Our NBA Nation Australia Roundtable Knights are:
Nick Caro: @NickoToGo
Sam Monaghan: @Mono85
Nick Russell: @NickARuss
Nick How: @Nick_A_How
This week’s Roundtable we tackle areas such as the Olympics, the Dwight Howard trade and our early predictions for season 2012!
1. Post Olympics, how has the game of basketball benefited from the tournament? Have the games encouraged growth of the game, and will we see a rejuvenation of the game in areas where it isn’t as prevalent?
Nick C: Yes. Undoubtedly. Whilst it’s a game that is hugely popular the world over nothing seems to bring people together within the game like the Olympics. Well, maybe the NBA Finals garners a similar audience but even then, it’s not such a wide spectrum of people as you see watching with intent the amazing skill and expertise of the USA, or cheering on their own countrymen. That’s what is great about the Olympics. It drives people to watch sports that maybe they wouldn’t in everyday life and can teach them something, or perhaps even encourage a more involved commitment from them. I myself noticed via TV, newspapers and social media that the amount of people getting behind the Boomers, or talking about Kobe and LeBron increased dramatically, and on the flip side, I caught myself enjoying the pole vault. It’s great for basketball and it’s great for sport in general. Countries that don’t consider basketball a priority still had teams competing giving the people something to cheer for and a reason to watch. What’s not to love? The hope is surely that the game can expand into those areas where it isn’t followed as intently as it is in the States and become staple in areas where little is currently known about it. I think it’s important to mention that the games do bring out an element of sportsmanship and a degree of comradery which is great to see. The little guys can take on the big guys and have an absolute blast doing it whilst the world watches them with the utmost respect and pride. It’s a great thing.
Sam M: ESPN published an article recently presenting their All-Olympics team (as follows):
ESPN’s London First Team
Pau Gasol (Spain)
LeBron James (United States)
Manu Ginobili (Argentina)
Kevin Durant (United States)
Andrei Kirilenko (Russia)
ESPN’s London Second team:
Patty Mills (Australia)
Luis Scola (Argentina)
Joe Ingles (Australia)
Carmelo Anthony (United States)
Marcelinho Huertas (Brazil)
This speaks for itself. 7 of the top 10 are non-American players. Team USA dominated the tournament but every game they handled the best the opposition could muster. Basketball needs more international tournaments to continue to push European, South American & Asian basketball faster and harder.
Nick R: Without a doubt, the Olympics are a time for basketball to shine on the international stage. Some may argue that the Olympics are merely a chance for some countries to play against the US and try and take home a silver medal. But as we have seen, not only from this Olympics, but from those of the past, the US has shown that the difference between them and other balling countries isn’t that far. Sure, the US went unbeaten, but teams managed to show that they can take it to them…they now just have to work on doing it for 4 quarters. The game will grow, there is no doubt about that. Young kids watching their country battle it out on the floor and play against the best in the world is what it’s all about and the US team were great ambassadors for our game showing a humble, supportive and winning attitude the whole tournament. I, like everyone would love to see basketball take its rightful place at the top of the pile of worldwide sports, and think the Olympics is the right path to the top. Bring on Rio!
Nick H: I would say the game has benefited from the London games, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing the results of this over the course of the new NBA season. The game in recent years has been climbing a quick ladder to success, and I’m sure I’ve read quotes from Stern suggesting these are just as successful times as the ‘Golden Age’ of NBA (Bird, magic, Jordan etc). Everybody’s eyes were on the ‘Dream Team’ these Olympics, and in particular Lebron’s. With the successful Gold medal win from Team USA, it can only help to push the stature of the games. I’d almost go out on a limb and say there were probably a lot of Non-US supporting Team USA these Olympics and I think that goes to show where we currently are. At some point these new comers to the game, will be looking deeper into the game, researching, and looking beyond the glitz of Lebron, Kobe, and Durant etc. I know being an Englishman, that the game of Basketball is widely followed. That’s not to say it doesn’t have a chance of progressing though, it’s just hard to compete with the love of Football. Schools in the UK focus on teaching football, and occasionally Rugby, and basketball doesn’t get a look in. I can only hope that with the success of the Olympics in my hometown of London, and in particular the success of basketball at the Olympics that people in the UK begin to latch onto this game, and maybe we’ll start to see it introduced into more schools. It’s definitely the best thing for the progression for the sport that Team USA won gold, as I’m sure if the likes of Spain or Argentina had won gold, a lot of countries and kids not so into basketball would have sat up and taken notice. In some way it’s sad, and in a lot of ways good for the sport.
