 stolen bases, .290 batting average, 321 total bases.

The current Dodger’s injury form and the emergence of Yasiel Puig have doomed Kemp to expendability. Maybe not Puig by himself, but the general immovability of Carol Crawford’s contract means one or both Kemp and Andre Either must go. After all, you can’t play four outfielders in the National League.

The Dodgers, as with many contending teams, have very specific needs. Their only legitimate needs are at third base and possibly insurance at second base. The Tigers current third baseman is Nick Castellanos. Unless the Angels offer Mike Trout or Washington calls with an offer of Stephen Strasburg and/or Bryce Harper, you don’t trade the former top-prospect if you’re Detroit.

Los Angeles was reported to be willing to eat money to facilitate a Kemp trade. Theoretically, a trade similar to that of the Prince Fielder trade could work. LA would acquire Ian Kinsler to provide insurance at second base as well as playing third. However, even if the Dodgers ate significant money, Detroit would likely be taking back major salary in the trade. Something that would go against the previous Fielder trade as well as the Doug Fister trade.

If you take salary out of the equation, a package centered around Austin Jackson could get the deal done, but who else would be in that package is beyond me. The Tigers don’t have the equivalent of a massive, expiring contract in the NBA that they can shop. They simply don’t have a big contract to shop.

Dave Dombrowski’s reshaping of the team has been extremely cost cutting. He’s expunged the hefty, collective contracts of players such as Fielder, Fister and Jhonny Peralta and has replaced them with younger, cheaper players that still make the team legitimate contenders. The cost-cutting has gone so far that somewhat-expensive role players such as Jose Veras, Ramon Santiago and Brayan Pena have been replaced with even cheaper options like Ian Krol, Steven Lombardozzi and Bryan Holaday.

Acquiring Kemp would undo almost all of the work he’s done to get the team to its current state.

Detroit has reportedly been in contact with the Dodgers about the two-time All-Star, which given everything that I just stated makes a potential move curious. It may have just been tire kicking at its best, but if the talks were serious the Tigers would probably ask for the Dodgers to eat a lot of money. Like a lot in italics a lot.

The Dodgers reportedly now plan to keep Kemp, but should the Tigers remain interested there could be trouble.

Unless Los Angeles nearly gives him away from a salary standpoint, Kemp is going to occupy a large portion of Detroit’s salary going forward. This is all and well if the Tigers are able to sign Miguel Cabrera and Max Scherzer to long-term contracts, but if Kemp’s salary stands in the way of that, then Dave Dombrowski should stay away.

Kemp is going to bounce back and be a fantastic player, but he isn’t worth the risk of losing Miguel Cabrera and or Max Scherzer.

 

All stats courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

LeBron James: The Potential of the King in Cleveland

LeBron James could be a Cleveland Cavalier next season. Of course the operative word there is “could”. LeBron could opt out of his contract and become a free agent this summer. “The King” won back-to-back titles in Miami and has an excellent chance at a three-peat this season. Leaving Miami would be tough after a potential three-peat, but there are long-term questions about whether the Heat can continue to add pieces financially.

While the short-term potential in South Beach is tantalizing, the long-term potential in LeBron’s old home of Cleveland could be amazing.

Why Cleveland? Not only would James return to try and win a ring and a sense of redemption in his home state, he would also join an up-and-coming Cavaliers side.

Cleveland won’t exactly be pouting if their hometown hero stays in Miami. After all, they’re likely bound for the lottery again this season, and the potential to add one of Dante Exum, Julius Randle, Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker to a nucleus of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett is ridiculous.

Throw in Tyler Zeller, Anderson Varejao and Andew Bynum and you have a scary team.

(Let’s say that for all intents and purposes, the Cavs draft Exum, as suggested in this CBS piece, and start Varejao at center.)

How about this for a rotation-

PG Kyrie Irving

SG Dante Exum

F Anthony Bennett

F LeBron James

C Anderson Varejao

Bench-

G Jarrett Jack

G Dion Waters

F Tristan Thompson

F Tyler Zeller

C Andrew Bynum

F Earl Clark

Cheap, Ray Allen-like Signing

Players would be lining up to play for this team. Not only do you have LeBron, but you also have a soon-to-be superstar in Irving and another potential superstar in their draft pick. It might not be Exum who the team takes, but with the depth in the upcoming draft class, whoever the pick is, they’re going to have tremendous upside.

