With the NBA season upon us, many are already jumping to predict the next champion. Will the Heat repeat? Will the Thunder look to take it one step further and win the organization’s first championship? Or will a retooled Lakers or Celtics squad step up to the plate and show that savvy veterans have what it takes to compete with the young dogs?
But just because the end goal (to win it all) remains firmly in sight, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a Sacramento Kings/Cleveland Cavaliers game, right? There are 30 teams to break down, which is why Matt Vinsko and Brett Murdock (with a little help from their friends) are here to answer the biggest questions from all around the league. So sit back, relax, and enjoy an in-depth breakdown of the NBA season prior to opening tip.
Phoenix Suns: What is the biggest challenge for the Suns in the first year of the post-Nash era?
• Brett: Looking ahead, the Suns biggest concern is their chemistry and how they will mesh. There are some pretty good pieces to this puzzle now, both in the starting line-up and on the bench. Acquisitions like Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley and Luis Scola bring talent and namesake to the starters to go along with fan favorite (and possible face of the franchise?!) Jared Dudley and Marcin Gortat. Off the bench, Wesley Johnson has impressed so far for his new team, but the rest of the back-ups have been underwhelming, including first-round pick Kendall Marshall. As it stands, there is no real floor general like Nash was, and it will take some time to find that cohesiveness that coach Alvin Gentry needs for this team to get back to the playoffs.
L.A. Lakers: Does the Dwight Howard trade put the Los Angeles Lakers back into title contention?
• Matt: If you would have asked me this question prior to last season, I would have immediately told you what a benefit Dwight Howard would be. But now, coming off a season filled with off-the-court drama and a number of injuries (compared to Andrew Bynum’s career year), it’s hard to be ecstatic. Sure, Dwight will help defensively, which is what the Lakers needed last year in the playoffs against a much-younger Oklahoma City squad. And even though defense isn’t his specialty, Steve Nash is set to rejuvenate a somewhat stagnate offense. But still, it’s hard to be excited knowing Superman can walk out the door at the end of the season if contract negotiations fall flat. With the Lakers, it always feels like a championship or bust mentality, and unless Nash, Pau Gasol, and even Kobe Bryant can channel their youth, it’s hard to see the Lakers competing night in and night out for 48 minutes. (more…)
BY MATTHEW VINSKO, Couchsideshow.com blogger
When it comes to sports, people often look to the veteran teams to pave the way for younger talent. This year, however, two young teams have cemented their place in the NBA, systematically decimating their opponents and showing their time is now.
The Miami Heat, while relatively young, have championship pedigree and something to prove after last season’s meltdown against Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks. This season proved to be a frustrating one for many a Heat fan. LeBron James was often times erratic, again. Chris Bosh wasn’t living up to his hefty payday a year ago. Dwayne Wade has shown glimpses of greatness, but been bogged down by injuries. The Heat went from being the favorite at times this season to being a laughing stock due to their inconsistent play. (more…)
BY Couchsideshow.com staff
Regular Co-Host Craig Paul is out this week, so Wade McMillin takes over the reigns to host our 18th episode all by himself. Wade previews the NBA playoffs, finally talks some baseball, discusses the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley decision and takes a look at Brock Lesnar’s possible return to the UFC.
BY Couchsideshow.com staff
Couch Side’s regular co-host, Craig Paul, makes his much anticipated to this week’s podcast. He joins regular host Wade McMillin for discussions about the Stanley Cup Finals, NFL Quarterback battles, the Roger Clemens trial, the NBA playoffs and sports memorabilia:
BY Couchsideshow.com staff
Couch Side baseball insider Brandon J. Smith makes his debut on our podcast to discuss the NBA playoffs, Stan Van Gundy’s firing, I’ll Have Another’s chance at the triple crown and Dallas Clark signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Smith and Couch Side host Wade McMillin also have a great baseball debate about who is the better player — Josh Hamilton or Matt Kemp. See who the pair picks as the MLB’s best by following the links below:
BY ALEX ROSE, Feedcrossing.com syndication
The day after each Oklahoma City Thunder game, the dedicated fan will grab their morning coffee and take a peak at the boxscore to see how many points Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook scored. They look to see how many blocks Serge Ibaka swatted. Maybe Durant and Westbrook combined for a massive 70 points (accomplished twice this season), or maybe Ibaka added another double-digit block game to his stash. However, when you come across Kendrick Perkins‘ name, the numbers look insufficient at best. For his career, Perkins has averaged a quiet 6.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, and 1.4 BPG. As a member of the Thunder, his numbers seem even more anemic as he averaged just 5.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG, and 1.1 BPG in 65 games this year.
