Friday, November 28, 2008

What can Happen in 2 Games

*In the two games where Eric Gordon has started, where he’s been given more than 5 minute increments of time to play, he’s averaged a cool 24.5 ppg, 3.5 apg, 3 rpg, 4 spg, and a sparkling 47 percent from beyond the arc including a beauty of a 3 pointer that tied the game against the Nuggets in the final half minute. That’s against two good teams. The Hornets, though not playing that well, are still considered elite, and the Nugs have moved up on everyone’s power charts. Both of them were Clippers losses, but the Clips had a real shot of winning the Nugs game, but came up short on a Marcus Camby 3-point heave with 3 seconds on the clock. You read that right. Anyways, Mike Dunleavy should relieve himself of coaching duties and let Kim Hughes, who filled in admirably on Wednesday night, coach the rest of the season. The team just looked more fluid with him calling the plays. He even let DeAndre Jordan get PT (well, he had to thanks to Kaman’s injury, but it was nice to see Jordan get time).

*In two games as a starter, Paul Millsap of the Jazz has averaged 22.5 ppg, 13 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1 bpg, 1 spg, on 65 percent shooting. Sure, one of the games was against Chicago, who lack any sort of interior presence, and the other game was against the super young Memphis Grizzlies, but that sort of production doesn't just materialize out of nowhere. Millsap is the real deal, and a big reason why watching Carlos Boozer walk, or trading him before the deadline, is not going to be that difficult for the Jazz this off-season. He’s a better defensive player, and has improved in all aspects of his game. His inside moves, mid-range jumper, passing out of double teams, and defensive recognition have all improved, and he’s shooting a career best 55.9 percent from the field and 74.5 percent from the line.

*Kevin Durant’s so far 2 game experiment at the SF position for the woeful Thunder has produced mixed results. Against Phoenix he got to the line 8 times and converted all 8, leading to a 30-point performance. He only had 4 boards however. Against Cleveland a night later, he managed only 13 points and 1 rebound and shot 6-16 in a game that Lebron only played 17 minutes. In the end, I think this move will benefit his overall game, though, he'll need to add muscle for sure. The interesting aspect of this is what this does to Jeff Green, who has been playing much improved from last season. Green, no matter how well he's been playing, is still a questionable draft pick in my mind especially considering guys like Rodney Stuckey, Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young, Julian Wright, Brandan Wright and even Joakim Noah were still available.

*Better without Shaq? In the two games the Diesel has sat out this season, Amare Stoudemire has only compiled 24 ppg, 7 rpg, 2.5 apg, on 65 percent shooting. Steve Nash almost had a triple double against Oklahoma City the other night, 20 ppg, 15 apg, and 8 rpg, but also had 7 turnovers and the Suns barely beat the worst team in the league. Against Chicago, Nash played only 24 minutes and had 6 points and 5 assists. While I’m still convinced the Suns should have never traded for Shaq, especially giving away Marion, I won’t go so far to say that Shaq has been the main problem with the Suns this year. Look no further than the manchild. He’s got game like a man, but a brain like a child’s. I thought the key to the season would be Amare’s maturity and ability to play defense and rebound. If he did those things, the offense would come naturally and he’d be a legitimate MVP candidate. So far, Amare is under 8 rebounds per game and averaging over half a block per game less. Plus, he’s whining about wanting to be the man and seriously considering his options in 2010 ( The curse of 2010 has reached all corners of the NBA. Even Darko Milicic is talking about going back to Europe in tw years (

The NBA, where forgetting 2008 and focusing on 2010 happens.

Thanks a bundle New York.

Keep it Slanted West…

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Eastern Thoughts

-I’m sick of Lebron talk. Sick of it. So here I go putting my two cents into the conversation. Danny Ferry should trade LBJ straight up for Dwyane Wade. An even better trade would be Shawn Marion, Wade and Marcus Banks for Lebron, Wally Szczerbiak, J.J. Hickson, and Eric Snow’s expiring contract. Miami sheds Banks’ horrible deal and adds a rookie big (something they direly need) with promise. They also free up a crapload of cap space for next season. The Cavs? They get even better with Marion and Wade replacing Lebron. And, for the record, don’t think Wade would mind going to a contender. Don’t think he’ll be talking about how much he loves Chicago or sport a new pair of “Windy City” sneaks or make a whole media circus out of what may or may not happen in 2010. Pretty sure Flash will be 100 percent satisfied with his situation and go out and get another Finals MVP to add to his collection. Which reminds me, how many does Lebron have again?

