2016-17 NBA Eastern Conference Preview

Written by :
Published on : October 20, 2016

 

 

Another NBA Season is upon us! While there was some notable events last year (Warriors breaking the single season record, retirements of Kobe, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett), there was a lull in action before the All Star break. There wasn’t a lot of great basketball being played and it was boring at times. I think this season will be much different with a surge in talent across the league.

 

With that in mind, let’s delve into my preseason rankings for the NBA Eastern Conference.

 

15. Brooklyn Nets

The “star” acquisition this summer was point guard Jeremy Lin. Yes, that Jeremy Lin! Aside from the creative hair styles, he offers nothing in regards to actually leading a basketball team. Center Brook Lopez has continued to struggle to stay healthy. Coach Lionel Hollins is gone. Insert coach Kenny Atkinson who I had to Google to find out who he is. There is not one player that could vie for All-Star recognition. This team is an instant dumpster fire. Tanking isn’t even an option as the team may have surrender it’s first round draft pick to the Celtics.

 

 

14. Philadelphia 76ers

Another year of “The Process.” The team has an overload of young big men and no point guards. They are still paying Elton Brand to play basketball at his advanced age. There is some excitement around the arrival of power forward Ben Simmons. However, it will be a few months before he will be on the court due to injury. The team must decide which big man (Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, or Jahlil Okafor) they can package in a trade to get some backcourt help. It should be a slight jump in wins for this team but anything above 25 wins would be remarkable. Another top 3 lottery pick awaits.

 

13. Milwaukee Bucks

This is the team of intrigue. Head coach Jason Kidd has brought in guys so tall that if they stood on top of one another they could possibly touch the ceiling of the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Long wingspans and crazy height across the board on this roster. The projected starting point guard is 6’11” Giannis Antetokounmpo. The question is how do all these players mesh together? The team drafted relative unknown Thon Maker in the first round of the draft. They still have to find a role for former first round pick Jabari Parker. There are trade rumors around center Greg Monroe. This team may have a lot of intriguing talent but no clear direction.

 

12. Orlando Magic

My gut is telling me that this team should be lower in my rankings. The only reason I have them this high is because of Head coach Frank Vogel. I truly believe he’ll maximize the talent that’s currently on the team. Power forward Serge Ibaka should be a great veteran addition on a young team. Point guard Elfrid Payton has to make a quantum leap in production for this team to be successful.

 

 

11. New York Knicks

Phil Jackson should be to blame for this team’s failures, but I will start by shifting the blame to the former regime for poor salary cap management. When they inked Amar’e Stoudamire and Carmelo Anthony to lucrative contracts they also ensured that the team could not obtain good free agents or bring on young talent to mold. Now with a new coach in Jeff Hornacek, should we expect the triangle offense or the three guard sets he ran in Phoenix? If he does run three guard sets, how effective will it be with ball dominant point guard Derrick Rose in tow?

 

10. Charlotte Hornets

Simply put, this is point guard Kemba Walker’s team. They will go as he goes. Beyond that, they don’t really have an identity. Can Roy Hibbert return to All-Star form? What is the role of former number two overall pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist? Will head coach Steve Clifford survive the entire season? This is definitely a sleeper pick for the playoffs but also a team that could tank its way to a top pick in next year’s draft. Low floor and low ceiling here.

 

9. Atlanta Hawks

Head coach Mike Budenholzer has done a great job with this team in two seasons on the job. Led the conference in wins in year one and playoff berth in year two. Even with the loss of center Al Horford, this team will be in contention for a playoff appearance. The team also let point guard Jeff Teague go, handing the keys to the franchise to Dennis Schroder. This team could be a non-playoff team or a division leader.

 

 

8. Miami Heat

Team President, Pat Riley, seems hell bent on rebuilding this team. First, there was the departure of Dwayne Wade to the Chicago Bulls. Now, he is not allowing Chris Bosh to play for the team because of concerns with blood clots. There are even rumors of a trade involving Goran Dragic. Riley clearly wants to go younger and build through the draft. Shooting guard Josh Richardson shows promise, Small Forward Justice Winslow is still developing, and Center Hassan Whiteside is emerging as one of the league’s best big men.

 

7. Chicago Bulls

This is a team that has a great mix of young and veteran talent. The issue is that head coach Fred Hoiberg does not look equipped to handle the job. Sure, you have future Hall of Famer Dwayne Wade, perennial All-Star Jimmy Butler, and facilitator Rajon Rondo on your roster. The problem for Hoiberg is how do you generate enough offense with such poor three point shooters in your starting lineup?

