Monday, March 12, 2012

Rubio's season and Timberwolves playoff hopes over

Ricky Rubio tore his ACL Friday night, ending his season and ending the Timberwolves hopes at a playoff spot. Rubio, who was in the middle of a spectacular rookie season, had become half of one of the league's most dynamic duos with Kevin Love and had given Minnesota fans some hope after the team missed the playoffs the last seven seasons. That hope has all but disapearred now as Rubio will miss the rest of the season after running into Kobe Bryant late in the Timberwolves 105-102 loss against LA.

This is sad news for NBA fans as Rubio had quickly become one of the more exciting young players to watch due to his spectacular passing and all-around flashiness. The Wolves will now have to rely on Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea, who are more than serviceable players but will undoubtedly struggle to replace what Ricky provided.

This injury normally puts a player in a suit for 6-9 months, but that is best case scenario. ACL injuries have become more and more common but are no less devestating. Wolves fans, Rubio fans and basketball fans in general need to hold their breath and pray that Rubio can come back at full strength, whenever that may be. Until then, Kevin Love has his work cut out for him just to keep the Wolves heads above water.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Brook Lopez is Cursed/Are the Nets Screwed?

It seems as if someone in Orlando is performing last minute voodoo on Brook Lopez in a wayward attempt to keep Dwight Howard in a Magic uniform. This season Lopez has played in just five games due to injury after first breaking his foot and then spraining his ankle after two games back which will keep him on the shelf passed the trade deadline.

A Dwight Howard to the Nets trade has been the talk of the NBA since the season began. Sure, there are reportedly 6-8 other teams chasing him, but it always seemed like Dwight was leaning towards joining Deron Williams in Jersey (which will soon become Brooklyn). Now with the apparent centerpiece of that trade injured, is New Jersey screwed? The truth is that this injury probably won't affect their chances of landing Howard at all.

Orlando is in a troublesome spot. Dwight can refuse to sign a contract extension to potential trade partners, scaring some teams off. The Lakers for example, once frontrunners, have heard rumors that Dwight wants to be "the man" on a team and therefore he would be reluctant to sign an extension to play behind Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. This is slowly narrowing down the options to the point of New Jersey becoming a more likely destination, regardless if Lopez is hurt or not. It helps that the Nets can offer much more than just Brook Lopez. They could potentially give Orlando Lopez, promising rookie MarShon Brooks, a handful of draft picks, and expiring contracts to give Orlando  salary cap relief. The Magic would give back Howard and either Hedo Turkoglu or Glen Davis who both have longer-term contracts. This trade may not net Disney World the most talent, but with Dwight limiting their possibilities, it might still be their best option.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Boba Fett wants more NFL bounties

Star Wars bounty hunter Boba Fett has spoken up about the recent NFL scandal in which teams have been found to be placing bounties on opposing players. Gregg Williams, current defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams, probably isn't the first coach to be involved in a bounty program, but he is the first to get caught. Speculation is that Williams not only knew about a bounty program during his time in New Orleans (and possibly Washington and Buffalo) as the defensive coordinator but that he also participated in it, rewarding players with money for knocking opposing players out of games.

While this has drawn plenty of criticism, Boba Fett seems to enjoy it. Most of us know about his work as a bounty hunter who is eventually hired by Darth Vader, but few people are aware of his love for American football. With the addition of bounties, Boba sees no downside for the sport as it, in his words, "promotes good, hard football." He did add "I love to kill people, so seeing bounties put on players makes me smile", but that is largely being overlooked due to Fett's popularity from his Star Wars days.

For now, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell continues to investigate further allegations of bounty programs taking place as he ponders what punishment fits the crime (the current thought is that Goodell will have the offending team's Death Star blown up).  However, with Boba Fett now considering this topic as his new livelihood, it may only be a matter of time until we see bounties become a mainstay in the NFL. Watch out, Goodell!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Leafs Re-energized Under Carlyle

Ladies and gentleman, it has finally happened.  Brian Burke finally severed the cord with his friend and college roommate, coach Ron Wilson of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Frustrated fans of the team have been calling for his head, pleading for a coaching change to try to shake up a listless team that was mired in a slump that had seen them win only one game out of the past eleven.  I almost felt bad for the guy, as the hateful chanting from the stands came through with out any sense of remorse that they were calling for a man to lose his job.  So for starters, as a fan of the team, I would like to apologize to Ron Wilson for the way he was treated near the end of his tenure.