-Accursed Derrick Rose. Was trying and trying and trying to figure out ways to spin the story to make O.J. Mayo more deserving of the ROY trophy this season. More points, more boards, more steals, better defender, and more minutes. Rose has a better PER, shooting percentage and assists numbers. In the end, it comes down to wins. It’s a tight race for sure, but the Eastern Conference has proven to be the more difficult conference so far this year, and Rose has his team at 7-8 while Mayo’s Grizz are at 4-10. Sure, Mayo’s playing on a team full of kids, but Rose has zero capable big men to play alongside. Huh, might’ve just proved Mayo’s more deserving after all.

-Big props to the UCLA kids this season. While some have struggled (Baron Davis, Russell Westbrook) others have shined brightly Trevor Ariza, Jordan Farmar, and to a certain extent, Kevin Love. Those are all West coast guys though, so I have to show love to Luc Richard Mbah a Moute who has helped the Bucks to a surprising 7-9 record without the help of Michael Redd who has been out with an ankle injury. Mbah a Moute has been the team’s defensive ace and is averaging 10 points and 7.6 rebounds.

-Too bad Ernie Grunfeld needed a scapegoat after doing a horrible job in creating zero cap flexibility with a ho-hum roster that, even if completely healthy, never had a legitimate shot at contending for a title. Farewell Eddie Jordan. You had the Wizards back on their way to respectability. Sure 1-10 sucks big time, but it's not your fault your starting center and supposed star player were both done before the season got going. But after an offseason that saw your GM give away $160 million to two players, one on the wrong side of 30 and the other an injury-prone loud mouth who has never won anything of significance, you have been shouldered with the blame. Farewell Ed. You'll land on your feet somewhere else.

If it weren’t for the Clippers, Grunfeld would be the worst GM in the Association. Dunleavy...hire Eddie Jordan...

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Walsh Should be Punished not Praised

Okay, I get the fact that over the past few years (last year especially) the media constantly berated and destroyed the New York Knicks organization over and over and over and over and over…ad nauseam. This fact cannot be denied, nor will I try to.

But glorifying Donnie Walsh for trading away his two top scorers on a winning ball club, for a malcontent who hadn’t played in two weeks (Al Harrington, who, even when he’s good, isn’t Jamal Crawford good), an aging vet (Cat Mobley) and the league’s most abusive offender of the term “talented underachiever” (Tim Thomas)?

While I get the thought process behind the moves, I don’t accept it. Especially not this high praise and undue glorification the media has vomited forth. I don't care if those were Walsh's moves to begin with. They are, from a basketball standpoint, horrific moves.

The thought process is to clear cap space for that magical 2010 season when all the top players in the NBA will be free agents…namely Lebron James. And, even if James skips on the suddenly “tantalizing” New York offer, any number of the other players available will be foaming at the mouth at a chance to play in Madison Square Garden with the run-n-gun fun of Mike D’Antoni.

Well, we can scratch Amare Stoudemire off that list, unless, gasp, the big baby, mans up for his shortcomings and finally realizes how good he had it under Mike D.

But I won’t hold my breath. After all, he’s got Shaq as his mentor.

Anyway, I bring this point up because the Memphis Grizzlies and David Wallace routinely got roasted last season for their shedding of Pau Gasol. And this is why I created WestCoast Slant. Because East Coast teams (I guess technically Memphis is in the East, but they are a west coast team) get all kinds of unfair publicity.

Blogger Brian McCormick has a great little blog just about this. Well worth the read.

I’d like to take this moment to add to his ideas.

First and foremost, the deal that Chris Wallace made gains more and more credibility the more his new team gets burn together. Though only sporting 4 wins so far, this team has kept almost every game close (the Knicks and the Dallas games aside).

And the players the Grizzlies got?