However, basketball is a game in which teamwork is hard to measure. There is no statistic that measures a player’s willingness to help their teammates succeed by doing the little things on the court. There is no statistic that measures the extra pass on the perimeter for the open 3-pointer when the defense is late to rotate. There is no measure that communicates how important a box-out can be so that a teammate can secure a tough rebound in the paint. Baseball is a game in which statistics can tell the whole story of a particular game. Teamwork is much less important. The major league baseball player is essentially left to his own skills when stepping into the batter’s box. (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 MATTHEW VINSKO AND BRETT MURDOCK, Couchsideshow.com writers
If you would have asked us this past summer who we thought would win the NBA Championship, I’m sure we would have had three answers for you: the Miami Heat, the Oklahoma City Thunder, or the most likely scenario, no champion at all.
With the lockout breathing down the NBA’s neck, it was hard to have realistic expectations for a 2011-12 NBA season. Though the shortened schedule has led to its share of surprises (I’m looking at you, Utah Jazz), the older mainstays have managed to stay true to form and the young, upcoming teams have seemingly dominated a shorter, more physically daunting schedule (with the exception of the San Antonio Spurs; how does Popovich do it?).
Now that the regular season is over and the match-ups are set, it’s prediction time, and who better to run down the NBA playoffs than two diehard fans? We will admit our last article was a WWE-themed article, so it’s time to pop our cherry once and for all and tackle a real sport.
(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (8) Utah Jazz
Matt: I was a little disheartened to see the Jazz easily dismantle the Phoenix Suns this past Tuesday, breaking the hearts of Phoenix fans while ensuring Utah’s trip to the postseason. Now that it’s all said and done though, I have a hard time picking either of the two against the Spurs. Though San Antonio showed last year that one-seeds aren’t unbeatable, I don’t see them losing two years in a row in first-round upsets. Plus, Utah’s front court players (Derrick Favors, Al Jefferson, and Paul Millsap) aren’t nearly as intimidating as Memphis’ combination of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol a year ago. Expect a pretty lopsided series in my eyes where the veterans show the young studs a thing or two about postseason basketball.
Winner: San Antonio Spurs in 5
Brett: I spent last Tuesday night at Matt’s house, watching the Suns/Jazz battle it out for a playoff spot while simultaneously writing our Extreme Rules predictions. When the triple zeroes hit and the Suns had lost and missed out on a chance for the final berth, I was left not heartbroken nor happy, but relieved. Because I knew that I would not have to watch the Suns endure a humiliating first round exit to the Spurs, which is what the Jazz will encounter. San Antonio is a deep team, starting with their Big 3 of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili (bleh) and Tim Duncan, the greatest power forward ever. Their bench is young and talented and the late-season acquisitions of Stephen Jackson, Patty Mills and Boris Diaw were solid. The Jazz are young but inexperienced in the playoffs and will have trouble containing the Spurs on both ends of the floor. This one should be a cakewalk for San Antonio.
Winner: Spurs in 5 (more…)
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…)
BY Couchsideshow.com staff
In this week’s episode of the Couch Side podcast, the dynamic duo of Craig Paul and Wade McMillin preview the NBA playoffs and analyze the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The hosts also discuss the Denver Broncos signing Brandon Stokley, an odd triple play and UFC 145.
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 WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor
With the NBA season ready to to tip off Sunday, it’s time to actually start thinking about basketball again.
The season, which was cut short due to labor disagreements, will jam pack 66 games into 124 games and test every single team more so than the regular 82-game campaigns. It may be hectic on the professional hardwood this season, but hoops fans should be excited about the shortened schedule because it’s sure to provide a playing field that is more equal.
Young teams that can come out of the gates blazing could end up winning the title this season with the advatages of young legs. Teams with larger cores of veterans may struggle because breaks will be short, off days will be erased and fatigue will hit harder than ever before.
This season should be one to remember. And there should be a plenty of curve balls thrown at the fans. But do not fear, Couchsideshow.com is here to prepare you for what should be a season full of surprises. We don’t have quite the resources to preview all 32 teams, but here’s a look at the top sixsquads and how each one could win the NBA Finals crown in 2012: