Friday, February 24, 2006

NBA Buzz Feb 24

Tread Deadline Day is always such a bad day for me at work if I want to earn my salary.  Yesterday was quiet as deadline days go, but it was still enjoyable.  Briefly running through the trades (and I don’t see why the media is so determined to count the Artest move):
Steve to New York was done a day early to be a precursor to a follow-up trade that never happened.   Several reports suggested that Isiah was looking to make a major (but deluded) push for Garnett, despite the fact that the Wolves will be disinclined to move him until he kicks in their door threatening to go Owens on them.  The Knicks were also bidding for Earl Watson but lost out, and revisited but did not go through with a revived Kenyon Martin deal.  While it’s clear New York will seek out more blockbusters this summer (Isiah took his GM skills from playstation, it seems, with the cap featured turned off), what’s important to take away from this is Larry Brown is not getting the roster he wants and is instead getting guys he can’t stand shoved down his throat.  The showdown can’t be far away.
Denver finally freed Earl Watson from his primary role of trade bait.  His signing was based on a Paul Pierce trade that fell through, leaving him stuck as a third PG.  In Seattle, he should see 20 mpg even when Ridnour returns from injury.  Denver grabbing bulldog Ruben Patterson as well as one-dimensional rebounder Reggie Evans has to be considered a major plus for their ragged frontline, though they never did get the bonafide SG they needed.  
Seattle purged its pending free agents that were itching to bolt and may soon hold a fire sale, since the franchise is perennially held to a shoestring budget.  

Paul Allen is whining that his Jailblazers need a new arena deal from Oregon taxpayers or some other public-funded “structural fix” since he claims the team is losing a little more than 30 million a year.  Oddly, I didn’t see any mention of the frighteningly bad contracts his team has awarded players (Zach Randolph, Theo Ratliff, and Darius Miles alone account for $30 million this year and will have $130 million remaining after that) or that the last few years have returned fans off to the point that they currently rank next to last in NBA attendance.  When you jade your ticketholders and stay in the luxury tax territory each year, you can hardly blame your financial woes on parking revenue.  This team may be surprised to find that the city will be just as happy to see them pack up and head East as Houston was to see Bud Adams go to Tennessee.   Squeezing an already jilted fanbase when your product has been this sour is foolish.

As the season’s homestretch hits, one of the things to try and do is pick out which elite teams are true title contenders and which are fools gold.  Nearly every year, a surprise team takes the league by storm, usually with an unstoppable running game, but falls apart in the playoffs.  I’ll go more in depth later, but the simplest test for measuring whether a team will be successful in the postseason or not is to imagine things as if they were a college football overtime.  If you took team A and team B, and each one got a possession to try and see which one scores and gets a stop first, who would win?  For example, take the Pistons and the Nets.  You already know how daunting the Pistons’ D is, but they also have the key pieces for go-to buckets.  Rasheed is underrated as an automatic low post scorer with his unstoppable baseline turnaround jumper.  The other go-to play they have is running Rip off of staggered screens and letting him impersonate Reggie with a little flame icon above his head.  Sealing the deal is Billups, whose poise keeps Detroit’s execution among the best in the league and who is very capable of creating and nailing his own shot if the called play somehow breaks down.  On the other side of the coin are the Nets.  New Jersey’s wingmen trio excels at running the floor, but often sputter in halfcourt possessions at the end of games.  None of the three could be described as marksmen, though Jefferson and Carter can get hot on a good night.  While Carter is able to get to the bucket at will, it becomes extremely difficult to draw fouls out of refs in the deciding moments.  They want the players to decide and swallow their whistles.  Drawing a foul on a high caliber defense like Detroit makes it even harder.  On the other side of the court, the Nets have a near-laughable interior defense.  Krstic is developing but he can’t stop upper level big men in the post or deter slashers from going to the hole.  The playoffs are a different breed of basketball, and the biblical truth will come out when teams run into real contenders like San Antonio and Detroit.


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