Blazer fans, welcome your new fearless leader, Damian Lillard.
The buzz around Lillard grew throughout the summer, into camp and more during the preseason. Then, in a season-opening win over the LA Lakers, it boiled over even more. It’s for good reason – the No. 6 overall pick scored 23 points and had 11 assists in his professional debut. That’s great.
But that wasn’t his biggest contribution. He came through the biggest on what was probably his worst decision of the night. And it was a missed shot.
It came early in the game when the 6-3, 195-pound Lillard tried to dunk over the hulking 6-11, 265-pound Dwight Howard. Lillard got stuffed, fell to the ground and the ball went out of bounds.
This play, this one unspectacular offensive play, proved to everyone in Portland that Damian Lillard is here to play ball and he is not backing down from anyone. He saw an opportunity and he tried to seize it. Sure, the smarter play is to float the ball over Howard. But it was the rookie’s first game and he wanted to make a statement – he wanted Howard on a poster. (more…)
BY MATTHEW VINSKO, Couchsideshow.com writer
Despite being a few upsets in the first round, it’s hard to call my first round predictions a failure. Who saw Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah getting injured in similarly gruesome fashions? Who knew a Memphis Grizzlies squad that impressed everyone last year would get upended by the up and coming “Lob City”? Not this guy.
Still, now that we’re onto the second round, we’re starting to see some contenders truly hit their stride, and some others happy to be here. Without further ado, here are some picks for the second round of the NBA Playoffs.
• Writers Note: I understand two games have already been played in the second round, but in my defense, I wished to wait until the first round wrapped up before writing up this article. After all, it was pretty easy to miss out on the openers when there were two Game 7s to be had.
(4) Boston Celtics vs. (8) Philadelphia 76ers
Honestly, this is not the matchup anyone expected coming out of the first round. First of all, everyone thought Rose’s injury-prone season would be refreshed in the playoffs against a very sloppy 76ers team that was lucky to make the playoffs. Secondly, even without Rose, the Bulls managed to ride a wave of success during the season, earning the best record in the conference over much healthier squads. People forget Richard Hamilton was hurt a lot too, which forced Luol Deng and the Bulls’ front court to respond accordingly, and time and again, they did.
Just not in the first round against a 76ers squad that seemed to finally get back on track. Spencer Hawes and Elton Brand were beastly down low without Noah there, and Jrue Holliday, Evan Turner, and Andre Iguodala all proved to be too much for a severely limited Bulls backcourt. The Celtics, on the other hand, struggled more than I thought they would in the first round, but still came out triumphant despite a brief Rajon Rondo suspension and an injury to Ray Allen. Kevin Garnett is playing like “The Big Ticket” of old, and it’s hard to see anyone stop this squad, especially after a comeback performance in Game 1 this past Saturday.
The 76ers have showed glimpses this postseason of what they were earlier in the season, but against a veteran team that finally seems to be hitting their stride, it’s hard to see them winning the series. I expect a close series just because the Celtics’ legs will have to get tired at some point, but in the end, the Celtics are just too much for a team who have no place being in the second round.
Winner: Boston Celtics in 6 (more…)
BY ROBERT LITTAL, Feedcrossing.com syndication
You shouldn’t be shocked by this.
Considering everything former Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden has went through, it isn’t surprising that he turned to the bottle and was fighting a little bit of depression. When you have a lot of money and free time on your hand the two things you OD on are women and liquor.
Oden is a nice guy, I feel bad for him personally, but he has made more than $30 million in the NBA and hasn’t really played at all, so it’s hard to feel too bad for him. I am sure he isn’t the only athlete who has used alcohol as a coping mechanism for the good and bad things going on in their life.
Oden, who underwent five knee surgeries during his time in Portland — including three microfracture surgeries — was released by the Blazers in March. He appeared in just 82 games as a professional and hasn’t played since Dec. 2009. He spent much of his time in Portland alone or rehabilitating. All that time and freedom led Oden to alcohol, he said.
That’s because it wasn’t an NBA veteran who took Oden under his wing in his second season — it was his veteran cousin from the Air Force who moved into Oden’s house in Portland.
“If you know anything about guys in the Air Force,” Oden explained, “it’s that they drink a ton. My cousin got wrapped up in the NBA lifestyle and threw parties at my house all the time. So I got wrapped up in it too. When I played well, I’d drink to celebrate. And when I played poorly, I’d drink to forget. That second year in Portland I pretty much became an alcoholic.”
Back in June 2011, Oden’s agent Bill Duffy acknowledged that Oden had undergone “interventions” to help deal with the mental side of his injuries. He wants back in the league in 2013, but I just don’t see it happening. I wish him well and hope he does make it back, but it will and he will never be the same.
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.
BY Couchsideshow.com staff
In this week’s episode, Couch Side welcomes special guest Andy Paul, a knowledgeable football fan, to discuss the NFL playoffs, the NBA’s shortened season, a new location for the Winter Classic, Jim Cadwell’s firing, Jeff Fisher’s hiring and Chael Sonnin vs. Michael Bisbing. Click below to listen to Couch Side!
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 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.
In the premiere of the sports podcast, Couch Side, hosts Wade McMillin and Jordan Wheeler explore NFL playoff hopes for teams in the tightest divisions; debate if players are still loyal in the NBA; and react to Albert Pujols’ monster contract. Click below to beginning listening to Couch Side.