2. Who was your top player in the London 2012 Olympics and why?
Nick C: Tough! It would be so easy to say LeBron, or Kobe, or Durant… They were all so amazing. But for me personally it was Patty Mills. I loved every minute of watching him play. Not just his stats or the way he played but the way he helped to bind the Boomers together and get a nation behind them was truly a joy to watch. My moment of the Olympics was his buzzer beating three with less than a second left in the game to beat Russia and progress to the quarter finals against the US. He pumped the air with his fist and the Aussies went wild. It really was a special moment for the Boomers and for all the fans watching. It wasn’t the only special moment for Mills however who consistently hit big shots and scored with relative ease to help the Boomers out of a 0-2 hole at the start of the campaign. He did have a few bad moments where you felt the pressure was overcoming him but in the end, he was able to take Australia as far as possible. Coming up against, in my opinion, the best US team since the ’92 Dream Team in the quarter finals was a very big ask and while gallant, and persistent in their attempt to beat this bunch of legends, it just was not quite enough. This team is young however and presuming many of them are back for the Rio games in 2016, the Boomers and Patty Mills should get that Olympic medal they so badly wanted in London.
Sam M: Kevin Durant. Durant featured in all 8 of the USA’s games, averaging over 19 points per game and shooting 48% from the field and 52% from 3 against the world’s best. The gold medal won’t even be the most valuable thing he walks away with. The experience of playing in a highly competitive environment surrounded by the best players the world has seen since the 1992 Barcelona Olympics will translate to success over the coming seasons with the Thunder. Durant stood up as a leader, controlling the floor but also taking charge to close out games when needed.
Nick R: I know this is the obvious choice. But for me, the player of the Olympics was without a doubt LeBron James. Usually, with a question like this I would focus on a choice like Patty Mills or Juan Carlos Navarro who for me both stood large in their little frames and could easily be given the honor here for out of this world play, shooting and leadership…but how can you look past LeBron. Game after game he was the difference for the US and led their golden charge with a humble and respectful swagger. He scored the first Triple Double at Olympic level that for me, went completely under the radar until the commentators announced it and most importantly, LeBron fixed everything that he broke a couple of years ago in the eye of basketball fans all around the world. He proved he is a team player, a humble winner and a role model for the next generation of worldwide basketball players. For me, he gets the nod by a long way.
Nick H: I’d have to say Durant, but the player I was genuinely impressed by was Patty Mills. What can I say about our Patty, that you don’t already know? Well Patty ended up with the highest scoring average in the London games with 21.2 points per game, topping Durant who finished with
19.5. Not only did he stat line look good, Patty played with pure heart, and hustled hard. On occasion he looked like he was trying too much, but it was probably what was required of him. Oh and do I need to mention the buzzer-beater 3 that sank Russia?
3. The trade for Dwight Howard was recently completed. Who, in your eyes, are the big winners and the unfortunate losers in the blockbuster deal? Additionally, will Dwight Howard be able to reinstate his dominance as the best big man in the league and find success at the Lakers?
