With the NBA regular season winding down, some hardcore fans may already be pondering about who will win this year’s MVP award.
Certainly, there is a handful of superstars deserving of the honor, but the award is about more than just leading the league in scoring, rebounds or assists. An MVP has to truly be a leader, who would change the whole dynamic of their team if they were absent from the starting lineup. Think about when Michael Jordan retired from the NBA to pursue a baseball career. The following season, Scottie Pippen definitely didn’t get any MVP love and the Chicago Bulls simply weren’t the same.
So when I look at this year’s field of possible deserving candidates (in terms of what they do for their teams) for the 2011-2012 MVP award, there is really only three players — Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Kevin Love — who fit that profile. The only problem is, Love’s Timberwolves have already been eliminated from playoff contention, so don’t expect him to even sniff at the trophy until Minnesota is better. And Dwight Howard’s absence from the Orlando Magic because of back spasms has only proven that he is the heart and soul of that team after Orlando slowly slipped further and further down the Eastern Conference standings once Howard started to miss more and more time.
So that leaves Kobe. Will he run away with the MVP award? Maybe not. After all, right behind him are superstars Kevin Durant and LeBron James, who rank No. 2 and No. 3 in the league, respectively, for points per game. But how much would Durant’s Thunder and James’ Heat be suffering if they weren’t there? Miami certainly could hold its own with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh running the show and you have to believe Oklahoma City could do the same with its depth. (more…)
The NBA Playoffs are quickly approaching with just a week and a half remaining in the regular season. To think it wasn’t too long ago that NBA enthusiasts like myself were in doubt that there would even be a season.
Now everyone knows that the East is a two-team race (maybe three if you consider the resurgent Celtics a legit contender) with the Bulls and the Heat. If you’re a regular Couch Side reader or one of the few Twitter followers I have, you know which side I’m on.
As for the West, well everyone since the beginning of the season has assumed that Oklahoma City was destined to meet either Chi-Town or South Beach in the NBA Finals. Everyone assumed that the old guards, namely the Spurs and the aforementioned Celtics, didn’t stand a chance in the compressed, lockout-induced season.
But here they are, Greg Popovich’s boys in the silver and black just as they always are. With a week and a half remaining, the Spurs are just a game behind OKC for the top-seed in the West. The old guys are here and they’ve got the young, athletic Thunder in sight. (more…)
BY KEVIN BERTRAM, Couchsideshow.com contributor
1. Charlotte Bobcats: Anthony Davis (PF — Kentucky — 19 years old)
Almost everyone has Davis as the consensus No. 1 overall pick this year, and there’s a good reason for that. He’s a defensive juggernaut who has a NBA-ready frame and brilliant athleticism. The AP Player of the Year is averaging 14.3 points per game, while hauling down 10 rebounds. However, these are by far his most ordinary stats: what comes next defines Davis as a special player.
First, he’s blocking 4.6 shots per game. When Davis is on the floor, Kentucky’s opponents watch their field goal percentages plummet: 14 percent of their total shots are blocked by the Wildcats when he’s patrolling the paint. He compares favorably in this regard to recent renowned, current NBA shot blockers when they were in college, as seen here in blocks / per 40 minutes:
Coming into the shortened 2011-2012 season, it didn’t seem like the Phoenix Suns would be the relevant.
Just one look at the team’s depth chart raised question of if these “old guys” could hang with the young legs of other NBA teams. I’ll admit, I wrote off the Suns when I heard Grant Hill would return as a starter and from Phoenix’s lack of offseason moves. Now, I’m not completely wrong as of right now.
If the playoffs started tomorrow, the Suns wouldn’t be dancing. But I may be eating my words in the next few weeks. Phoenix is somewhat taking the league by storm right now, posting one of the best records, so far, after the All-Star break. So I’m not a hater of the Suns anymore and residents of the desert can finally love a team that looked doomed at the beginning of the season.
After I heard that Phoenix is starting to impress, I asked myself, how? The Suns didn’t make any trades at the deadline and pretty much have the same roster they owned at the beginning of the season. And although they still look “old” on paper, it’s that veteran experience, led by coach Alvin Gentry, that has them playing with heart.
