The Jump: Debacle in Memphis
I have to start off with the Allen Iverson saga out in Memphis. Whoever thought it was a good idea to put Allen Iverson on the Memphis Grizzlies needs to have their head examined. By the sounds of everything I have read on the Internet at the time and what has been said after all fingers point at owner Michael Heisley and this is a perfect example of why owners should never be allowed to make personnel decisions.
There were motives behind this move that were more than straight basketball decisions. The way to sell tickets is not to get an over the hill, overrated superstar, the best way to fill an arena is to put a winning product on the floor. Memphis used to sell plenty of tickets when they were winning games with Pau Gasol as the centerpiece of the franchise. They moved on from that era and are in the middle of a transition. Without Iverson in the picture Coach Lionel Hollins can concentrate on developing the young talent – Mike Conley Jr, O.J. Mayo, Marc Gasol, Sam Young, Hasheem Thabeet, and DeMarre Carroll. The quickest way for the Grizz to improve is to get these players experience and continue to add solid pieces through the draft.
Allen Iverson is one of the most overrated players in NBA history. I have always considered Allen Iverson a great scorer, not a great player. There is a big difference in that statement. Iverson is a one dimensional player; I don’t put a lot of value in his assists number because he has always played with the ball in his hands. There are times during the course of a game where he has no choice but to pass the ball. He is a career .420 FG% and had two seasons where he shot under .400% from the field. I do consider him a great scorer because the players who are the best at putting the ball in the bucket still get their numbers when they shoot poorly by getting to the foul line. AI did that throughout his career.
AI played with the Philadelphia 76ers from 1996-2007. During his time in Philly they only won 50 games one time, they were under .500 five times, and won 40 games four times. That is not a good distribution. The team that won 56 games in 2000-01 was not as good as the record says. That year they played in a miserable Eastern Conference. In the playoffs they beat a developing Pacers team that was still a couple years away from hitting their stride, and two good, but not great teams in the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks. When they finally played the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals they were put in their place losing the series 4-1. Take a look at the roster of that 2000-01 76ers team, there is no chance it cracks the top three of the Eastern Conference today and it is debatable whether it fits in the second tier with the Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat, and Washington Wizards (once Antwan Jamison and Mike Miller return from injury they should improve).
Notes from the rest of the league:
Shooting guard Jamal Crawford has been a great addition to the Atlanta Hawks. In the first two games of the season Hawks coach Mike Woodson only gave Jamal 14 and 25 minutes. That was not a good situation for Jamal who is a rhythm player; he needs minutes and the ball in his hands to be successful. Since then Crawford played 30 MPG and averaged 21.6 points per game. Jamal who is one of the best one on one players in the NBA and will take a lot of pressure off Joe Johnson down the stretch of games.
Dallas Mavericks center Erick Dampier and Washington Wizards center Brendan Haywood are bringing it to start the 2009-10 NBA season. Neither player has been an impact player on a consistent basis, but they are on track to have career seasons. Both are averaging over ten boards a game (Haywood has never done that in eight seasons and Dampier has once in 13 seasons), averaging over two blocks per game (Haywood once and Dampier once), and in double digit scoring (Haywood once and Dampier twice). I’ve watched both of them play a couple times and I assumed that both were in contract years, not surprisingly Brendan Haywood was, but Dampier still has two years left on his deal.
Two up and coming big men who are developing right on schedule are power forwards Andray Blatche from the Washington Wizards and Marreese Speights from the Philadelphia 76ers. Both players have similar skill sets; ability for a double-double, range that reaches out to 18-19 feet (Blatche can hit threes), put the ball on the floor, good back to the basket moves, and length to be an annoyance in the paint on defense. Andray Blatche is 23-years-old and Marreese Speights is 22. Wizards coach Flip Saunders must find ways to continue to get Blatche minutes when Antwan Jamison returns from injury. Philadelphia 76ers coach Eddie Jordan needs to sit Elton Brand’s butt on the bench and give Speights more minutes. Brand is no longer the same player and Philly is better team with Speights on the floor, problem is Philadelphia spent a lot of money on Brand and they do not want to give the impression that they made a mistake. Marreese is putting up better numbers than Elton in four less MPG.
Taking an early look at some of my season predictions one thing is clear and that is I bombed on my New Jersey Nets being the eight seed in the Eastern Conference pick. NJ is the only team that has not won a game. I’m stubborn and I am going to blame this on injuries; Devin Harris has only played two games, Kenyon Dooling zero, and Yi Jianlin four. Shooting guard Courtney Lee has also been fighting through some bumps and bruises. The Miami Heat are better than I thought due to the resurrection of Jermaine O’Neal (still needs to prove he can stay healthy for a long period of time) and they are a Dwayne Wade injury from being the worst team in the entire NBA. The Clippers really do have a chance to get the eighth seed. Baron Davis is actually trying, Chris Kaman looks very good, and they are holding the ship afloat with 1st overall pick Blake Griffin out with an injury.
Nothing better than watching two garbage teams play no defense and score tons and tons of points. Monday night the Golden State Warriors beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 146-105 combining for 261 points. The two teams added up for 13 players scoring in double digits and the Warriors five bench players who played more than ten minutes all hit the ten point mark. I think it’s safe to say that game hit the over.
The New York Knicks are the worst team in the entire NBA. Former Suns Head Coach Mike D’Antoni is in for a long season. Guard Nate Robinson is due to return from injury in the next couple of games and that should end the Chris Duhon era as the Knicks starting point guard. Duhon is not capable of running Coach D’s up tempo offensive system. Nate should jump into the starting lineup once he is back to basketball shape and rookie Toney Douglas who had 21 points against the Utah Jazz on Monday night can be the first guard off the bench.
