Category: Around The League

adidas-crazy-boost-light-01

Sneaker Watch: Adidas Crazylight Boost

adidas-crazy-boost-light-01

Adidas have unveiled the new, amazing ‘Crazylight Boost’ sneaker for Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard.

The new sneaker pays homage to the Blazers Point Guard, with the colourway of Purple, Red & Black nodding at Lillards College colours of Weber State and his NBA home of Portland. Lillard’s nickname of ‘DAME’ is also incorporated into the shoe with the ‘E’ in the name using the 3 stripes of Adidas. Neat.

(more…)



bledsoe_extension_talks_102413

Entertanking is dead, long live the Phoenix Suns.

Okay Phoenix, I admit it, I was wrong.

I was wrong to dismiss your season before it begun. I was wrong to assume that a roster made up of seemingly ill-fitting role players and under-appreciated glue-guys being spearheaded by two historically ball-dominant back up point guards, would amount to anything other than a spectacular success.

I was wrong to question the ability of Gerald Green to be a productive NBA player or to question the validity of running with the lesser-known Plumlee, Miles as your starter at the five. I was wrong to assume that a wildly entertaining, fast-paced offensive scheme, coupled with no obvious defensive talent, would translate into anything other than a highly effective strategy for winning basketball games and an impressive defensive showing. I was wrong to assume that I knew anything about what makes a successful NBA team structure, and I was wrong to insinuate that both players and management were content to ‘entertank’ away the season in the hope of drafting a superstar and thus returning to NBA relevancy.  But above all else, I was wrong to question the merits and the motives of the one I love.  That is something that a man should never do.

Now usually this kind of admission would come with a sense of shame and a side-order of self-loathing, but in this instance I’m too busy being stoked on what I am witnessing to care about anything as trivial as my ego! For like a kid experiencing his first crush, I have fallen ‘head-over-heels’ for this new Phoenix team, and every single thing that they do, so much so that yesterday I found myself willingly watching a game involving the Milwaukee Bucks, the most insufferably awful of all basketball teams, just for a chance to bask in the glory of the Suns, and you know what? It was spectacular.

BDP

As I sat there on my couch I watched with the kind of pride usually reserved for a parent watching their child take their first steps, as Goran ‘The Dragon’ Dragic continued to live out his destiny as Steve Nash’s heir-apparent and led the ‘Bledshow’ less Suns to a commanding victory over the ‘who gives a F Bucks’.  As Channing Fry ‘owned the three point zone for Suns charities’, and the assists, steals, leak-outs and Plumlee dunks built up.  I could not help but find myself dreaming about what the Suns play-off appearance might look like, and my favourite player and the ringleader of all this new-found hope and prosperity Eric ‘The Bledshow’ Bledoe wasn’t even playing! At that point my mind raced with thoughts of the wonderful damage the two headed monster of The Bledshow and The Dragon could inflict in a play-off situation, as their complimentary skills enabled the Suns to run an All-Star level point guard for the full 48 minutes of a play-off game, ensuring that the grandmaster Hornacek’s brilliant offensive system remained running at optimum level from opening tip to the final buzzer. All of this excitement was only exacerbated by thoughts of the moves Ryan McDonough could make with his barrage of draft picks and oodles of cap-space to add talent to this roster before the play-off run and onwards in coming seasons. Names like Lance Stephenson, Carmelo Anthony and Thaddeus Young started to spring into my mind, and the world was suddenly a very exciting place.

As if by fate, at the exact moment those thoughts of grandeur started to take hold, Gerald Green intercepted a seemingly routine pass from Brandon Knight and took to the skies in the manner that only he can. As Green flew in for the windmill dunk I could not help but think to myself that he had just provided me as a fan with a moment of perfect symmetry between myself and the team I hold so dear.

As Gerald’s feet returned from rarefied air to the polished hardwood floor of the US Airways Center, I found myself transformed into a new reality, one where thoughts of tanking were banished for good and thoughts of shrewd trading for a star to complete this exciting roster began. For that is the way forward now for this Suns team, and perhaps maybe it always was, either way, I cannot wait  to witness the Phoenix emerge from the flames of the ignited future and fly mightily back into contention for  the title of best in the west.