 

6. Detroit Pistons

It’s been a while since the Pistons were regarded as a top-tier team but the time has come. If the talent surrounding All-Star center Andre Drummond can fulfill their responsibilities then this team could be dangerous. Team president and head coach Stan Van Gundy’s style fits Drummond’s strengths. The team is loaded with catch and shoot players that will allow Van Gundy to deploy the same system he used when he coached a young Dwight Howard to the NBA Finals.

 

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5. Toronto Raptors

The league’s best overachieving team. Last year, they pushed their way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Two wins against a stacked Cleveland Cavaliers team might make you believe that they could possibly be destined for the Finals this year. However, despite having All-Stars and Gold Medal Olympians Kyle Lowry and DeMar Derozan, they did little to upgrade their roster in free agency. It will be hard to for the team to duplicate the success they had last year with playoff breakout star Bismack Biyombo defecting to the Orlando Magic. Unless there is a great trade in the works during the course of the season, the team is a second round playoff team at best.

 

4. Washington Wizards

The team will fare well with a coaching change from Randy Wittman to Scott Brooks. Brooks does not get the credit deserved for handling the egos in Oklahoma City for so long. John Wall and Bradley Beal seem to genuinely like one another and play well off of each other. There’s a lot of hype around the emergence of small forward Kelly Oubre Jr. This team is set at the backcourt and just need solid frontcourt play to be contenders for the Eastern Conference Finals.

 

3. Indiana Pacers

With all respect to Kawhi Leonard, I believe small forward Paul George is the third best 3 behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant. The fact that he moonlighted as a power forward makes George an even better player. The knock on this team has been the fact that they have never had a traditional point guard during George’s tenure. The team acquired former All-Star point guard Jeff Teague. Teague has tons of playoff experience to help this roster. Furthermore, center Myles Turner is becoming one of the best versatile big men. Add in proven vets Al Jefferson and Monta Ellis, and this team has enough scoring at all positions to push the number 1 team out of the playoffs.

 

 

2. Boston Celtics

There are a few teams that can leapfrog the Celtics but with head coach Brad Stevens, this team has been on the rise. The addition of center Al Horford will solidify an already great lineup. Moreover, the team brought in Gerald Green for more scoring and added versatile player Jaylen Brown through the draft. I believe that this team is LeBron’s kryptonite. This is the only team I feel can ELIMINATE the Cavaliers in a playoff series.

 

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron + Six straight NBA Final Appearances + A Healthy Kevin Love + The “Ankletaker” (Kyrie Irving) = Another Championship?

 

 

There you have it for the SBS preview of the Eastern Conference of the NBA. Stay tuned for the Western Conference preview coming soon.

 

 


LeBron James: Coach Killer?

Written by :
Published on : January 29, 2016

 

 

 

I never thought that David Blatt was the right man to lead the Cavaliers and LeBron James. Sure, he had a ton of coaching success in the Euro League and Israeli League, but in the NBA world of superstars, it’s hard to see a team with arguably the world’s best player falling in behind someone with zero NBA experience. It just never made sense to me that Cleveland would go to such great lengths to bring ‘King James’ back to town and not give him a coach that would command the team’s respect.

 

He had won hundreds of games and championships and even an Olympic Medal before he ever set foot inside the Cleveland Cavaliers locker room, but none of that mattered. Once he arrived in the NBA, he was a rookie again, to fans and players alike. Never mind his 22 years as a coach. That was meaningless. The NBA is the premier basketball showcase in the world and all those other coaching jobs may as well have been children’s little league.

 

So when the Cleveland Cavaliers fired Coach Blatt last week, I can’t say I was entirely surprised. Anyone who has watched the Cavs over the last year or so could see that the team didn’t really have a ton of respect for the guy. Often times during breaks in the action, the team would look to LeBron James for strategy or advice, leaving Blatt to hover around the circle of players like the wimpy kid who didn’t get picked for the backyard football game.

 

 

 

Since the time that he announced he was returning home to bless the city of Cleveland with his presence, it’s been clear that this team was LeBron’s team. From top to bottom, his word was law and the ownership was going to back him up 100%. You have to think that was the understanding and one of the main reasons he was even entertaining the idea of going back to Ohio. So when early on in the relationship, I saw the lack of respect that James showed Blatt in regards to coaching the team, I knew the clock was ticking on the poor guy.

 

Despite leading his team to the NBA Finals last season, and sitting in first place in the Eastern Conference with a 30-11 record, David Blatt got the axe and it seems to be LeBron James’ fingerprints on the handle. The firing of Blatt has caused some people to wonder if James is a ‘coach killer’ and I think that is a valid question. Gregg Popovich even made a subtle reference to it in a postgame interview. Most people associate LeBron with the firing of Mike Brown, who had similar success to Blatt in Cleveland but was never seen as the one responsible for that success; that distinction always went to James.