The long-term potential in Cleveland for LeBron is undeniable. What’s more is that if, at age 35, LeBron can’t physically carry the team like he carries Miami now, Cleveland can turn to Irving or their young draft pick as the focal point of the team. They can then use LeBron in a more complimentary, less physically taxing role.

I’m not putting it past LeBron to carry a championship contender at age 35, but who knows what will happen when he gets up there in age.

The short-term potential in Miami is better than Cleveland, but I’ll pose it this way, if you were LeBron, do you want to be playing with the declining Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in your later career years? Or do you want to be playing with a younger, more exciting Cleveland team where you don’t have to do as much?

It should also be noted that Wade and Bosh are going to be paid a lot of money down the road, as is LeBron. Thus making it difficult to add more pieces to compete for rings.

LeBron to Cleveland. Makes a lot of sense.

 

 

The Celtics Plan Without Rajon Rondo

This isn’t the kind of injury that you can replace with a game-manager or fill in/expiring contract to replace a starter. This is Rajon Rondo we are talking about. Rondo probably means more to his team than a lot of other stars mean to theirs. Knowing this, it’s going to take someone special to replace Rondo in the short term, and even then the replacement probably won’t be up to Rondo’s par.

Not many players even have the potential to be on Rondo’s level. This trade I’m going to throw out there might fix the Celtics’ problems short term and long term. Let me explain.

(It’s a four-team trade, so you’re excused if it’s confusing. It’s making my head hurt,and I haven’t even written it yet.)

 

Boston acquires Tyreke Evans from Sacramento and Steve Blake from the Lakers.

Sacramento acquires Courtney Lee and Fab Melo from Boston. Devin Ebanks and Jodie Meeks from LA and Omri Casspi from Cleveland.

Los Angeles acquires Leandro Barbosa and Chris Wilcox from Boston and Tyler Honeycutt from Sacramento.

Cleveland acquires Francisco Garcia from Sacramento and a future second-round pick from Boston and LA.

 

Now we get to the explaining part.

First off is Boston. The Celtics get two point guards to at least do a half-decent job of filling in for Rondo. Obviously no one is going to replace Rondo, but Evans has the potential to be very good. Blake is one of the more consistent backup point guards in the league.

Boston also gets help long term. Not only would Boston have the option to re-sign Evans before anyone else does in free agency (that’s a huge stretch, but the Celtics would have the option,) but if they feel Evans doesn’t work, then they can let him walk and save the money that they owe long term to Lee. Blake gives them value this year, but also next year as a more-than-appealing expiring contract in a trade.

Sacramento. I have a little trouble with this if I’m the Kings Sonics. And the only problem I have is with Lee, more specifically, Lee’s contract. That is a lot of money long term for a starter-on-a-bad-team-bench-guy-on-a-good-team player. Sacramento Seattle gets another look at Casspi, plus Melo, a high upside big. Meeks’ contract is very team friendly in terms of what he can do. Ebanks is another guy on an expiring deal who could pan out given the chance. Sacramento gets rid of Garcia’s and Honeycutt’s contracts going forward.

The Lakers would love this trade if they made it. The one upside of Blake’s recent injury is the emergence of Duhon as more than just a trade throw in. That and the ever looming Darius Morris make Blake expendable. He’s even more expendable due to the fact that LA wants to save money. Dealing Blake would do that. LA also gets a Barbosa-Nash-D’Antoni reunion. (Side note, how many Phoenix fans envisioned that within five years of each leaving the Suns? The answer is one. That one guy who wants to rebuild and trade away anyone who isn’t 22 with big potential. We’ve all met them.) LA also gets more big-man insurance with Wilcox. Plus the fact that (and I’m no salary cap aficionado) Honeycutt’s contract might be non-guaranteed. Thus the team waves him, or buys him out, keeps a roster spot and saves enough money to buy the whole team lunch for a month or two.

