here’s a nickname for shaq

listened to shaq’s interview on pti yesterday, including wilbon’s recital of proposed new nicknames for shaq in cleveland…

to me, there’s no contest…shaq’s going to carry lebron’s clubs and try and get him to the championship the way he did for wade in miami…

so here’s my entry in the shaq nickname contest:  the big caddy (shaq)

shaq to cleveland – what does it change?

so the big news today pre-draft is the trade of the big cactus to cleveland…wonder what he’ll be there?  the big nickname will have a big challenge figuring something out, but i trust he’ll come up with something…

the more important question is: does this change anything for cleveland in terms of its ability to beat top tier competition in the east, not to mention whoever comes out of the west?

to the eye of this amateur hoops junkie, it helps cleveland quite a lot against boston, but maybe not so much against orlando.  shaq will dish out a pounding to kendrick perkins, and he may be able to keep garnett away from the basket, though garnett doesn’t need to be within shaq-distance of the rim to be effective.  more importantly, he’ll force boston to collapse in, and while that will clog up lebron’s path to the hole, it’ll also mean fewer defenders able to key on lebron from distances that are still well within his “unlimited” range.

as for orlando, obviously shaq is a load and cleveland should do much better against dwight howard with him in the middle.  but…it still does not address the problem of how cleveland deals with the length, quickness and range of the two long forwards, lewis and turkoglu (assuming they can re-sign him).  true, howard was a force in the cleveland series, but i’d argue that even if you take away his great games in that series and make him just average, the real problem cleveland had was slow-footed people up front.  this trade does nothing to change that.  further, i think you have to assume that dwight’s going to get better, likely adding an offensive move or two and hopefully improving his footwork.

of course, there are those who’d argue if dwight was going to expand his game significantly there’d be signs of it already. and his main mentor is a guy whose offensive game was a bit on the mechanical and slow-footed side.  still dwight’s young and committed…odds are he’ll be better next year than this, and probably will be able to hold his own against a shaq who may be slowing down.  in the one game between orlando and phoenix in ’08-’09 that shaq played in (march 3), with orlando winning 111 to 99, dwight went for 21 points, 8 boards.  his season averages were 20.6 and 13.8.  so, shaq may have kept him off the boards some, but didn’t slow down his scoring.  meanwhile, shaq got 19 and 11, above his season averages of 17.8 and 8.4, and much better than anything ilgauskas managed.  so, an upgrade no doubt, if we assume shaq will still be healthy and playing come playoff time next year, and maybe those extra points and boards will be the difference makers should orlando and cleveland meet again in next year’s playoffs (though you’ve got to back out medium-sized ben’s boards, or rather, the difference between ben’s boards and whoever gets his minutes, to compensate).

that said, what is the evidence that cleveland will be able to handle both lewis and turkoglu any better now than last year?  hint:  there isn’t any evidence.  and to go further, if we assume both teams are healthy, and jameer nelson plays for orlando, doesn’t that offset any offensive gain that cleveland may get from having o’neal?

to me, cleveland is still a long, lanky, capable defender away from being able to get out of the east next year, even with shaq.  which may mean that, if the lakers want to repeat, they better make sure to re-sign lamar odom, because if they don’t, cleveland may be willing to pay the price for him.  adding lamar would, to me, make cleveland the favorite to win it all, because his versatility would fill in all the places that cleveland right now has serious deficits.

well, they did it again

so…the lakers won…dodged a bullet, or a nugget, if you will…

but again, it’s hard to be proud about it, though i think the second unit played better than they have all playoffs.  i sure can’t wait until andrew bynum gets some more playoff experience under his belt.  he’s a nice guy…smart, well-spoken, thoughtful…but he’s got, i think, a bit of nasty in him too, and once he learns how to channel his energy, where to be, how to play, he’s gonna be a beast…and the lakers need that…

anyhow, tonight’s game may be just what the lakers need to wake them up…given tonight, i think this series could go 5 or 7 games…we’ll see…

still…hard to be proud of it…

and one thing struck me…the laker crowd, the fans, are partly to blame…they’re front-runners…if the lakers don’t come out of the box fast, they sit quietly, nervously…as in, hey, is this supposed to be happening?  they seem to come to cheer dominance, but they don’t urge their team on…if the team isn’t doing well, laker fans don’t get behind them…