 

 

It’s not really fair to blame the firing of Mike Brown on LeBron because it happened in the same offseason that he took “his talents to South Beach.” That team had just collapsed in the second round of the 2010 NBA Playoffs and technically LeBron wasn’t under contract. So it really doesn’t have anything to do with him, but you can bet your ass that if LeBron said he wanted Brown back and that would make him re-sign that he wouldn’t have been fired.

 

There are also unfounded rumors that during his time in Miami, LeBron wanted head coach Erik Spoelstra fired. There isn’t any way to confirm this, but it doesn’t sound particularly far-fetched. Spoelstra was young, with no head coaching experience and I always found it hard to believe that he would be able to wrangle the best player in the world. But one big difference between Cleveland and Miami was the presence of Pat Riley, and there’s no way that Pat Riley would let a player run his team, I don’t care how big of a star he is.

 

If indeed LeBron James did want to get his head coach in Miami fired, he should be thanking his lucky stars now that Riley knew better than to succumb to the wishes of his biggest star. He has two rings to show for his time with the Heat, and that is due to the efforts of everyone involved, including coach Spoelstra.

 

The only other coach to be fired while LeBron James was on the team was Paul Silas when James was just 20 years old and in his second NBA season. That team missed the playoffs and was in the midst of an ownership change, so even if James did have an impact on the decision, it was probably coming either way. So is it fair to label LeBron a coach killer? Probably not, but he does wield that kind of power, especially since it seems as though Cleveland is willing to do whatever it takes to have him in town. Including axe his own head coach.

 

 


Which Athletes Would Make the Best Thanksgiving Dinner

Written by :
Published on : November 26, 2015

 

Today is Thanksgiving, which means 3 things; football, food and finding a way to avoid getting stuck hearing your crazy Aunt Beatrice talk about her cats. Just kidding Aunt B, I love hearing about Mr Fluffles, and yes I would love to see more pictures of him. Anyways, I thought that before I fall into a turkey-induced coma, that it might be fun to talk about which athletes, past and present, would comprise the best Thanksgiving dinner.

 

Turkey – Larry Bird

He may be the turkey on our plate but he was no turkey on the court.

 

This seems like a no-brainer. He is one of the greatest basketball players in the history of the game and his name is Bird for Christ’s sake. As one of the best shooters, defenders and fiercest competitors to play the game, you can’t go wrong with making him the centerpiece of your Turkey Day feast.

 

Mashed Potatoes – Jamal Mashburn

Get some of this Mash.

 

A prolific scorer whose 12 year career was sadly marred by chronic knee problems, Jamal Mashburn averaged 19.1 ppg while playing for the Mavericks, Heat and Hornets. He could drain the rock and I can’t figure out if his name has something to do with potatoes or some sort of by-product from a backwoods whiskey still. Either way, he’s our mashed potatoes.

 

Stuffing – “Mean” Joe Greene

You do not want to mess with this man.

 

Joe Greene was a beast in the middle of the defense for those legendary Steelers teams of the 70’s. Sure his name doesn’t sound like food, but he gets to be the stuffing on our plate this year because his work on the inside made sure that opposing running games were stuffed more often than not.

 

Cranberry – Eric Berry

Mr. Berry himself.

 

This dude is one of the best stories in the entire NFL. He had his 2014 season cut short after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and it looked as though his career might be over. Apparently someone forgot to tell him that because he completed his treatment in remarkably fast time in order to be ready for the start of the 2015 season. He has played in every single game this year and is beginning to shine as the season progresses. His courage and dedications earn him a place on the plate as our cranBerry.

 

Gravy – Gary Payton

“I’m the gravy!”

 

Gary Payton is one of the best defenders at the point guard position of all time. He was nicknamed ‘the Glove’ for his ability to lock down the opposition. The Glove covers everything, just like the gravy on my Thanksgiving plate.

 

Dinner Rolls – Antrel Rolle

“I’m trying to make it to dinner!”

 

Every dinner needs some bread in there. He is our dinner Rolle. A Super Bowl Champion and three-time Pro Bowler at the safety position, he has 26 interceptions and 5 defensive touchdowns in his career.

 

 

So there you have it, the ultimate Thanksgiving dinner as represented by some of the best athletes ever. Now, I’m more of a go back for seconds and thirds, and skip dessert kind of guy, but if I have to pick something I’m going to finish my meal off with a little Walter “Sweetness” Payton with some Paul Coffey on the side. If you’ll excuse me there’s a turkey in dire need of some basting.

 

 

 

 


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