GG

Update: Unfortunately the cold light of morning has brought with it some rather sobering news in the form of the Suns announcing that Most Improved Player candidate and future face of the franchise  Eric “The Bledshow” Bledsoe has been ruled out of action indefinitely, due to suffering a knee injury that requires immediate surgery. The injury is believed to be significant damage to meniscus in his right knee, but the full extent of the damage and the expected recovery time won’t be known till he is in the hands of his LA based surgeon. While this is no doubt a crushing blow to the Suns and to basketball lovers in general (including LeBron James who Tweeted his ‘little bro’ a message of support shortly after the news broke) the Suns have been playing well without The Bledshow over the last month and given the strong form of Goran Dragic I don’t anticipate the prolonged absence of The Bledshow to put an end to the Suns 2013-2014 play-off aspirations, but rather to place them in a great position to make significant improvements upon his return. Furthermore, as a fan I have full trust that the Suns much respected medical and training staff will ensure that The Bledshow comes back fit, firing and ready to ignite the future sometime in the not-too-distant future.

I encourage the front-office to offer him a significant contract extension right now, thus ensuring he is securely locked away (potentially at a slightly smaller salary than initially expected) as one of the cornerstones of what promises to be of a very bright future.

Entertanking is dead, long live the Phoenix Suns and long live their 2013-2014 play-off run. 

Moris

PS. Get well soon Bledshow! 



Photo courtesy of www.sportsillustrated.cnn.com

Things Are Heating Up In Phoenix

Photo courtesy of sportsillustrated.cnn.com

Photo courtesy of www.sportsillustrated.cnn.com

The Phoenix Suns are beginning to show some real promise as a playoff contending team this season. Most analysts, fans and experts had the Suns slated as a team that was merely there to contend for the lottery and one that had a real chance of claiming the number one pick at seasons end but early form is proving that to be a big misnomer.

The Suns are riding a five game winning streak, sit sixth in the star studded western conference with a 14-9 record and have what many consider one of the most exciting point guards the league has to offer in Eric Bledsoe.

Bledsoe is finally getting his chance to shine in Phoenix after spending the last two seasons in the shadow of Chris Paul. He is averaging 19.5 points per game on a career high .489 from the field, 6.4 assists per game, 4.3 rebounds per game and 1.8 steals per game. He also sits amongst some esteemed company in the Hollinger Player Efficiency Ratings (PER) with a score of 22.18, above such players as James Harden, Dwight Howard, Russell Westbrook and Dwyane Wade. Bledsoe, should he continue to produce like this for the remainder of the season, is a serious candidate for the Most Improved Player award.

Bledsoe is a big part of why the Phoenix Suns are playing so well this season but he’s not the only reason. Bledsoe’s backcourt partner Goran Dragic is also having a career year, averaging 19.5 points on .496 from the field with 6.1 assists and 3 rebounds per game. The Bledsoe/Dragic backcourt is certainly proving to be one of the best in the NBA currently.

On top of what is arguably, a league best backcourt, the Suns possess a youthful yet potent frontcourt made up of the ever improving Morris twins, high flying swingman Gerald Green, the sharp shooting veteran Channing Frye and a big man in Miles Plumlee who is turning into an adept defender of the paint and very solid centre.

The last time the Phoenix Suns were a playoff contending team they were an offensive juggernaut featuring the likes of point guard extraordinaire Steve Nash and a healthy, dominant Amare Stoudemire. While this Suns team isn’t quite in the same realm regarding their offensive ability they do possess the scoring prowess needed to get back to the playoffs. Their offensive rating courtesy of Basketball Reference is 108.2 which is good for sixth in the NBA and they are averaging a more than respectable 102.6 points per game.

Defensively they still have some work to do as their 105.9 defensive rating and 100.3 points allowed per game attest to. They tend to defend the perimeter well and have only given up 144 treys this season which is fourth best in the league but their high turnover rate and lack of defensive rebounding are things that are in need of improvement.

The Suns have a young team, a first year head coach and what many believed to be an inferior squad but against all the odds they have started the season in sensational form. The question from this point on is whether or not they will look to make a move to ensure they will be a contender should they make the post season or does the hot start go cold and should it, just where do they land in the lottery. Whatever the future holds the Sun certainly is shining brightly in Phoenix right now.



Nikola-Mirotic-APB

Chicago’s European Saviour?

Nikola-Mirotic-APB

There’s been a fair amount of doom and gloom for fans of Windy City basketball. The Chicago Bulls start to the 2013/14 season has been one to forget. The early rust from Derrick Rose was something many people were prepared to look past but things went from bad to worse when the Bulls lost him for another season due to his right knee injury. 

Since the loss of Rose speculation has been rife amongst Bulls and hoops fans alike. We all love to play GM and many of us have been quick to talk about the best way to move forward for the Bulls. Luol Deng has been the focus of many a trade rumour and the talk still continues regarding the best way to make the team a title contender again.