which is way different than how it used to be in the showtime days…back then, we loved the lakers, no matter what was happening…but then, those showtime teams, they were some of the best of all time…it was incredible watching those guys…and, from top to bottom, those teams had swagger and they backed it up…they expected to overwhelm teams, and they rarely came out looking like wilted flowers…seems to me ariza is a throwback to those days…kobe and fish could run with those guys…and farmar, on his good days has the confidence that comes from being a stud.  i really want to see gasol get that vibe…and bynum…then we’ll see…

a laker disaster in the making

it’s been awhile since i’ve posted…last time in fact was during the first half of a lakers-celtics christmas day game that the lakers ended up winning… much to my surprise given their wimpy play in the first half.

watching the denver-l.a. game tonight, i was moved, by nausea, to write again.

you gotta understand, i’m a laker fan for life.  my mom used to shout at the tv during those early seventies lakers playoff battles (goodrich was her favorite…jim mcmillan was mine) when i was just a tyke.  i suffered through the kermit washington and elmore smith years.  i got the thrill of showtime, and suffered through the doldrums that were the nineties.  i assume i don’t need to recount the shaq years or what has happened since.

the lakers have never been an overly physical team, despite what rudy t.’s jaw might have to say about it.

but this…this is ridiculous.  watching lakers actively avoid nuggets as they fly to rim makes my stomach turn.  i should have know it was gonna be painful on something like the second play of the game, when denver fumbled a rebound and it nearly went out of bounds, then was rescued and…there was no laker to be seen…no one even trying.  then comes about ten minutes of bad offense, lousy passes, brick shots, and most importantly, very little resembling a laker pulse, other than kobe’s…

i suppose the lakers may switch it on at some point, but i gotta say, it ain’t no fun watching a team that’s not willing or, possibly, able to work hard all game every game…i mean, it’s one thing to have occasional lapses of energy, but what the lakers have is constant lack of energy, with occasional lapses during which they show some effort.

ugh.

some other possible trades for amare that might make sense

in chad ford’s espn story on trade possibilities for amare stoudamire, he proposes a number of potential trades, but i didn’t find most of them that compelling. i won’t bother detailing why – you can go see for yourself and make your own judgement.  the one trade i thought made a lot of sense was the detroit trade mentioned.  but i couldn’t shake the feeling that there were some other teams out there that might be able to make it work, and wanted to check it out.

for a trade for amare to make sense for a team giving up anything other than what bill simmons likes to call the pu-pu platter, that team would have to have a sense that amare would be happy there and would fit. as stein says, amare wants to be the face of a franchise (never mind that he doesn’t play enough d and isn’t sound enough fundamentally to take a team to the championship). but beyond that, i don’t think he’d be happy as the biggest fish in the wrong town. stein suggests he wouldn’t be happy in oklahoma city, and i agree. i don’t claim any special insight, but at a distance my opinion is that amare also would not be happy in memphis, minnesota, milwaukee, indiana or salt lake city, either. the salt lake city thing is too bad, because they’ve got some great assets they don’t really need right now (think boozer and AK), but i don’t think jerry sloan could handle amare’s lack of attention to detail and defensive mediocrity. still, it seems to me that other than those (significant) factors, the jazz could be a good fit.  almost every other guy on that team is a tough-minded defender (with the possible exception of okur), but they seem to lack the explosive scoring that amare could give them.  then again, it’s not clear if amare and milsap could work well together.  okur would certainly not be in his way…but i think the biggest barriers are that amare wouldn’t like salt lake or the demands sloan would place on him, and amare might make sloan’s head explode… not that that would be a bad thing…i’d certainly be willing to pay to see it.

i don’t know about charlotte, but for no good reason i have this feeling amare could be happy in charlotte. also for no good reason i think he might be able to handle toronto, but they don’t really fit for other reasons (see below), and maybe even sacramento if the maloofs made a big enough fuss about him. anyhow, i wandered over to espn’s great trade machine and tried a few things on for size. i thought the following deals deserve consideration alongside those mentioned by stein.