Cleveland gets picks going forward, but also gets an interesting piece in Garcia. Yes, he costs them an extra four million, but has the potential to, like Blake, be a very appealing option as an expiring contract next year in terms of trade value.

I think the smartest thing for Boston to do is to go get Evans. You obviously aren’t going to finish with the best record in the conference, but maybe Evans finally figures it out under the tutelage of Doc Rivers, KG, Paul Pierce and a hobbling Rondo. Maybe Evans stays long term and plays well alongside Rondo in the future. Those “maybes” might turn into something better than a regular season conference title.

Love is Gone: How the Timberwolves Stay Afloat Without Kevin Love

(Side note, I thought about starting to call Kevin Love “The Klove,” which by the way makes no sense after I found out that it’s an adult contemporary Christian music radio programming service. Yes, that’s right, I actually took the time out of my day to Google “klove.” Laugh it up readers, laugh it up.)

The Timberwolves run on Love. Not to say that they are a gushy team or anything, but you catch my drift. Minnesota stands on four legs. One leg, and the one holding up most of the weight, is Love. Another is Nikola Pekovic, a third is Andrei Kirilenko and a fourth, albeit in a limited role this year due to injury, is Ricky Rubio.

With Kevin Love, Minnesota is a low-seed playoff contender. Without him they are definitely on the wrong side of the number eight seed.

Just to reiterate, Minnesota was 26-40 last year. The worst record in the conference belonged to the Hornets at 21-45. Kevin Love had a win share of 10 last year. Jumble that all together and throw in some math signs + = / to make it look super educated and you get 16. 16 wins the T-Wolves would have had without their sole Olympian and biggest player since Kevin Garnett (sorry Mark Madsen.)

Granted that was last year, and this year is a whole different animal in terms of the season, but the T-Wolves are still in trouble. Kirilenko has carried the team so far, but I have serious reservations about whether he can carry a team for the 8-10 weeks that Love will be out. Let me rephrase that, he can carry a team, but can Minnesota stay competitive if he’s the “Atlas” of the team? Probably not.

The team needs something new. Whether that be a trade acquisition, like say shipping Kirilenko, Derrick Williams and Luke Ridnour to Memphis for Rudy Gay. Or getting injured players healthy, and in the lineup again like Rubio and Chase Budinger.

At the end of the day, the Timberwolves aren’t going to be as good as they were with Love. It’s just not going to work. The team is built around “Klove” (that might be the last time you see that on the internet ever.)

What do you think? Will Minnesota be able to stay in contention with Kevin Love, or will they fall out of it without him and never recover? Tell me in the comments section.

Making Sense of the Phoenix Suns.

I’m going to give you three NBA teams who aren’t so high in the standings: the Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Throw Phoenix into the mix and you have four struggling teams.

Remember the old Sesame Street bit where they sang, “One of these things is not like the other?” This is similar, in the sense of how the teams built their current rosters.

Sacramento has gone the rout of putting as many young, high potential guys who like to shoot the ball (not much else) together.

Houston has a young group of interesting roster decisions. The point there is that they are young. Agree or disagree with how Darryl Morey got the players, the Rockets have exciting youth.

Cleveland rounds out the list with multiple lottery picks littering the roster.

The underlying theme in this is that the teams are young, and however frustrating it is to watch the team on the court (Sacramento), they have potential.

Phoenix however is different. There is no mention of a young building block with the potential or aptitude for stardom (i.e. Kyrie Irving, James Harden or DaMarcus Cousins). Continue reading

Saturday Funnies

Here’s a little segment I like to call “Saturday Funnies”. A compilation of hilarious clips from the world of sports. Enjoy.

Here’s Detroit Tigers pitcher Phil Coke recounting the conversation he had with Miguel Cabrera when the Triple Crown winner asked if he had ever faced him before. The impression is spot on, by the way.

 

The extremely funny “Who He Play For” on “Inside the NBA” generally gets all the
press, but this one might be even better. Check out Sir Charles and Kenny
trying to correctly guess the names of every Development League Team.

More from “Inside the NBA,” this time on the weekly segment “Shaqtin a Fool.” Shaq points out some curious/funny plays from around the league. One of his more usual punching bags is JaVale McGee. This one is all JaVale.