I’ve certainly spoken at length via social media with regard to my thoughts on the matter and many people have agreed and many have disagreed but the one thing I’m certain of is that there is one player who could possibly have a much bigger impact on the Bulls title aspirations in the future than any current NBA player, and that one player is Nikola Mirotic.

Mirotic was drafted by the Chicago Bulls with the 23rd pick in the 2011 draft but due to his contractual obligations to European powerhouse Real Madrid he was always a player that wouldn’t become a part of the Bulls team for years to come.

That time is almost upon us. There is plenty of talk that the 6’10 power forward will likely join the Chicago Bulls next season.

There are some hurdles to navigate, firstly the Bulls would have to pay Real Madrid the remaining three million dollars owed on his contract and then they would need to make it worthwhile for him to play in the NBA in a financial sense. The time for Nikola Mirotic to step up is most definitely now and with the current level at with which he is playing in the Euroleague, the world’s second best basketball competition behind the NBA, it could be a huge boost to a Bulls team in search of answers.

Mirotic, through seven Euroleague games this season is averaging 15.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.3 spg and is shooting the lights out at 63.9% for two point field goals and 70% for threes whilst playing only 23.1 minutes per game. He is averaging very similar numbers in 22.3 minutes per game in his eight games in the Spanish league also. He has recently been named the Euroleague MVP for the month of October and is looking every bit like he is ready for the NBA.

Mirotic’s ability to stretch the floor as a power forward is something that many NBA teams are searching for in today’s game. His ability to shoot the three at a great percentage will really open up the lane for his team mates and improve a Chicago offense which is in a serious mess with the current squad. He is an adept defender, has the size with which to match up with the NBA’s current power forwards, is a great passer for a big man and can create his own shot off the dribble.

Should Rose come back and be a semblance of the player he once was he will undoubtedly benefit from the presence of Mirotic’s versatile game and floor stretching ability.

The comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki and Danilo Gallinari have been abundant and whilst the Nowitzki one might be a stretch the current form of Mirotic says otherwise. He was named the 2010/11 and 2012/13 Euroleague Rising Star and looks likely to win the award again this season if he continues his impressive play. The award is one that players such as Nowitzki and Toni Kukoc have both won but is one that hasn’t been given to the same player twice until Mirotic’s second award last season.

The jury is still out on Nikola Mirotic’s place in the NBA and he may not be the answer to the Bulls problems but don’t be surprised if he makes the move to the NBA and is a bona-fide star. He has the size, skills and his last few years of experience in Europe have undoubtedly been a great learning curve for his basketball career. I can’t wait to see what he is capable of as I’m sure most Bulls fans also do.



TheBackpackBaller_OnlineExclusive1

‘The Backpack Baller’ – Interview With Brad Graham

TheBackpackBaller_OnlineExclusive1

This weekend past, I clicked into my ‘Podcasts’ app on my iPhone to see which of my favourite NBA Podcasts had been updated with new episodes. It was then that I noticed the brilliant CRTSDE podcast had posted a ‘Mini-sode’ which had regular B.G discussing his new project ‘The Backpack Baller’. At first, I thought it may have been a story involving a backpacking traveller trekking the world while taking in as much hoops as possible. How wrong I was!

In fact, B.G (Brad Graham) has put together a book, actually, a much needed book about Superstar Kevin Durant.

I got to throw a few questions Brad’s way about this amazing project, including what areas the book touches on, and what it’s going to take to make it happen.

(more…)



DameROMFebNEWS

Portland Off to a Hot Start

DameROMFebNEWS

It’s amazing what a good bench can do for a basketball team. It’s all well and good to want to talk about stars on a basketball team but often it’s the bench players, role players, hustle players that add that missing link that can turn an average team into a good one.

The Portland Trail Blazers have gotten off to a phenomenal start this season and whilst it’s early days the improvement that their new bench additions have provided is proof that there is more to winning than just having a good starting five.

Portland does have a good starting five, Damian Lillard is a future star, LaMarcus Aldridge is one of better shooting big men in the league, he can play the four and the five as well. Nic Batum is as versatile a player as you’ll find, they have a genuine centre in Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews is a solid shooting guard who can create his own shot.

Their starting line-up was never the problem though last season; it was the complete lack of depth and talent in the second five that was the biggest issue for them. This season though, the Trail Blazers are off to a 9-2 start and lead the Northwest Division over the more fancied Oklahoma City Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves and their bench has been a major factor in the hot start.

The off season additions of C.J. McCollum, Robin Lopez, Dorell Wright, Mo Williams, Thomas Robinson, Allen Crabbe and Earl Watson have given the Trail Blazers much needed depth to take the next step.