However, that is not to say that his firing was unwarranted.  Wilson's time as head coach saw him guide the team to two average seasons, both hovering around the .500 mark.  I'm excluding his first season from the picture, because that team was god damn terrible.  Even the great Scotty Bowman couldn't have led that team to the promised land.  However, in my opinion, this years edition of the Leafs has the talent and the grit to make the playoffs - something leafs fans have been pining for, for a long six years.  

The team started the season really well this year, prompting Burke to give Wilson a vote of confidence with a one year contract extension.  Despite a massive pile of injuries, the team was still plugging along at a solid clip, bouncing around between 8th and 5th in the Eastern Conference.  That is, until the calender rolled over to 2012.  It was around this point that the wheels started to fall off of this proverbial wagon.  The latest slump was the result of a team that had utterly checked out on it's coach.  There was no effort, no passion, no heart and more importantly - no wins.  See ya later Wilson.  With 18 games left in the regular season, the Leafs underwent a major change.  

Enter Randy Carlyle.  The former Ducks bench boss was Burke's coach when he was GM of the Anaheim Ducks.  The Carlyle - Burke connection produced a Stanley Cup in Anaheim, and the hope is that they can rekindle that magic in Leaf land.  The familiarity between Carlyle and Burke will hopefully make the transition very smooth (with only 17 games left in the regular season, it damn well better be).  His first game behind the bench was a 3-1 victory Saturday in Montreal, and the outlook for the team was promising.  They were skating hard and defending well - two things that were rare during the previous losing streak.  With games against Boston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia this week, it will become a lot clearer just where the Leafs stand. 

Wins are hard to come by this time of year.  If the Leafs hope to end the playoff drought, they have to find a way to beat teams ahead of them in the standings.  Carlyle will have to work quick to instill his system in the team.  He should have a grace period with the media and fan base, but when you're coaching in the 'center of the hockey universe', that period is extremely short.  Praise will be abound if Carlyle can reproduce his past success in T.O.

Rondo T.K.O.'s Lin

Rajon Rondo just had a game for the history books against the New York Knicks and their much heralded point guard, Jeremy Lin. Rondo finished the game with 18 points, 20 assists, 17 rebounds, a block and a steal. Are you kidding me? That is a massive stat line. Lin on the other hand, finished with 14 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds to go with his 6 turnovers, and struggled all day against the stingy defense of Boston.

I don't know if he has evolved into the Celtics best player (Truth, Shuttlesworth and KG are still ballin') but he has certainly turned into the guy they lean on to do a little, and sometimes a lot, of everything. He may not be the easiest to coach, he may be stubborn and cocky, but the kid can flat out play. Unless there is something else going on that the fans aren't seeing that makes Rondo a truly awful human being, Danny Ainge would almost have to be drunk of his ass to trade this guy.

With the recent trade rumors swirling around Rondo, the fact that he is able to push all of that behind him to not only play well but be an absolute beast is astonishing. To do it against Lin well, that's just the cherry on top.

Are changes coming? Is Rondo showing Ainge that he shouldn't be traded? Leave it in the comments.

Big Risks In Music City

To put it flatly, the Nashville Predators are going for it. Through complementing a Hal Gill trade by reuniting Andrei Kostitsyn with his brother and shipping out their first round pick for Paul Gaustad, the Preds are sending a clear message to their team, organization and fan base - we want to win the Stanley Cup.  Behind the outstanding play of goaltender Pekka Rinne, the Predators have managed to hang tough with a low scoring offense, in an otherwise high scoing western conference.  The strong play of Rinne is bolstered by a spectacular defensive corps, led by captain Shea Weber and young defenseman Ryan Suter.