I’m not a part of the Suns’ locker room and I won’t pretend to know why this squad is playing the best basketball out of all their Western Conference counterparts right now, but I would like to believe it’s more than just having a favorable home schedule right after the All-Star break.
BY KEVIN BERTRAM, Couchsideshow.com contributor
However, playing behind the perennial all-star left the Polish Hammer — as Orlando fans came to know him — with little playing time and an even smaller role on offense. In 63 games during the 2008-2009 season, Gortat played only 12.6 minutes per game, despite hitting on a solid .567 percent of his field goal attempts. Most of his field goals came from grabbing offensive boards and putting the ball back up. As shown in this clip, he was capable of much more …
Orlando, seeing that they had the unique problem of having two, starting-caliber centers, attempted to correct the problem by playing lineups that featured both Gortat and Howard on the court at the same time.
With March Madness, NFL free agency and baseball’s Spring Training in full swing at the beginning of March, sports fans may forget about the NBA Trade Deadline on March 15.
It may be a snoozer of a deadline as the playoffs begin just six short week later and as some general manger begin to question whether this is the right year to wheel and deal. The NBA lockout put a hinder on a lot of things and this year’s trade deadline may feel the negative effects the most. So NBA fans, don’t be holding your breath that your team is going to make that one move to put them over the top next week. It likely won’t happen. Be that as it may, deal will be done. They probably just won’t have that blockbuster title with them.
Obviously there will be a lot of discussion over Dwight Howard and the ongoing saga of him going to the L.A. Lakers. But other than that, the transactions will be at a minimum during this deadline. So with not much to work with and even fewer rumors, here’s Couch Side’s predictions on the top five players who could be dealt close or the day of the NBA Trade Deadline:
Throughout the season, Howard has been asked to be dealt. First, it was the Lakers. Then it was the New Jersey Nets. Hell, the L.A. Clippers were even up for discussion as a possible new team. Regardless of everyone wanting him, no one was willing to pay the price that Orlando wanted. Hence, the 26-year-old is still in black and blue and the Magic are the third best team in the East. So why would the Magic want to trade him? It’s simple. D-How does not want to be there. He wants to win a ring right away. And the only way he could do so is if he ends up with the Lakers, which is about a 50-50 chance right now, in my opinion. According to a handful of general managers, teams are actually waiting on Big D to be traded before they’ll even test the swapping grounds. So if Howard doesn’t get traded soon, the deadline may be even quieter. But L.A. will most likely be the front runner if anything happens at all. Howard would be walking away from $30 million if he accepted a trade. What’s even worse, to me, is that if he gets traded to another team that already has their superstar (i.e. Kobe Bryant with the Lakers) he won’t be the main dude in that city. I honestly believe the Magic can win the Finals as early as this year, but that’s only if Superman stays in Orlando. And the only way he’ll be playing in yellow and purple is if the Lakers are willing to trade Andrew Bynum, which a lot of sources say he will only be moved in a trade for Howard. So if L.A. is willing to part ways with their center of the future for basically the same thing only more talented, than Howard may just end up in L.A. by Wednesday. (more…)
BY BRANDON J. SMITH, Couchsideshow.com contributor
Can we all admit the Slam Dunk contest is a bloated waste of time at this point? It was a bit pathetic to see Derrick Williams attempt his between-the-legs-reverse-jam 15 times without success, which once again provides an opening to flood a pretend suggestion box with ideas.
It’s not that difficult, at all. Take a look at this HORSE competition between Bob McAdoo and Pistol Pete, you can tell that this exercise is actually fun and entertaining to all.
The Big Three versus the MVP. That was the showdown in South Beach on Sunday. The Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls, the clear top-two teams in the East and quite possibly the entire league, squared off for the first time since their Eastern Conference Finals encounter in May. Unfortunately for the Bulls though, they came up short in the end just as they did a mere eight months ago.
Derrick Rose, the youngest player ever to win the NBA’s MVP, has openly shouldered the blame for the Bulls’ failure in the ECF. The five-game series loss ate at him alive and motivated him throughout the extended lockout-induced offseason. Even as he downplayed Sunday’s matchup against the Heatles, it was very apparent that he wanted this game bad.