Per my request (not really) Kings Head Coach Paul Westpahl moved center Spencer Hawes into the starting lineup and the previous starting center Sean May had two DNP coaching decisions in a row. Coincidentally the Kings are 3-1 since Hawes was entered into the starting line-up four games ago.
The New Orleans Hornets are not a good basketball team, but Chris Paul is one incredible player. As a point guard and someone who is 90% of the time the smallest player on the court Paul is third in league in FG% at 63% (he is also shooting 66% from 3-point range). There is no possible way that number stays so high, but it is still an accomplishment for CP3 to be doing that eight games into the season. I would love to hear from someone who got to watch Isiah Thomas’ career how they compare. Thomas is the one small guard I can think of that was the best player on a team that won an NBA Championship.
For those interested you can start voting for this year’s All Star teams. This is completely ridiculous, how in the world can you start judging who deserves to be an All Star less than ten games into the season. The NBA should wait one month before you can start voting on this.
I get to pat myself on the back for a prediction I made last week in the first edition of The Jump. I said New Orleans Hornets Head Coach Byron Scott would be the first coach to get kicked to the curb and that came true Thursday afternoon as reported by ESPN. The Hornets have been going in the wrong direction since they were the surprise team two years ago. The Hornets are not struggling because of the coaching; they are struggling because they are not a good basketball team. New Orleans will continue to lose and as we move closer to the trade deadline let the Chris Paul rumors begin.
The Phoenix Suns battled through their East Coast road trip and ended up with an impressive 4-1 record. I will admit that I was shocked that they beat the Boston Celtics, but the Heat, Wizards; 76ers are teams the Suns should beat if the Suns plan to make noise in the Western Conference. This week we continue to find out what the Suns are made of as they have a back to back set; home against the New Orleans Hornets (a win) and @ the Los Angeles Lakers. In the last two season the Suns are 1-6 head to head with the Hornets and the Lakers game needs no explanation.
Steve Nash continues to play at an extremely high level. It is fun to watch how comfortable he is running this style of offense. I have always been very critical of Nash’s defense, but I have to admit I was impressed with his work on 76ers PG Louis Williams. Steve did a pretty good job keeping him in front of him and forcing him to settle for jump shots.
Speaking of the 76ers game Jared Dudley was the reason the Suns won that game in the 4th quarter. He came up with game changing turnovers, rebounds, and two huge three pointers on back to back possessions.
Jason Richardson is becoming the threat that Steve Kerr was hoping for when he traded Boris Diaw and Raja Bell to the Charlotte Bobcats. Richardson is another player I have been critical of in the past, but he has been impressive this year. Richardson has an explosiveness to his game that Boris Diaw and Raja Bell will never have and J-Rich can put the Suns on his back for stretches in games when the rest of the team is struggling.
All of my eye openers this week are from Tuesday night, it just happened to work out that way.
Credit to NBA.com for all of these videos.
Travis Outlaw gets an offensive rebound and bangs it on Memphis Grizzlies small forward Rudy Gay.
Chicago Bulls center/power forward Brad Millers just misses hitting a game winning shot against the Denver Nuggets with .3 seconds left. One of the hardest calls I have ever seen the refs have to make. The video is less than 20 seconds into the highlights.
Miami Heat small forward Michael Beasley had a mammoth dunk against the Washington Wizards in the first quarter that I wanted everyone to see. I checked everywhere for the video and I couldn’t find it.
Oklahoma City Thunder rookie James Harden drains a half court bomb against the Sacramento Kings.
My rookie watch player this week is an under the radar player. Utah Jazz wingman Wes Matthews is going to be a nice NBA player. Matthews was a second round pick from the Marquette Golden Eagles and with injuries to CJ Miles, Matt Harpring, and Kyle Korver has been thrust into the rotation. He has the ability to hit three pointers and his ability to take the ball to the basket is improving. Wes Matthews has scored in double digits in two out of his last three games.
1. Boston Celtics 8-1…They stay in the first slot despite the loss to the Phoenix Suns. The Celts are most well rounded team in the NBA. They have an interesting game on Friday against the Atlanta Hawks.
2. Los Angeles Lakers 6-1…LA has only one loss and has not played one game this season with a full compliment of players. The last couple of games they have been without Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
3. Phoenix Suns 8-1…I can’t believe I have Phoenix this high, but after a 4-1 road trip I did not have a choice. If they sweep their back to back with New Orleans and the Lakers I will put them at the #1 position.
4. Denver Nuggets 6-3…J.R. Smith rejoined the team after his seven game suspension Tuesday night against the Chicago Bulls. He adds another dimension to the Nuggets offense.
5. Dallas Mavericks 5-3…Scored over 120 points against the Raptors and Rockets. Josh Howard returned from injury this week.
6. Miami Heat 6-1…Still not sold on this team, but two wins against the Wizards and beating the Nuggets and Bulls deserves recognition.
7. Orlando Magic 6-3…Disappointing blow out loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, but Stan Van Gundy is keeping the team above water as they wait for Rashard Lewis to return from suspension and they get through some injuries.
8. Portland Trailblazers 6-3…Still trying to get as a team. One of the most interesting starting back courts now that Nate McMillan has decided to start Andre Miller and Steve Blake, curious to see how long he sticks with it.
9. Atlanta Hawks 6-2…Terrible loss to Charlotte, great win against the Denver Nuggets. I think the Charlotte loss was more of a fluke than a pattern.
10. San Antonio Spurs 4-3 and Cleveland Cavaliers 5-3…Both teams have started off the season slow. San Antonio plays the Dallas Mavericks twice within a week (winning first matchup Wed. night), great opportunity to make an early season statement and the Cavs won a Eastern Conference Finals rematch Wednesday Night against the Orlando Magic.