Marc Gasol has a 16.91 PER and is one of the top rookies, shooting 58.8 percent in only 30 minutes of action. A 23-year-old rookie with silky jumper, who is 7-1, 285 and has a high basketball IQ that has translated well to the American game would seem to be promising enough compensation for Pau Gasol but throw in Darrell Arthur and Javaris Crittenton and the trade looks almost lopsided in favor of the Grizzlies.

I went over this a couple of weeks ago, but the point must be made known. In only 23 minutes of play, Arthur is averaging 7 and 7 and his 12.83 PER would be a lot better if he could just get his shot down (seems to be a team-wide problem outside of O.J. Mayo and Gasol). His per 40-minute averages are 12 and 12 with 2 blocks (sound like Al Horford to you?) Remember, Arthur’s only 20.

Crittenton, who hasn’t gotten any burn, is 20 as well. Who knows what the Grizz are planning on doing with him, but don’t be surprised if JCritt starts to show his promise if and/or when Mike Conley or Kyle Lowry is traded. Remember, Critt’s main problems are his decision-making and lack of an outside shot. Those are both fixed with practice and game-time. He’s got all the other tools to be an outstanding player—quickness, athletic ability, good handle, etc.

In fact, the average age of the starting five for the Grizzlies is an absurd 21-years old. And they’ve played well in all of their games accept for the two previously mentioned.

Let’s get off of Wallace’s back please. In fact, the irony of all ironies would be if the Grizzlies sit on their cap space and try to sign Lebron themselves. And, thinking in terms of purely just winning…the Grizzlies have all of the tools necessary for Lebron.

Sure, in 2010, the team would have to pay a huge luxury tax (resign Mayo and Gay and Conley/Lowry), but if they could somehow dump or buyout Marko Jaric and Antoine Walker before then, they could have enough cap space AND the ultimate team set up to sign Lebron...mind you, a young team that would have been playing together for 2 years. That sort of built-in consistency and team camaraderie is hard to find. And Lebron's game "fits in" (understatement of the century) with any sort of basketball.

The Grizzlies are and will be athletic able to run and defend. They have a D'Antoni disciple as a coach for those who believe Mike D will be a big selling point for New York. The Grizzlies already have a deadly marksman and feisty defender at the shooting guard spot (Mayo); an athletic,defensive-minded SF with a shaky handle, who can shoot the 3 and is excellent at finishing (Gay); a bruising big with finesse and the ability to make the right play at the right time (Gasol); and one of the following point guards: a pass-first point with lighting speed (Conley) or adefensive, frenetic energy-hound (Lowry). Once Conley and/or Lowry learns to shoot the 3, all the team would need is a power forward.

Enter the King.

Slam Online has a great breakdown of how Lebron is the perfect power forward:

LeBron still starts games at the three and spends a good deal of time out on the perimeter working off screens 30 feet from the basket and will keep the defense honest with deep jumpers every now and again, but the dynamic backcourt play has allowed LeBron to weave elements into his game that we previously only saw on Team USA–playing the high post and driving from the elbow, posting up deep, sealing off and getting easy buckets, getting more fast-break looks and quick post-ups early in the shot clock before the defense can load up, weak-side and back-door cuts often finished with Alley-Oops, and 1-3 pick-and-rolls with Mo Williams that have been effective both ways. He’s been off-the-charts effective when put at the four, where he spends about half as much time as he does at the three–his per-48 minute stats at the four-spot are (this is not a typo) 50/11/9 on 60 percent shooting, for a PER of an even 50. I’ll take that. The +/- statistics for LeBron at the four are favorable as well–the team’s best five-man unit is the reserve crew that puts West and Gibson in the backcourt, Wally Szczerbiak at the small forward (and Wally’s been terrible), and LeBron and Varejao in the front-court. While the unit doesn’t defend or rebound well enough to be a true option, as a curve ball it’s been devastatingly effective.