Who could forget minor league manager Phill Wellman losing it while arguing a call? Roll it.

This one takes a little more explaining. Our next clip comes from the 2008-2009 season opener between San Antonio and Phoenix. Shaq was playing for Phoenix at the time and didn’t like the way the Spurs played a Hack-A-Shaq with him in the playoffs. This is the Spurs playing Hack-A-Shaq again… well, you’ll see.

The last and final clip comes from “Intentional Talk,” MLB Networks show hosted by Chris Rose and Kevin Millar. Millar is well known for, among other things, the highlights in his hair. Here’s a clip of their usual segment “Kevin’s Highlights” where, similar to “Shaqtin a Fool,” point out gaffes from around baseball.

 

Why Adam Morrison Isn’t One of the Biggest Draft Busts in NBA History

Adam Morrison had a spectacular college career at Gonzaga. The NBA, however, hasn’t been the easiest transition for him.

Morrison was immediately labeled as an un-athletic guy who could score and happened to go to a small school. That prompted a lot of, “I see so much of Larry Bird in him” type statements. This, for a player who hadn’t even played a single minute in the league, seemed and still seems a bit unfair. Continue reading

The Pau Gasol Trade Machine Edition

The Lakers are struggling. If I had a dollar for every time I said or heard that then the local McDonald’s Dollar menu would be non-existent, or I’d save the boatload of money (thinks about it…) yep, definitely saving the money.

The blame game is one that has taken Los Angeles by storm in the same magnitude Lob City did. So, the blame game turned into musical chairs, and Mike Brown was left standing.

But now Mike D’Antoni is in town, and Steve Nash will be back at some point. In other Lakers firings, the team canned their entire training staff and has brought in Phoenix’s in exchange for whichever first-round pick the Lakers still hold the rights to in this Millennium. (2058, I think?)

(Ok, you got me.  I may have fibbed a little bit there.)

The point is that the Lakers are looking to change things up, and a synonym for “changing things up” is “trading.” This happens to be one of my favorite things to write about, the least favorite being draft picks, just for future reference.

With that, let’s go to the trade machine: Continue reading

The Best in World of Sports: An Atlas of Atlases

In Greek mythology there is a Titan named Atlas who held up the world, or held up the sky so that it didn’t crash down on the Earth.

In the world of sports, each team has its own “Atlas” who keeps the team from falling flat.

Some of the best “Atlases” in recent sports memory:

  1. LeBron James- Cleveland Cavaliers. During LeBron’s tenure the Cavaliers were essentially James and a never-ending roll call of role players. Shaquille O’Neal and Ben Wallace were the only really good players who James played with in Cleveland. And at that point both were in the respective twilights of their careers, and Wallace wasn’t scoring much (as per usual). Cleveland was so bad without “King James” that they set an NBA record for the longest losing streak: 26 games after he made the decision to go to South Beach.
  2. Derrick Rose- Chicago Bulls. A small sample size, but while Rose dominated Game One of the first round of the playoffs versus Philly, he tore his ACL towards the end of the game. After holding on for the win in that game the Bulls went on to lose the series 4-2 to the eight-seeded 76ers. As a follow up, this year with Rose out for an extended amount of time, most pundits and talking heads have Chicago in the 6-8 seed range in the playoffs. Quite a drop-off for the team who had the best record in the East last season.
  3. Luis Suarez- Liverpool. If you take away Suarez’s fantastic production, the Reds would likely be in the relegation zone if not in last.
  4. Dwight Howard- Orlando Magic. Orlando is so bad without Howard it compelled me to write an entire piece on it, you can see that here. Orlando is going nowhere fast.
  5. Steve Nash- Phoenix Suns. Obviously earlier on in Nash’s career he had Amare Stoudamire and friends, so the team wouldn’t be that bad off without him. However, the Suns of the past couple years have needed Nash to help them stay out of the cellar. With him they were camped on the stairs going to the cellar; now they’re the cellar’s likely tenants.
  6. Mike Trout- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Trout supporters love overusing the stat about the visible improvement of the Angels’ record with him, as opposed to their record without him. Take away Trout and a lineup that includes Albert Pujols, Kendrys Morales, Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells goes nowhere offensively. Continue reading