The unfortunate part of this whole equation is that both of the aforementioned defenseman are unrestricted free agents at the end of this season.  This means that two thirds of the core of this team could leave at the end of the season - with Nashville getting absolutely nothing as compensation.  The Preds are trying to show these two exceptional players that the grass is not greener elsewhere, and that the Nashville organization is committed to winning and doing whatever it can to make the team better now.  This brings an interesting angle to the trades that were made at the deadline - is that going to be enough to make the stars stay? Nashville general manager Dave Poile better freakin' hope so.  Cause if not, he is going to be in some serious shit.

Nashville traded away their first round pick in this years entry draft, a promising young forward in Blake Geoffroin (yes, he's Boom-Boom's grandson), plus a plethora of other picks in this year's, as well as next year's drafts.  The potential cost of future talent is very high, but it definitely pushes a "win now" attitude to the forefront of the team.  If the team is able to make a deep run into the playoffs and seriously contend for a cup - it may be enough to convince Weber and Suter to stay.  If this team fizzles and drops out early - we could be headed for some dark years in Nashville.  Only time will tell if the media will make Poile seem like a genius, or one of the stupidest general managers in the league(See Howsen, Scott).

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Too many guards in New York?

Jeremy Lin has been the NBA's biggest success story since.. I don't actually know. A long, long time. Lin has recieved an unprecidented amount of attention during his stint with New York for his play as the starting point guard and leading (yes, leading) the Knicks to be the most dangerous playoff team that won't have home court advantage in recent memory.

Lin started his rampage without the help of Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire or Baron Davis. Since then, those three have returned and New York has added JR Smith, solidifying them as an offensive powerhouse. The returns and addition that we see in New York pose a question though; will the rotations change?

Baron Davis was always slated as the starting point guard, that is, until Lin went ape-shit on the league. Iman Shumpert was starting games, until Lin went ape-shit on the league. The addition of JR Smith has already seen a reduction in Landry Fields minutes, who played under 20 minutes against Cleveland even though he started at shooting guard. Here are some quotes from head coach Mike D'Antoni when he was asked if the rotation could change:

"It could... I'm trying to find the right combos. But it's got to be determined over time. It's not going to be over one game."
"Over a length of time, if they prove they need to be out there, they'll be out there."
"If we're serious about doing something important in the postseason, everyone has to buy into playing less minutes and playing harder and really stepping up."

Will Lin be one of the guys who sees less minutes, espeically as Baron Davis starts to get his legs back? Davis played well in their last game against Cleveland, recording 8 assists and no turnovers, but it's not like Lin hasn't been pulling his weight, having only one rough game in his starting career which came against the tough defense of Miami. With the playoffs sneaking up in this lockout-shortened season, the rotations of almost every team are sure to tighten up. The question is, with Jeremy Lin, Landry Fields, JR Smith, Iman Shumpert and Baron Davis all vying for minutes, who is going to join the list of guards who have already seen their minutes reduced or have fallen out of the rotation completely? Ultimately, D'Antoni will decide, so hold your breath New York fans, this could get interesting.

Our take - these five guys (Lin, Fields, Shumpert, Smith and Davis) all either play point guard or shooting guard. That means for these five, there are 96 minutes available, 48 for the point guard position and 48 for the shooting guard position. We like Lin and Fields as the starters with Smith coming off the bench as the sixth man. It's clear that at times, New York will need to play a three guards at once to get these guys minutes, but that still won't be enough to find time for everyone. We think it will be important for New York to have some veteran experience at the point (which will come from Davis) which means Shumpert or Fields will have to see their minutes go down. With their season averages basically identical, this comes down to what New York needs more. Carmelo, Amare, Smith and Lin can all score, so we're giving the edge to the guy who we feel is the smarter, likely-to-do-more-with-less type player - Fields.

Let us know who you think will start seeing their minutes decrease as playoff time approaches, or how D'Antoni should handle playing all five of these guys relevant minutes.