The results of LeBron’s new gameplan have been staggering. LeBron’s percentage of shots taken “inside,” which is a good place for LeBron to be because he’s one of the five best players in the NBA at converting from that area and easily the best perimeter player, has gone up from 38 to 45 percent, easily the best mark in the NBA for any perimeter player who takes nearly as many shots as LeBron, and his foul drawing rate has also risen. (He’s even displaying a far more confident free throw stroke.) All of these things have LeBron on pace to finish with career-high marks in points per 48 minutes, field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, assist rate and PER, despite the fact his jumper has been way off to start the season. (Despite LeBron’s second consecutive summer of showing a confident outside stroke, LeBron has started the year shooting what would be an easily career-worst 24 percent from three-point range and 35.7 eFG% on his jump shots–usually he finishes at 40 percent.) LeBron is basically dominating without a jumper right now, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t come around to at least his career-average in the coming weeks.

The whole article can be found at

With his newfound ability to play the ultimate power forward, what team is better set up to compliment Lebron’s unique talents? New York players might have a lot of heart, but none of them mesh well with Lebron's talents (okay, maybe Q Richardson, but he's injury-prone). In fact, of the players left, the only player of real note plays the power foward position (David Lee). Nate Robinson needs the ball. Chris Duhon can't shoot. Wilson Chandler is a poor man's Lebron.

The Nets are a bit more prepared to welcome in Lebron with Devin Harris transforming into a stud point. But they have Yi Jianlian at SF and a glut of power forwards. Plus, without that Brooklyn addy, Lebron ain't going to want to play in Jersey.

So, what about the Grizz? Hey, it might not be sexy in terms of pub, but if Lebron is truly about winning, then the Grizzlies have set up the perfect team. He’d be the elder statesman, and only one of a handful of guys in the league that the egos of Gay and Mayo would actually bend over backwards for.

Grizzlies fans are just waiting to bubble over with excitement for their team. Winning breeds a lot of stuff, including endorsements (as if Lebron needed to go to the Knicks to get any bigger or better endorsements than he already has). Sure the endorsements aren't there. But the spotlight will follow Lebron wherever he goes. And there would be a ton of glory to be had. But, it all comes down to what Lebron is playing the game for. Money or Championships...

I hope to God Lebron spits in the face of the New York Knicks, who have made a travesty out of the NBA. People said Isaiah Thomas was a horrible G.M.

I concur.

But Walsh sacrificing two entire seasons of basketball for cap flexibility holding onto the intangible nature of hope...hope—by no means a guarantee—of signing a major free agent is the ultimate in tanking and should not be encouraged or praised, but in fact punished by the league.

And a guy like Chris Wallace, in a mini-market like Memphis, trading away his best asset for a collection of high-upside, high-talent players who have produced right away—that sort of General managing should garner votes for GM of the year.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Free Nash

Okay Suns fans, you aren’t going to like to hear this. But it’s the reality of the situation. And it’s not just for the sake of the Phoenix Suns, but really, for the betterment of the entire NBA. A league lost one of its brightest stars the second Shaq found his way onto the Suns.

It’s time to trade Steve Nash.

Last night’s trouncing by the Los Angeles Lakers, who, despite seeing Kobe jack up 23 shots and get only 24 points for his trouble, still got spanked by double digits. That beating really solidified this notion. ESPN’s Henry Abbott of TrueHoop blog has a great breakdown of what the new Suns offense looks like under Terry Porter from last night’s Suns/Lakers showdown.

Back at the end of April, when the Suns had been ousted in the first round, I wrote a three part series about the team on my Lakers blog. Here are a few excerpts from the first part:

*Getting Shaq changed everything. He and Amare have now become the focal points. Everyone else, including Nash, is expendable.

*Nash, is no longer Nash. After that brilliant game one, and as Mike D’Antoni continued to refocus his offense, Nash went from near MVP to all-star play to bench player to completely irrelevant. In fact, he had three turnovers in the last couple of minutes, the last one, completely sealing Phoenix’s fate.

Let’s go over this again. Steve Nash’s production has, indeed, gone down across the board. Dumping the ball into the big fella has made him completely irrelevant. Goran Dragic could do that (more on this in a sec). Nash has no freedom to penetrate with two huge behemoths clogging the lane, and his defensive shortcomings make the Suns renewed focus on that end an even steeper hill to climb. Think Mount Everest as opposed to Mount Whitney.

Because the offense is focused in on Shaq and Amare, Nash has no real place on the team.

The second part of last year’s Suns series focused on looking for ideal trading partners for Steve Nash. Here is that blog in its entirety.