here are some of the key ideas that drove the search.  1) the city has to be a city where being “the man” is a lot of fun. 2) amare would have to be a centerpiece, the focus of the team.  3) the team and the coach would have to be able to deal with amare’s defensive approach, which is less than dominant, and in fact is less than average, for most guys who play that position in the nba, 4) the team has to have decent trade assets, both in terms of talent and contract terms, and can’t hold on to guys who’d need the same space on the floor that amare needs to operate (thus, toronto with bosh, atlanta with josh smith, washington with antawn jamison, the sixers with brand, and the clippers and denver with multiple guys there are out) and, 5) the team needs to want to become good, but not need to be championship good because, frankly, that would necessitate violating points 2 and 3.  i just don’t think the guy has the mental toughness and discipline to take a team all the way.  he wants to be tim duncan, but he’s no tim duncan.

that list of criteria led me to the following teams that stein neglected to consider:  new jersey, charlotte, and golden state.  and, if the maloofs could sell it, maybe sacto.

so, here’s what i came up with on the trade machine:

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new jersey:

the simplest trade, but one that probably doesn’t make sense for phoenix, is vince carter straight up for amare.  the problem is that vince’s deal has four years left, and it doesn’t let phoenix trim any salary, so they don’t really gain by doing it.  still, would you watch a starting 5 of nash, j-rich, vince, robin lopez or louis amundson and shaq, with matt barnes, grant hill, and leandro barbosa coming off the bench?

a better trade might be amare ($15 M with 3 years on the contract) and goran dragic ($1.9M, 3 yrs) for stromile swift ($6.2M, 1 yr) , brook lopez ($2M, 2 years), and bobby simmons ($10M, 2 years).  phoenix gets a great young player in lopez, but does new jersey make this trade?  maybe not.  amare may be better than lopez, but lopez is an easier guy to build around, and the simmons and swift contracts give nj a lot of room to work with that they lose if they make this deal.  still, that would give them a core of devin harris, carter, and amare, and that could be enough to make noise in the east, though it probably puts them in fifth place out there, bowing out in the conf semifinals for years to come.

of course, new jersey could get that room to maneuver on salaries in the summer of 2010 with the following blockbuster: shaq AND amare to new jersey for vince carter, brook lopez, stro swift, bobby simmons, and jarvis hayes.  new jersey gets devin harris and amare as the foundation for the future, and shaq for this year and next and has a ton of money free in the summer of 2010.  if they add one or two other serviceable players, they can make an impact in the east, and be way fun to watch, a ticket-selling beast.  the downside for them is giving up lopez, who looks like he can be a stud, but is he likely to be more of a stud than amare?  maybe, but they’re not going anywhere now.  phoenix gets a great center in lopez, who might be happy to be reunited with his bro and is a great deal with 2 years left on his contract at a paltry $2M per year.  simmons contract ($10 M, 2 years) ends at the same time as lopez’, so that money can be used to resign lopez.  and swift is $6M that comes off this year.  now you’ve got a starting 5 of nash, richardson, vc, swift, and b. lopez, with an awesome bench including hill, barbosa, and barnes.  could be fun…

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charlotte:

sean may ($2.6M, 1 yr), adam morrison ($4.1M, 2 yrs), and gerald wallace ($9.5M, 4 years) for amare.  wallace impressed the hell out of me in the lakers game where bynum destroyed wallace’s rib and lung while sealing his own doom with the resulting bad karma.  i don’t know if he plays all the time the way he did in that game, and i don’t know if he can bounce back from that injury strong, but if he does, i say he’s a stud, and a great addition to the suns.  i think morrison will be more useful on the suns than he is on charlotte, who need more from him than he has to give.  on phoenix though, he…wait a second…scratch this.  i just learned charlotte traded morrison to the lakers for vlad radmanovic.  what?! how is morrison an upgrade on vlad?  alright, i guess this has to be scratched.  the only other contracts that make it work are d.j. augustin’s ($2.2M, 2 yrs), and i don’t think they’ll give him up, and raymond felton ($4.1M, 1 yr), ditto. however, augustin and felton do play the same position and have similar stats, and either one would be a nice backup for nash.  so…maybe…i think the deal might make sense for the suns if they get felton.  felton + may gives them $6.7M coming off this year, and wallace gives them a great 4 for several years at a substantial discount to amare.  the big problem with this trade is, like sloan, larry brown probably couldn’t handle amare’s approach to detail, and like sloan, amare could also possibly make larry brown’s head explode…unlike sloan, we’ve seen larry’s head explode so many times that i don’t think i’d pay to see it yet again.