Nick C: I honestly don’t believe this trade created a ‘loser’ as such. It’s easy to label the Magic the losers in it, because they did come out with very little, but how can you be the loser when you’re the party who orchestrates the situation and dictates its fate? The fact is, the Magic wanted this result. They needed to get worse to get better and that’s exactly what they’ve done. Rob Hennigan and his men had a clear idea of how they wanted the Dwight Howard trade to turn out, and that’s why they rejected the seemingly better offers from Brooklyn and Houston. And it’s no secret, they were better offers. But in reality, they knew that this upcoming season is a write off and moving forward, all they need is high draft picks and some players who are able to at least keep the fans interested namely Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington along with their pre-existing point guard Jameer Nelson. Obviously Denver didn’t lose. They got one of the best scorers in the league in Andre Iguodala. The same can be said for the Sixers who got arguably the second best center in the league in Andrew Bynum. The Lakers? Well it remains to be seen if they’re the winners in this. On paper, they undoubtedly are. Hell, on paper they win it all. Outright. But the question lies in whether this Lakers team will mesh and find the chemistry required to win a Championship. Will Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard gel and work together well? Will Steve Nash find the right medium to be able to create open looks for his players? Will the Lakers struggling bench be able to show up big when it counts and score? All these questions will be answered in due time BUT, for now the Lakers are definitely a huge threat to Oklahoma and Miami, and should they progress deep into the playoffs, there’s nothing to suggest they won’t win it all. This does hinge on Dwight’s success however, and I believe that the people of L.A. and Lakers fans around the world have already made their peace with him. Dwight is now family to Lakers fans and many will jump right to his defence no matter what the pretext. As for the rest of the NBA world, it may take some time to trust and like Howard again. His indecision and attitude surrounding the whole debacle alienated many-a-fan and now it’s his chance to rebuild his image and regain the fans he’s lost.
Sam M: Winners? The Lakers. The Lakers do what the Lakers do; attract the best of the best. The Nuggets stole an All-Star & Olympian in this trade. Iguodala brings intelligence, leadership, maturity and lock down perimeter defence. In a crowded Western Conference the Nuggets remain perennial playoff contenders. Losers? The Orlando Magic. They threw Howard out with the trash and as a result left better offers on the table. The Magic were always going to struggle to receive equal value for one of best defensive big men of the last decade.
Nick R: How happy are we that finally, the Dwight Howard circus is over. For me, it was one of the most painful and frustrating player trades in recent history. But it’s over and I’m not going to dwell on the frustrations, but look at the positives that came out of it. The obvious winner are the Lakers who get the “best” centre in the league to play in a team that are better positioned to win it all than they have been for years. Kobe, Pau, Nash, Metta and D12 will be very tough to beat in the West and add to this their bench and it’s close to being the best roster in the comp. As hard as it is for me to say this, Dwight will thrive in LA and will win rings in the coming seasons…ouch. Denver and Philly both win too. Denver get one of the purest scorers in the competition in Andre Iguodala who will have an immediate impact on a team that can shake up the West and possibly contend in the western conference finals.Philly might have lost Iguodala, but gain Andrew Bynum who is arguably the 2nd best center in the comp. He is a Philly boy who seems over the moon to be coming home to play in front of his family and friends. If Andrew can take his game and attitude to the next level, then the 76ers will come out the real winner here and will be true contenders in the East. Finally, I would say there is no real loser here. Sure, Orlando didn’t get a star player in the trade for Howard, but what they did get is promise of a brighter future. They may have lost a superstar player, but what they gain is a unified locker room and a chance to build for the future through the draft and a few promising young players. It’s not going to be a fun couple of seasons for Magic fans but at least it’s looking a little brighter on the horizon.
Nick H: Lakers were the obvious winners in this deal and now find themselves being instantly joint favourites for next year’s title. With that though comes huge pressure, we only need to be reminded of the pressure on the first year of the Big 3 era and how they came up short. Lakers, I believe could be a slightly different story, experienced Kobe, with the ageing but super experienced Nash cold be exactly what Howard needs. Possibly being one the most disliked players in the league, and with early reports of him openly commenting on how he would not want to play under Kobe at the Lakers will not make for an easy, comfortable fit in. I’m almost certain Kobe will be open to working closely on cementing this relationship with Howard as this could be the answer to Kobe picking up that much sought after 6th ring. If Howard can work on his attitude, and the Lakers can build that ‘team spirit’ it seemed to lack last year, the skies the limit. Howard will also lap up what Los Angeles has to offer him, and will raking in the cash from the new sponsorships that will be sure to come his way.