In fact, up until the final 22.7 seconds of the game, D-Rose appeared to be on a mission to will his team to victory, to make amends for his “shortcomings” back in May. Rose could not be kept out of the paint, crossing his defender up and repeatedly twisting, spinning and weaving his way to the basket for layups. Then just as he had all game, he got to the free-throw line with a chance to give the Bulls their first lead of the game with 22.7 seconds left to play in the game. Yet despite a perfect 29-29 mark this season in the fourth quarter, Rose missed not only his first free throw, but his second as well, and the Bulls dropped a heartbreaker 97-93.
So much for Ricky Rubio being unable to adapt to life in the NBA.
The 6-foot-4, 180-pound point guard from Barcelona has shown he is right at home amongst the fast-paced play and formidable competition of the NBA. Plus, it’s just been too much fun watching SportsCenter highlights of Rubio’s precise and lighting quick passes.
So far this season, Rubio has demonstrated impressive court vision and pinpoint passing accuracy. His unselfish team play and desire to make everyone look good has allowed him to divvy up a bevy of impressive bounce passes, lobs, and alley-oops which have translated into points. While he’ll never put up huge scoring numbers, Rubio is currently averaging 11 points per game and shooting 46 percent from the field.
Immense basketball IQ aside, what really makes Rubio special is how his passes don’t simply make it into the hands of his intended targets; they help create shots. He uses his passing prowess to put his teammates in a better position to score. He is currently averaging 8.3 assists per game, along with 2 steals and 3.8 boards. Rubio recently posted his first double-double in a game against the Miami Heat.
For the longest time, sports pundits and analysts questioned Rubio’s ability to effectively make the transition from European basketball to the faster paced and more athletic NBA. He has shown that not only can he adapt, he can potentially excel. The increased physical skills of his teammates allow him to deliver faster passes on the break and give him the opportunity to dazzle audiences with alley-oop lobs that bring crowds to their feet. His job is also made easier due to the fact he is playing with double-double machine Kevin Love, athletic rookie specimen Derrick Williams, and aspiring second year shooting guard Wes Johnson.
BY TREVOR GOULD, Couchsideshow.com writer
Despite consisting of relatively weak collegiate basketball talent, the 2011 NBA Draft class still had its share of skill and potential.
There was Kyrie Irving, the 19-year-old freshman point guard from Duke who only played 11 games but still managed a stellar stat line of 17.5 points per game, 53% field goal percentage, and 3.4 rebounds while averaging 27.5 minutes per game. There was the highlight reel small forward Derrick Williams, who powered the University of Arizona to the Elite Eight with his strength, effective inside game, and versatile shooting abilities. There was the shooting maestro Jimmer Fredette, BYU’s virtually unstoppable guard who averaged a miraculous 28.9 points per game and who was named the 2011 national player of the year by the majority of the influential sporting publications.
As sports fans, we have been constantly hearing about how these collegiate stars have been performing on the professional level. Irving got off to a slow start but is beginning to steady himself; Ricky Rubio to Derrick Williams is becoming a potent offensive combination; Markieff Morris is providing some toughness and defense to the offensive minded Phoenix Suns, etc etc. Yet whatever happened to Bismack Biyombo, the polarizing Congolese power forward whose defensive abilities were being hailed as top-notch?
BY TREVOR GOULD, Couchsideshow.com writer
When it comes to appearances, NBA players perfectly define the physical expectations associated with adulthood. They are towering athletic specimens boasting huge wingspans, broad shoulders, and muscular legs. They perform their sport with such a natural fluidity and grace that it appears easy and effortless. Yet beneath their adult exteriors, many of them possess the minds of children. Nowhere else is this better exemplified then within the spoiled little psyche of second year Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins,whose immature and selfish behavior is already starting to tear his team’s rebuilding efforts to shreds.
Cousins made national sports headlines last week for losing his cool and engaging coach Paul Westphal in a shouting match demanding to be traded. Westphal reacted by sending Cousins home and issued the following statement:
“Everything that happens on a team does not become known to the public. This is how it should be. However, when a player continually, aggressively, lets it be known that he is unwilling/unable to embrace traveling in the same direction as his team, it cannot be ignored indefinitely.”