Now, all of those trades have become impossible seeing as how Allen Iverson has been moved to the Pistons and Baron Davis signed with the Clippers.

What about trading Nash for Anthony Morrow, Al Harrington and C.J. Watson/Brandan Wright? That would have worked out beautifully for both teams. Too bad Harrington is headed to New York. So, reunite Nash with Mike D. Or ship him off to Philly. How about Charlotte for rookie D.J. Augustin and Marion-lite, Gerald Wallace…maybe?

Marion. Sigh. I hated the Marion trade. People say that Nash was the engine to the Seven Seconds or less offensive Ferrari, but Marion was the suspension, the wheels, the turbo. He was the welding that held the car together. Once they traded him, it was like sticking that Ferrari engine into a Big Rig and trying to make it work.

So, Steve Kerr trade Nash right now, while his value still seems high due to the past five seasons of work he has put in. Two more months of 13 and 7 for a player pushing 35 will not bring back much, especially if the Suns struggle. So trade the Canuck immediately. Kerr, you need to look for a point guard who can defend, and, if at all possible, has the ability to shoot 3 as well.

Of course, if Suns fans really, truly can’t see themselves without the man who has become the face of the franchise, there is another possibility that Terry Porter should strongly consider. Bring Nashty off the bench.

Start Leandro Barbosa when he comes back. Hell, start Goran Dragic. All that first unit needs is someone to dump the ball into the bigs. Have Nash come off the bench with Matt Barnes, Boris Diaw and Robin Lopez. Look at how effectively bringing a proven starter, a proven star off the bench has worked for the Lakers (Odom), Jazz (Kirilenko) and Spurs (Manu, the last few seasons). Basically whenever Shaq is in the game, sit Nash. It would give the Suns a different look and also maximize the talents of all the players they have on their roster. Nash could come in and create, create, create, push, push, push and be his SSOL self. Remember how good the team was when they had Diaw at center? Remember how good Diaw was playing off of Nash? That's what this year's Suns second unit could be. Nash could create for offensively challenged Robin Lopez, and Warriors fans know how much Barnes relishes playing in a more chaotic atmosphere. Get past the idea of starter/sub and focus on how to best utilize a mish-mashed roster that, as it is constructed right now, doesn’t quite work. Besides, in today's NBA the best teams have the most quality in their second unit (Boston, LA, Jazz, Detroit, etc.).

Otherwise, admit the error in judgment, and trade the two-time MVP. Let the butterfly out. Everyone wants to see that Ferrari flying.

Free Nash.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ellis Expendable?

With Anthony Morrow becoming a literal focal point of the Warriors offense, Stephen Jackson getting a $28 million extension solidifying him as the unquestioned leader of the team, and Andris Biedrins playing like the team’s best player, Monta Ellis suddenly seems, I don’t know, expendable. Sure, he’s a tremendous talent, and he put up crazy numbers last year. But he can’t shoot the three very well (and, due to his injury, didn’t get to work on it this past offseason) and is an undersized, combo guard who’s not the best distributor. His strengths lie in getting into the paint and getting high percentage shots…but, that’s what Corey Maggette does, and the Warriors just gave him a fat contract too.

Look, I’m not saying that Ellis couldn’t make this team elite plugging him into the point guard spot. All I’m saying is that a shiny new $66 million contract is supposed to symbolize a commitment to a player. It demands that he be a leader. Kid already failed in that department, even lied about how it happened instead of manning up and admitting his mistake. That’s something Vladimir “Space Cadet” Radmanovic does, not your supposed team captain.

So Captain Jack has retained those reigns, and is set to retain them for the next three seasons. Now, you’ve got this Morrow kid who can shoot the lights out and plays the exact same position as Ellis. Seems to me that the Warriors would be better off looking for ways to get out of Ellis’ contract and looking to get a true point guard. Maybe offer some bucko bucks to a guy like Ramon Sessions or Raymond Felton next year. They could even go after Allen Iverson or Lamar Odom. Al Harrington’s $9.5 million comes off the books next season (unless they trade him) and knocking off Ellis’ contract would make them major players in the free agent market.