4. Rumors have been circulating that Australian Boomers Olympian Joe Ingles has been scouted by a number of NBA teams, most notably the Minnesota Timberwolves. Would Ingles be a good fit in the NBA, and where can you see him playing some good minutes if he gets there?
Nick C: I think Joe would be a great addition to the NBA. His toughness and tenacity throughout the Olympics was second to none and he was a huge contributor to the Boomers, averaging 15 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists per game. These things are all important in the NBA so he should have no doubters after his performance in London and in reality could help any team coming off the bench as a swingman. Ingles matched it with some of the big guns of the basketball world and proved his worth for a Boomers squad that looked a little worse for wear at the start of the campaign and in the absence of resident big man Andrew Bogut. Along with Patty Mills, David Andersen and others, Ingles was able to create room and scoring opportunities for him team mates while burying a few himself. I’d be really surprised if he didn’t head to the NBA when his contract in Barcelona expires at the end of next season. Ingles himself has said that his manager should not entertain offers from NBA clubs until he has completed his contract there. True loyalty shown there by a guy who is undoubtedly being head hunted by the NBA. The Timberwolves wouldn’t be a bad place to go, and he could definitely help them, but I would like to see a guy like Ingles play with a team where he can really cut his teeth and get great minutes. I’m not sure the Wolves would give him that opportunity. Of course, anywhere he goes he’ll have to prove he can match it in the NBA but it’s certain he deserves some good pine time. Could see him in Golden State alongside Steph Curry at the 2 spot (he played in their summer league in 2009), or even a back up in Milwaukee for Monta Ellis. The options are endless but no matter where Joe Ingles end up, he’ll be a valuable asset to whoever is lucky enough to snap this 24 year old talent up.
Sam M: Joe walks into a guard heavy league so will struggle to get a walk up start. If everything falls into place in a few years’ time he could be a reliable but vanilla backup to Rubio and Roy. It will be interesting to see how Patty Mill’s next few seasons go, if he proves his skills and can work his way into the starting line up with San Antonio it should give Ingles the confidence he needs.
Nick R: The Olympics gave the NBA a real solid look at the skills of Joe Ingles and his ability to mix it the best in the business. I honestly believe its not a matter of if, but when Joe will be playing in the NBA. It’s recently surface that Ingles has told his agent to keep things quite until his current contract with Barcelona is up. This is a great sign of loyalty to his current team, but I don’t see this as being the smartest decision and think that went they come asking and offer that contract (which would mean a buyout clause in his Barca contract), he will sign and be playing NBA next season. Obviously for fans of Aussies in the NBA, we want to see him playing some solid minutes, so that’s not going to work out going to a contender, so I’d like to see him go to a team like the above mentioned T-Wolves, Hornets, Blazers or even the Bobcats. He’d get the minutes there and have a chance to have a big impact on a young, growing team. We will all be watching to see what happens. I honestly don’t think we will be waiting that long before we race out and buy his NBA jersey.
Nick H: Ingles does seem to look like he could fit in the NBA, I’m not sure he’s ready to be a starter but he certainly would be a good rotational player. Ingles currently plays ball in Spain for Barcelona, and any hoop head will tell you that Spain is no mugs league. European ball is hard, quick and will definitely have his game up to scratch enough to fit in with some of the harder working NBA rosters. Timberwolves would actually be quite a nice fit for him and he could actually see some good minutes there. Playing under Rick Adelman would actually suit Ingles game, which is to get up court quick and beat teams on the break. I’d love to see Ingles make it the NBA, but I have also read him suggest he is prepared to ply out his contract with Barcelona which does show his good loyal character which is something I personally admire and think is rather lacking in any sport today.
5. As we approach October and the start of the new NBA season, who will be the frontrunners in both the East and West? Tell us who will be the top three teams in both conferences and why?