Just a few days later, Westphal was fired and replaced by Keith Smart. This is just the beginning of the damage Cousins is going to inflict on Sacramento.
Now there were decently logical grounds for firing Westphal: a 2-5 record, past trade demands by multiple other players, and inconsistent team growth. Yet, we all know the reason he was truly fired: he couldn’t build a solid relationship with their 21-year old center of the future.
Westphal had enough on his plate trying to revive a franchise whose legacy was synonymous with underachievement and defeat. He had to manage and control a roster of young talents and at the same time build them into a post-season caliber squad. The last thing he needed was the petulance and immaturity frothing from the mouth of DeMarcus Cousins, the franchise’s crown jewel who they’ll stop at nothing to please. Westphal is only the first casualty of the cancer that is DeMarcus Cousins.
Westphal wasn’t the only individual within the Kings organization who was unhappy with Cousins’ attitude and demeanor.
BY DEREK BARSNESS, Couchsideshow.com writer
NBA stars are becoming bigger than the game itself. And it’s making fans bitter; quickly turning them into haters.
Stars have always enjoyed special treatment. But when the power shift is so one sided that players like Dwight Howard can demand a trade the year before his contract expires, general managers are put in quite a predicament. Do they chance losing their star at the end of the season and have nothing to show for it or trade the core of the team that they’ve spent the past several years and millions of dollars building? And fans resent this. Not just fans of these teams, but fans of the game in general.
I’m a huge Denver Nuggets fan. I’m also a huge Syracuse Orangemen fan (yes, they are still the Orangemen to me, although the change to the Orange is growing on me). So When the Nuggets drafted Carmelo Anthony in 2003 it was a dream come true. He took Denver, a perennial lottery team, to the playoffs in his first season. But after what happened with Melo last season, I’m a hater now. I hate the Knicks, Amar’e Stoudemire (for no good reason) and Spike Lee (seriously, does anyone actually like that guy). I even hate the Lakers, and as I write this blog I’m watching the Knicks take on the Lakers. I’m rooting against the Knicks, but essentially that means I’m rooting for the Lakers!
Denver was between a rock and a hard place. Melo’s situation was different than the one the Magic are currently in with Howard. This was mostly due to the expiring NBA labor contract and the possibility that if Melo didn’t sign an extension before the end of the season he would lose millions of dollars in guaranteed money. He made it public knowledge that he would only accept a trade to New York so no teams were willing to trade away the draft picks and prospects that Denver was rightfully asking for in return. If the Nuggets didn’t trade Melo, they risked losing one of the top 10 best players in the league and having nothing to show for it. Personally, I think Melo was greedy enough and would have accepted an extension with Denver rather than lose millions. So Denver traded their star for a crop of young
talent, but none of them will ever fill the shoes of Anthony.
BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor
Fans worried about NBA player Kris Humphries after his divorce with TV star Kim Kardashian can finally rest easy.
The 6-foot-9 power forward reached a one-year deal with the New Jersey Nets worth a reported $8 million Wednesday morning. So it looks like it’s finally back to basketball for the Minnesota native. And I’m happy for Humphries and even more merry that another Kardashian won’t be on the NBA sidelines.
We’ll still have to see Khloe at Dallas Mavericks games, watching her husband, Lamar Odom, ball in white and blue. But I can sleep easy tonight, knowing that her sister won’t be court side in New Jersey this season. The split between Kim Kardashian and Humphries came just 72 days after the couple were married in a wedding blown completely out of proportion. And now with the prenuptial agreement in affect, Humphries can start concentrating on basketball.
Playing at an effective level was something I thought Humphries needed to do long before he met his reality star ex-wife. Now, with her out of the way, I hope a new spark of passion finds the former Minnesota Gopher so he can finally live up to his potential. And after seven years of mediocrity with four different teams, Humphries could do just that this season with New Jersey.
He should undoubtedly be the Nets’ starting power forward, sharing the paint with budding NBA superstar Brook Lopez. And a duo like Lopez and Humphries could be dangerous for other teams in the East. Add Deron Williams in New Jersey’s back court and this team could be playoff bound as early as this spring. The Nets might land the No. 8 seed, but that would be a godsend for New Jersey fans, considering their team hasn’t appeared in the playoffs since the 2005-2006 season.