Of course, you can slice it both ways. Because of how great Ellis was last year, and due to his youth, athletic ability and work ethic, there are plenty of reasons to believe he’ll continue to get better and when added to the other blossoming players take this team to another level when fully healthy. On the flipside of that, is the fact that he is an undersized combo guard who relies on his freakish athleticism—his lighting quickness and his incredible leaping ability. Dude injured his ankle. Because he has no outside shot, his whole game is predicated on his legs.

As weird as this sounds, the Warriors might be better off without Ellis.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lakers Blog Update "Kobe Stopper"

Check my Lakers blog on who the official Kobe Stopper is...

Also, check the SmushPot for the unanswerable stupidest question ever.

Stand out West Coasters

Here’s a look at some of the West’s most outstanding players that haven’t gotten much pub.

John Salmons
Dude has been great when given the opportunity. He’s shooting 48.7 percent, posting 18 points while dishing out 4 dimes and reeling in 4 boards. He came up huge against Phoenix and even bigger against San Antonio, but the Kings ended up losing those two contests each by 2 points. If not for a fourth quarter collapse against Phoenix and several botched opportunities against the Spurs, the Kings would be looking at a 6-1 win streak.

O.J. Mayo
Too bad nobody else (okay, save you Marc Gasol) can shoot the rock worth a damn on the Grizzlies in the early going. If Rudy Gay were shooting anywhere near his career norms, this team would have at least 2 more wins. The Grizz lost by 5 against the Kings, Phoenix, and Milwaukee. In those games, Gay has shot 40 percent, with a .235 percent against Denver where the team lost by 10. In those same games, Mayo is shooting 50 percent. As it stands, for the month of November, Mayo has been filling up the stat sheet, shooting 48 percent, with 23 ppg, 2.6 apg, 4.4 rpg, and 1.3 spg. Add to that deadeye marksmanship from beyond the arc (45%), and he’s hands down been the West’s best rook, and is neck and neck with Derrick Rose for the league’s best.

Rudy Fernandez
Unless of course you consider this guy’s efficiency. Sporting a rookie high 21 PER, Mr. Fernandez has been stellar. He’s hit 45 percent of his shots and his 3s and is shooting 94 percent from the line. Throw in a steal, 2 assists and 3 boards, and he’s the perfect game changer for the Blazers off the bench. Plus, he's so much fun to watch.

Roger Mason
Nobody expected Parker to join Ginobili on the injured reserve, but Roger Mason has stepped up to the challenge of trying to replace them. Shooting a blistering 47 percent from beyond the arc, the journeyman guard has given the Spurs some much needed perimeter scoring and ballhandling. He hit the game winner against the Clippers last night and is looking for his shot. And when his shot hasn’t been falling, he’s found other ways to contribute. Didn't give this guy much love when the Spurs signed him, thought it was appropriate to give credit where credit is due. Another solid signing by San Antonio.

Andris Biedrins
My man. Yup. Dude has been transcendent and a big reason the Warriors aren’t a laughingstock. The hype is all around undrafted rook Anthony Morrow right now (37 and 11 will do that) and the money’s being thrown at Stephen Jackson ($28 million), but the leader of this team in terms of playing ability has been AB. Leading the league in rebounds (15 per) and remaining in the top 20 in FG percentage (53) while boosting his atrocious free throw percentage north of 60 has resulted in a career year for the Latvian. Can’t mess with 17 ppg, 15 rpg, 2 apg,1.5 bpg and a sparkling 22.10 PER. He’s turned into Dr. Slantedstein’s monster all by his lonesome.

Shaquille O’Neal
The Big Diesel has been playing great. He’s also been pushing Rockets to the floor and leveling Pistons. All the while amassing only fines—no suspensions yet. His 1.27 blocks lead the Suns (that’s actually kind of pathetic) and he’s second on the team in scoring. He’s even averaging 2 dimes. All this while shooting a stellar 59 percent. He’s been a big reason why the Suns sport the West’s second best record. Now if only he could avoid back-to-backs the rest of the season.