Portland’s new look roster is one with a huge offensive presence. They are averaging 104.6 points per game this season which is good for eighth in the league right now and is an extra 7.1 points per game compared with last season. Their offensive rating, courtesy of basketball reference, is 110.6 which is third in the league, again this is a big step up from last season’s 105.8 (15th).

The Trail Blazers offense is so successful, in part, because of their three point shooting prowess. They are currently shooting 42% from behind the arc as a team, fourth in the NBA and have connected on 100 treys so far this season, third in the NBA. Some of the aforementioned bench players are responsible for such a high percentage of threes being made. Dorell Wright is currently 12 for 27, 44.4% and Mo Williams has added nine treys to start the season.

The Trail Blazers still have C.J. McCollum to return to the line-up and considering he shot an amazing 51.6% from long range as a senior in college it’s safe to say the Blazers can only get better offensively from long range.

Portland are proving to be a great three point shooting team thus far but it’s also their perimeter defense that is playing a part in their early success. They lead the NBA in opponents three point field goal percentage, at 29%. This kind of perimeter defense combined with such hot long range shooting and overall depth is proving to be the catalyst for winning ball games for the Trail Blazers.

The season is young and Portland are yet to face some of the upper tier teams in the NBA so there is no certainty of them making that next step and playing post season basketball but the phenomenal start could very well be the beginning of something for this youthful, talented team. Whatever does happen, it’s been an exciting and memorable start to the season and I for one have enjoyed the ride so far.



STON6477.JPG

Jordan Crawford: The Player That Splits The League Right Down The Middle

STON6477.JPG

Boston Celtics guard Jordan Crawford is the player most fans in the past (and if I’m honest even now) love to hate. Whether it’s because of his tendency to speak his mind of his over confidence in his skills (Better than Michael Jordan anyone?), his trash talking to opponents (Did KG really sleep with LaLa Anthony?), or just his eagerness to put up a shot.

(more…)



timages

And Out Come the Wolves

Image Source - www.awolfamongwolves.com

Image Source – www.awolfamongwolves.com

The Minnesota Timberwolves are at a crossroads. Like the crossroads in a long lost Blues song, Minnesota fans would almost certainly sell their soul to the devil for a winning basketball team. They have spent numerous years dwelling at the bottom of the Western Conference and barring injury, this season should be considered the true measure of whether or not they can compete with their current squad or continue on singing the blues.

Their current squad is one filled with talented players. Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio are the two biggest stars for the Wolves and they’re two players who missed 64 and 25 games respectively last season. With both stars missing for so much of last season the Timberwolves missed out on the playoffs for a ninth straight season and the time has come for them to get the results from their years of rebuilding through the draft.

Kevin Love, provided he’s healthy, will provide so much to the struggling Minnesota team this season. Looking back at his efforts in 2011/12, he put up phenomenal numbers; 26.0 points, 13.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists per game on 44.8% shooting from the field and 37.2% from behind the arc. All this from a guy who was only 23! When you also look at some of his better performances from the season, his 30 point, 30 rebound game, which was unseen in the NBA for 28 years, you see just how much he is the future in Minnesota.

Ricky Rubio is a maestro with a basketball in his hands. A real pass first point guard with a high basketball I.Q and a variety of crowd pleasing, slick no look passes, Rubio is the on court general for the team and he is more than capable of running an offense. When Rubio went down with an ACL injury, the season was all but done for the Wolves.

2012/13 was supposed to be the season with which Minnesota were to break the shackles of the playoff-less past and show the world just what they were capable of. The injuries to both Rubio and Love meant that they finished with a 31-51 record and another shot at the lottery, which has become all too familiar for them.

With another year gone by and both Love and Rubio fully fit, the offensively talented Shabazz Muhammad obtained via the draft, Nikola Pekovic looking even more like some sort of Thor-like god, but bigger and sharp shooter Kevin Martin picked up via a trade, the Timberwolves look ready to make this season a winning one but what so many fans in the know are already aware of, the Timberwolves have already won.

The biggest offseason move for Minnesota came from the front office not the hardwood. Ex GM David Kahn was considered by many to be the catalyst for almost a decade of ridiculously bad player moves. From his questionable draft picks, who can forget him taking Rubio and Jonny Flynn ahead of Steph Curry or Wesley Johnson ahead of DeMarcus Cousins, to his outright refusal to admit he had done anything wrong it’s almost a god send that he’s gone from the franchise.

His replacement is Flip Saunders, the same Flip Saunders who coached the Timberwolves to their eight straight playoff appearances, which is the only time they have seen any post season action in their history. Saunders brings a wealth of basketball knowledge to the table for Minnesota and whilst it’s no guarantee that they will make all the right moves from here on out, the future is bright with him at the helm of basketball operations.