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golden state

amare for brandan wright ($2.4M, 2 yrs), marco belinelli ($1.4M, 2 yrs), ronny turiaf ($4.5M, 3 yrs), jamal crawford ($8.6M, 3 yrs).  not sure this really makes sense for the suns, since they take on extra salary, and not much of it comes off until 3 years from now, but then, they get substantial talent and flexibility back.  they could drop belinelli from the deal to save salary, but it isn’t that much money, the guy shows promise, and he could be a steal that lets them move a bigger salary in his spot this summer or next year.  wright is a stud, straight up, turiaf will do a lot of the work they need alongside shaq, and crawford brings a ton to the table without all the baggage of an amare.  in return, golden state gets a little more clarity and focus.  starting five for g.s. once everyone’s healthy: ellis, jackson, magette, amare, biedrins.  amare gets to be the man in the bay area, and to play a kind of style he’ll get off on.

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sacramento

amare for kenny thomas ($8.5 M, 2 yrs), shelden williams ($3.4M, 1 yr), and bobby jackson ($6.5 M, 1 yr).  this lets phoenix lose $10M at the end of this season, and $8.5 at the end of next season.  on the talent front, it’s a stretch.  the chicago deal that stein discussed (ty thomas, thabo sefolosha, drew gooden, and joakim noah) probably makes more sense for them than this.

laker creampuffs in beantown (so far)

aaagh!

the agony of being a laker fan watching the game in boston. in the first four minutes of the game i’ve watched pau gasol and luke walton actively avoid contact and fail to even make a move toward the basket after shots go up…oh the pain of it…after that, in comes chris mihm, there to let you know someone tall is nearby and that you should go ahead and go to the rim.

7:30 left in the second…eddie house gets a steal and goes the other way. drives to the hoop, and sasha vujacic shadows him on the way to the rim, but lays not a finger on him…i wonder what mchale would have done in the same situation?

the lakers make it clear…you can get to the basket…we’ll let you get there…anytime you want…go ahead…be our guest. josh powell, derek fisher, and trevor ariza seem to feel differently, but the rest of ’em? oh…my…god…

you know, as i watch leon powe give a clinic on inside play, i find myself thinking about mark landsberger. for those of you too young to have watched showtime, landsberger was the guy on a lakers squad full of stars whose job it was to go get rebounds. he was amazing at it…a guy with no obvious physical gifts, who was just totally committed to getting rebounds. that was his contribution, and he had no role in putting the ball in the basket. he started. this lakers team needs someone like that, and has for awhile.

42 sec left in the first half. kendrick perkins, the four of us lakers standing around you here (kobe, pau, luke walton, and josh powell) so admire you for having gotten that offensive rebound that we will stay here on the ground like statuary…we think you should just jump up to the rim and drop that ball in.

meanwhile, a couple of moments ago fisher got blocked by paul pierce on a breakaway to the basket. but then, pierce plays a different style than the lakers…he jumps *toward* the guy going up, not parallel with or away from him.

perfect end of half for the puffs…lose the lead, give the ball away with 1.9 sec left, and then dodge a bullet when an unguarded ray allen misses a wide open jumper.

Clippers future?

have to admit that i’m a lakers fan…no two ways about it.  but i’ve been enjoying the clips of late too.

yeah, i know they have a terrible record.  and of course you can never forget they are injury-cursed, so no matter how much talent they have, you can’t count on them having it for a full season.  i still shudder when i think about what happened to shaun livingston’s knee.

then there’s the matter of the organization…they can take a roster full of great ingredients and turn it into a mediocre dish.

but…they sure as hell have an interesting mix of ingredients.  obviously, eric gordon looks like a stud.  ditto al thornton.  deandre jordon is definitely interesting.  i can’t help thinking how the lakers could use a guy with that kind of physicality.  and this kid novak can shoot the lights out…imagine what he could do for a good team.  he’d be a perfect fit on a phil jackson team, or a stan van gundy team, or a don nelson team (though to be honest, i haven’t been able to get a sense of his defensive abilities).