Maybe it’s the quality of the opponents (Memphis, Minny, Charlotte, Dallas) that might curb onlookers’ enthusiasm for a 4-1 stretch this past week and a half. But that 9-point win in Boston was impressive no matter how poorly Doc Rivers thinks his team is playing. Credit the addition of Chauncey Billups, but don’t sleep on Mr. Mono-Name. Only taking 9.2 shots per contest is a crime for his production, because, unlike every other starter on his team who is well below the 45 percent mark, Nene is sizzling at 64 percent. He’s also throwing in nearly 2 steals and 2 blocks per contest. The rebounding isn’t great, but the steals and blocks show that he’s making things happen. Key reason, especially with a team in flux, why the Nuggets are looking more and more like playoff material (they just need to add some height and they’ll be set).

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Westside Connection Pt. 2

-Clippers got their first win and guess who played 30 minutes? Eric Gordon. He got some time and, oh my god, he shot 50 percent and hit 3-4 from beyond the arc. Sure, he wasn’t the only reason the team got the monkey off their back, Baron did have 22 and 10 and Camby added 14 rebounds and 2 blocks. But, this is the team that we should see more and more. The one that will have the most success. Ricky Buckets still can’t seem to find his shot. And, Cat? Cuttino Mobley still got 33 minutes, but put up only 8 shots. I really don’t hate Mobley. He got some time at SF because Thornton, who had a good game, was limited by foul trouble. The team held the Mavs (minus Josh Howard) to 92 points. The defense is starting to jell, and the Clips are learning how to play with each other. The Kings, Warriors, Spurs and Thunder are the upcoming games...all very winnable. The Spurs were struggling with Tony Parker playing as the best player in the league. They’ll be without him for a month, so the Clips should have more than enough to get by San Antonio. In fact, the brutal part of their early schedule is out of the way. After the Thunder, the Clips travel to play a worse-than-expected Philly team, and Mike Dunleavy should be plenty fired up to win that game. Then they’ve got New Jersey, New Orleans, Denver and Miami. They could realistically go 7-2 which would put them back at .500. It’s going to be an uphill battle for them the rest of the way, but Baron helped lead a less talented team to the brink of the playoffs last year. Still think this team could win 45-48 games.

-The Grizzlies had a disappointing second half against Denver, a great deal of it because O.J. Mayo went stone cold after being scalding hot dropping 20 points in the first quarter where he shot 8-9 with 3-3 from beyond the arc. He still ended with 31, but only had 5 in the second half. The team just won’t be able to win if Rudy Gay shoots 4-17. Just won’t happen. One problem the team has is that Gay and Mayo fall in love with their jumper too much. Both players need to get to the basket more or work the ball inside to Marc Gasol. Gasol can’t play 40 minutes and only shoot the ball 4 times. And the jumpshot-itis is not just confined to the team’s two stars. Everyone on the roster jacks up way too many jumpshots—you just can’t win consistently like that. Even still, they held a high scoring Denver team under their season average as they’ve done with every team they’ve played this year. Defense is keeping them in it. They’re sitting at 3-4 on the season, but, tell me one person who thought they would have as many wins as the Spurs and Mavericks combined? Love Darrell Arthur’s game. A bit like a bruiser version of Trevor Ariza. They just make things happen. Ditto with Kyle Lowry. The point guards just need to learn to shoot the three. If and when that happens, this team will get a whole lot better. Q Ross was a good pickup for this team. He and Greg Buckner come off the bench and offer great defense.

-Denver looks a lot more balanced now with Chauncey, even though dude has yet to find his shot. 2-13 is putrid for any player. But the 16, 6, 10 and 3 steals is very nice. Part of the reason he couldn’t find the hoop was due to the pressure he was seeing from Mayo and Lowry and whoever, but if Chauncey could’ve hit four more shots, this game wouldn’t have been as close as it was. J.R. Smith hasn’t taken to Billups as fast as I thought he would. But Renaldo Balkman and Nene are loving him. Melo too, though he missed some absolute gimmes including a wide-open two-handed jam. Denver’s defense looks a lot better though. A lot better. They’ve got someone who can actually play defense at the one. Once Chauncey gets more comfortable with his shot and K-Mart comes back, this team will start to climb back into the race in the Northwest, though the rest of their schedule this month is tough. They’ve got the Cavs, Celtics, Lakers, Hornets and Houston, and, though people might laugh at me, I’m going to put the Clippers into the equation as well. Don't let their 1-6 record fool you. The Clips are a good team. Denver's got an uphill battle going forward, but they've added defense to a still potent offense. They are not as flashy, but they are definitely a better team. If Antonio McDyess wasn't such a baby, he could really help this squad out.