With their star players healthy and their front office looking promising, Timberwolves fans have a lot to look forward to because this could very well be the year they taste playoff action once again. If not they could always make a deal with the devil at the crossroads.



anthony-davis-hornets-610x330

The Pelican Takes Flight

anthony-davis-hornets-610x330

There’s always added pressure that comes from being drafted first in the NBA. It comes with an expectation that that particular player will be a star in the league. The problem with this kind of expectation is that it’s often misguided hope, whether it’s hope from the fans or hope from the team’s front office that this is the guy that will turn around the franchise, it’s still just that, hope.

Sure the teams have spent countless hours and exorbitant amounts of money ensuring that they know exactly what they will get from their guy once they’ve drafted him but aside from the, for want of a better term, freaks of nature (LeBron James), there’s way too many unknowns or what ifs that can occur and derail what was thought to be a sure thing. Only time can really tell us whether or not a player will reach the potential that has been bestowed upon them.

Rookie seasons are a funny thing; they can be so varied for certain players. From the top guys who end up on horrible teams and have the biggest burden of expectation thrust upon them, to the later picks who have to settle for rubbish minutes in blowouts and scrimmages to hone their game, the one thing that’s certain is that they will always be measured by whether or not they have been what was expected of them via the many scouting resources that are available to coaches, scouts and fans the world over, which brings me to a player I have been intrigued by of late, Anthony Davis.

Davis was picked first in last year’s NBA Draft and was considered to be the consensus first choice. His rookie campaign was beset by injuries and he was comprehensively beaten for the Rookie of the Year honours by Damian Lillard. Davis is the subject of little talk in NBA circles, which, in my eyes is a real shame because despite his rookie year not being as successful as many thought it should be, Davis is a seriously talented player with a very high ceiling.

Let’s take a look at what Davis is capable of and exactly how he performed in his rookie season. The ex-Kentucky Wildcat’s debut season numbers are nothing spectacular at first glance. He averaged 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1 assist per game, solid numbers but nothing to get excited about. When you look a little closer at some of his other statistics it becomes clearer that Davis has a brighter future than many anticipate. His Player Efficiency Rating (PER) was 21.7, which was good for fourteenth in the NBA and his steals and blocks per game, 1.2 and 1.8, demonstrate his ability as a great defender.

Many cite Damian Lillard’s better numbers when comparing the two players but taking into account for the fact that not one player in the NBA played as many regular season minutes as Lillard did last season those numbers are quite skewed. Looking at the per 36 minutes statistics give us a much fairer statistical comparison. Davis’ stats per 36 minutes are 16.9 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.2 blocks compared with Lillard’s 17.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.2 blocks, factor in the age difference with Lillard at 22 and Davis 19 and the superior shooting percentages for Davis and you really have no argument as to who has the greater potential.

Potential is all well and good but we know it doesn’t get teams to the playoffs and whilst Davis remains a work in progress the best thing, for me, is that we are starting to see his potential become reality this pre-season. Davis’ defensive capabilities were the one thing that instantly translated from his college days through to his professional career. We know he can rebound, block shots and get in the passing lanes with his extraordinary length but what he has shown in the recent team USA’s showcase game and the few pre-season games so far this season is that he has been working on the offensive aspect of his game. Some of the newest moves in the Anthony Davis arsenal include a jump hook, 18 foot jump shot and most importantly in my eyes, an ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the line. This ability to get to the rim off the dribble combined with an improved mid-range shot will ensure many defenders will be in two minds when guarding Davis.

With the improvements in his offense and a year of pro ball under his belt the sky is the limit for Davis. His versatility in playing the four and the five combined with his new found dribble drive game and improved shooting gives me the confidence to say that Davis will live up to his potential and become a verified NBA star in the near future. I hope I’m right.



butler_120524

Keeping A Close Eye On You!

butler_120524

While the title of this feature may sound a little creepy, stick with me, this isn’t me declaring my stalker habits. Far from it.

With the new season just around the corner, I get to thinking about the players that I would be keen to follow and watch closely. Obviously most fans will be eager to see if LeBron can win his 3rd ring, or Durant can bring his Thunder back into genuinely challenging for the Championship again. My players to watch list looks a little different from the norm. I’m keen to see players who sit underneath that ‘Superstar’ banner, the players who to some fans may even think aren’t that great at all. Personally I like to see progression in players who obviously work hard at their game. Now, enough of the rambling let’s get to it…

Jeremy Lin – Houston Rockets

jeremy-lin-knicks-rockets

(more…)