add to that mix of young players baron davis, marcus camby, chris kaman, zach randolph and a lottery pick and you have to think that a different organization with a different coach could really ride that group far…though of course the middle’s too clogged…trade a couple of those bigs for a great 2 or 3  (no disrespect intended mardy) and you’re set.

letter to scoop re: the redeem team

thought so highly of scoop jackson’s espn.com column on the redeem team that i wrote him the following…

dear scoop,
excellent column on the question of usa dominance.  to me, the issue is that an excellent team can beat a team of superior players, and i have the feeling that offseason practices notwithstanding, the redeem team still doesn’t get the benefit of being a team that, for example, a team like spain did.  i’d wager that, for example, the celtics would destroy the redeem team, as would the lakers and the spurs and the pistons and possibly even the hornets for that matter.  personally, i’d be very interested to see an nba *team* compete in the olympics.  the problem there might be that team owners might be conflicted (read: opposed) to having their team play games that wore the players out and risked injury without getting any compensation…then again, maybe they make it back in promotional value.  but the other problem is that the nba game and the fiba games are so different that it might be hard for an nba team to make the transition…maybe rules changes that they say are in the offing to make the two games more similar will have a better effect.  but somewhere in this mix should be a question about why some countries’ teams seem so much more than the sum of their parts in big games.

maybe the reason coach K focused so much on D is he knew how difficult it would be to get players schooled in the kind of one-on-one or two man games that have developed since jordan dominated to play that team game that guys like magic and bird had down so well, and could run in their sleep.

anyhow, interesting questions, and i’m glad you raised the question…thx….

garnett deserves the mvp (from a lakers fan)

i was going to write something on why (despite the fact that i’m a die-hard lakers fan and lizard-hater) if i had a vote for mvp i’d have to give it to garnett…but then bill simmons wrote it for me…

so…here’s a link to his column…though i may quibble with his putting kobe 3rd and cp3 2nd, i understand his logic, and appreciate it…kobe deserves an mvp, but this year has to be garnett’s, because he transformed a franchise…cp3 too…kobe was *involved* in the revival in l.a., and it couldn’t have happened without him, and he’s a stud, and he’s matured and i don’t think it’s just an act, and i hope we win the championship, and if we do he’ll be the key guy…but…well…read simmons…he nails it…

p.s. in case you missed it, here in la-la the celts are referred to as lizards

spurs may want the six seed

there’s an interesting article on espn.com by andrew ayres today about the various playoff scenarios in the west depending on tonight’s results. he argues that gregg popovich faces a tough decision about playing manu ginobili tonight instead of resting his groin, because if the spurs lose to utah, they fall from the three seed, with home-court advantage in the opening round to, likely, the six seed, and forced to open against utah, which would move to the three seed and has the best home record in the league. an interesting argument, but i disagree with the logic.

if the spurs hold their three seed, they open at home, true, but against the phoenix suns, a team they probably don’t want to face right now, injury depleted as they are…and doubly so if manu’s groin isn’t much better…anyone who’s ever played with a groin injury knows how long it takes to heal, how much it impairs your explosiveness, and how it gets worse and worse the more you play on it…for a guy who depends very much on sharp changes of direction and elevation, manu needs as much recovery time from that injury as he can get. phoenix is a speed and power team, while utah is much more a precision team. if it were me, i’d much rather take a veteran team like the spurs on the road against a team like utah that they match up with fairly well, man for man, in the first round, than i’d want to take phoenix at home right now, especially if you factor in that manu could get another five days of rest on that groin. and falling to sixth wouldn’t change a thing about their second round home-court situation…if new orleans wins its first round series, the spurs are on the road either way, and if new orleans loses, the spurs are at home either way. be interesting to see what pop elects to do tonight…i’m betting he rests manu…

postscript: well, just shows how wrong you can be…the spurs crushed the jazz, and as i write this, with two and a half to play in the game, ginobili has played 19 min, scoring a dozen on 4 for 4 from the field, 4 for 4 from the line, six boards, four assists (vs. one turnover) and three steals…wow…i guess the spurs are cool facing the suns in round 1…should be fun…