Nick C: Ah I was waiting for this question rubbing my hands with glee! It’s be a different competition this year for sure. I’m positive that some teams will drop away from the spot light, while others will occupy it and some will continue to bask in it. A very busy summer makes for a particularly eventful season in the NBA so with that I’ll start with the Eastern Conference. I am going to agree with the many and say I don’t see a team beating the Heat in the ECF. Too big, too strong, too fast. With a Championship firmly under their belts I think the Heat will be as hungry as ever to repeat their stellar 2011/12 season and make it all the way to the Finals. They have some good additions in Allen and Lewis and LeBron will continue to dominate. Coming in a pretty close second I have to say the Boston Celtics. While not as strong as the Heat, they still have a stellar line up of young talent and mature experience. The loss of Ray Allen hurt, but the acquisition of Jason Terry will help and the Celts should challenge the top seed in the east once again. Third I’m torn between Chicago and Philadelphia. Both will be highly competitive. Chicago should get Derrick Rose back in a reasonable time frame which will spur them on again but I think Philly’s grit will put them one step ahead of the Bulls. Gaining a big man was something they desperately needed and now they have Andrew Bynum there’s nothing to say they can’t walk away with bronze in the East. The West has had a bit of a shakeup in the offseason. A lot of player movement has seen teams get better and get worse but I don’t think you can look past the Lakers. Gaining Steve Nash and Dwight Howard has essentially shot them into the stratosphere of teams eligible for a Championship and coupled with great players like Bryant, Gasol and World Peace plus the juiced up bench I don’t see anyone beating the Lakers in the WCF. Second it’s hard to go past Oklahoma City. Last year they were amazing and had the Lakers not pulled off the impossible they would be my number one for sure. Too much skill and depth to say otherwise, but their strengths are not in the paint where the Lakers will excel. It’s on the perimeter, and that’s where they made a mistake against the Heat in last year’s finals. Constantly kicking the ball out the Durant will only get them so far. However, here’s a team with the league’s leading scorer, sixth man of the year and most athletic point guard. All of whom are Olympians. Tough ju ju. Again, third is a tossup between San Antonio and Memphis. I just feel like the Spurs had their chance last year and I don’t think they’ll be able to replicate it quite to the extent they did then. They are a great squad, but with the Grizzlies on the rise I can’t see them overcoming the boys from Memphis again. Gasol, Gay, Randolph, Arenas, Allen… The list of great players goes on and the fact is the Grizz are finally ready to compete at a superior level.
1. Miami – the Heat are stacked with talent, Miami’s coaching staff are continually improving their bench and supporting cast
2. Indiana – I really like what the Pacers are doing with this young roster. Strong front court and the young boys managed to rattle the Heat throughout the playoffs this last year.
3. Philadelphia – The addition of Bynum to this roster will see this franchise continue to grow. Letting go of Lou Williams who many considered a ball hog might be the change this team needs. Watch this space.
1. Los Angeles Lakers – Bryant. Howard. Nash
2. San Antonio – Years of excellence have created a culture of winning. Good luck to any team walking into the AT & T centre next season, expect a strong home court record next season as Pop rests his elder stars on the road.
3. Minnesota – I look at the Timberwolves roster & can see them improving out of sight next season. I love the combination of Rubio, Roy, Love, Kirilenko and Williams. It’s powerful, skilful and there is still room for growth. Don’t be surprised to see the T’wolves pull off some incredible upsets next season.
Great question! Always fun to get out the crystal ball and think about how the next season is going to unfold. I honestly believe it’s going to be one of the closest seasons in recent history with plenty of teams capable of stepping forward and challenging the regular front runners.
OK…each in reverse order just to add a little anticipation.
3) Memphis Grizzlies – Have had a couple of great seasons and have managed to retain their core. This might have been their year to really rock it in the west if it wasn’t for a certain team’s busy offseason. They will still compete, challenge and will be right there at the end. No longer the dark horse. Expect big things.
2) OKC Thunder – So close last year and would have been the firm favourite a couple of weeks ago in the West. Have a young, aggressive and super talented roster who will continue their run from last season with their core team intact. The scary thing is that OKC will only get better with age. I really hope they can prove me wrong here and finish as Conference champs again, but they have a pretty big mountain standing in their way.
1) Los Angeles Lakers – One of the biggest off seasons for any team…ever! There you go, I said it and as hard as it was to say, I will stand by it. Firstly, they filled a need and got their PG in Steve Nash. Sure he ain’t no spring chicken, but will have an instant impact. Then they managed to pull off another heist and traded for Dwight Howard while somehow managing to keep Pau Gasol. Criminal I tell ya, but hey…they pulled it off and should be congratulated. The Lakers should see the West swing their way this year. They might start a little slowly as they find their rhythm, but it won’t last long and Kobe will finally have his chance to get that 6th ring…damn.
3) Boston Celtics – Firstly, As a NY Knicks fan, having the Celtics above them is tough to write. I could have easily switched them as I have the Knicks finishing in 4th place in the East, but as an “un biased” blogger (ha!) I feel the need to be honest and still think the Celtics are a slight step ahead of the Knicks this coming season. They may have lost Ray Allen but gained a like for like shooter in Jason Terry. They managed to retain the rest of their core and bench and also improved with a few key rookie and veteran additions. They should have another great season, but with a few teams in the East looking to establish themselves in the 8, or maintain previous dominance, Boston should be wise to check over their shoulder every now and then.
2) Philadelphia 76ers – I know this might come as a surprise to some, but I honestly think the 76ers are going to storm the NBA this season. A young, versatile and talented team which only got better with the addition of Andrew Bynum. They were the surprise team of the 2011/12 season and like OKC Thunder, will only get better. Expect them to take it right to teams like Chicago (to note, I have them finishing 6th. Will struggle without Rose for the first ½ of the season), Miami, Knicks, Pacers and Celtics. Watch this space…the 76ers are here to play this year.
1) Miami Heat – It’s hard to go past them. They are the team to beat in the East and showed their worth in the NBA Finals last year. What’s scary is that like the Lakers, the Heat managed to get better this offseason with the addition of a few key players. Most notably Ray Allen who will have a massive impact for this team. I expect the Heat to go back to back this season and beat the Lakers in 6. LeBron’s dream is coming true. Shame that dream didn’t involve the Knicks.
1. Miami Heat – They will be looking to follow up last year’s Championship win, with a successful defence and they looked to be the goods now and have jelled as a roster. The addition of Ray Allen
coming off the bench could be devastating.
2. Boston Celtics – This off-season is one of the best Danny Ainge has had in recent years, and it started with heartbreak with the departure of Allen, but he really turned it around. Acquiring ring owner Terry, Courtney Lee, two good looking rookies in Sullinger & Melo, plus the re-signing of the super Garnett & Jeff Green things look bright this year.
3. Chicago Bulls – Despite a very disappointing playoffs, you can never write off the Bulls. The Bulls showed last year they can get the job done without Rose, but they are a force to be reckoned with once he is fit. Expect them to come out firing.
1. Los Angeles Lakers – They are now sporting what looks like on paper as some peoples Fantasy Team, and this is totally a good thing. While his character is always under the microscope, Howard will still deliver the goods on court. Nash at point, despite age will be huge. Kobe is just… Kobe.
2. San Antonio Spurs – One of the most consistent teams the NBA has seen for years, they will always be top or there abouts. Expect them to show how hurt they were with their Conference finals loss to OKC.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder – This team just gets stronger and stronger each year, and I expect them to lift a championship within the next few years. Will this year be the year? I don’t believe so, but they’ll come close.
That’s it for another edition of the Roundtable! Think we got it wrong? Have an opinion? Maybe you just want to say g’day? You can get in touch with us via Twitter @NBANationOz or our personal accounts at the top of the page. Until next time, thanks for reading and keep on ballin’!