Friday, November 7, 2008

It's Sad to See a Giant Fall

I've hated the Spurs for so long. Usually, the teams you hate are the ones that are good, and San Antonio has been no exception. That's why everyone hates the Lakers. I'm sure there are Celtics haters now. In any event, I had a hunch the Spurs would fall in the standings this year. Manu's injury. Duncan's age. Hell, the team's collective age. No bench, or a very shallow bench. Now, tonight, news is that Tony Parker has hurt his ankle. This bodes ill for the Spurs no matter how you spin it. Depending on the ankle injury, Parker could miss anywhere from a single game to 4-5 weeks. The Spurs were barely hanging on with Parker sporting a 36 PER and averaging 33 points per game with 7 plus dimes. With him out? The Spurs might hit the lottery for the first time in a decade. All the hate for Bruce Bowen and Timmy D's exasperated faces after every single call or non-call. The eyeball-gougingly painful to watch, though highly effective Hack-A-Shaq. The slowdown offense. The highly effective defense (with all the cheap non-call fouls). The flopping. In a way, if the Spurs do indeed fall...what a run huh? A new bad guy will have to rise up and take their place. A new team to hate and root against. Let's hope Parker gets better real quick.

East Over West?

Wouldn't you know it. The year I decide to give the Westcoast the much deserved love it has been dying to have with this website, the year after the greatest and deepest western conference in the history of the sport, the season that was supposed to be even deeper and better than last, the Western conference has come out of the gates sputtering. Overall, the West has a losing record 31-36 to the East's 34-29. Egads. What's going on?

Well, the Clippers have sucked. Baron and Camby both have missed time. That one hurts because I was so excited about them. But, I still have hope that they will turn things around, just as soon as Mike Dunleavy decides to let the kids play (Jordan and Gordon please!!!!). In fact, I feel better about them than the Spurs whose weak bench and lack of a third star due to the Manu injury have resulted in San Antonio sucking. You can never count them out, but Tony Parker is playing out of his mind, and the team is 1-3. Portland lost Greg Oden in the early going (though, Joel Przybilla is playing great once again) and Brandon Roy can't shoot (and despite those two amazing shots last night, is at 40 percent). My hopes for Minny and Denver (who look to be getting back on the right track with Mr. Bigshot in town) were also, at least in the early going, a bit in vain. I still stick by my predictions. I think the Clippers can find momentum as Camby gets healthier and more in tune with the team. I think the Spurs will still end up being the Spurs, though a 7th or 8th seed seems more likely now. And, yes, Portland will be boosted by that miracle shot by Roy last night and start to roll. Even without Oden.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Baseball Aside

Let’s get this Manny Ramirez thing out of the way. I mean, I’m a Dodger fan through and through (okay, love the Angels too) so, even though this is a basketball site, I’ve got to weigh in on the offer from Dodgers GM Ned Colletti.

For those who don’t know, it’s a base salary of $25 million per season, at around 2 or 3 years. The worst part about it is that Colletti threw out a not-so-subtle hint, “The offer won’t be there forever.”

Colletti, if we hadn’t gathered by your stellar signings—Jason Schmidt ($47 million), Juan Pierre ($45 milion for 5 seasons), and Andruw Jones (36.2 million for two seasons)—you really are a freaking idiot.

Here is a no-doubt hall of famer and you offer 2 years? A player who, single-handedly saved your ass from complete humiliation considering that the only good pieces of your team were drafted and handpicked by the two GMs who came before you.

Man Ram is the only good thing (scratch that, he’s a great thing) that has come from your tenure with the Dodgers. And don’t try to sell me on the merits of Jeff freaking Kent.

Manny hit .396 with 17 homers, 53 RBIs, 36 runs scored and a so-good-it’s-like-playing-on-easy-in-MLB-2k9-good 1.232 OPS. His whole season, Boston included, was a .332 average, 37 homers, 121 RBI and a 1.031 OPS. Very, very, very elite. Not to mention all the revenue that Manny Mania stirred up in Los Angeles, the fact that they were a sub .500 team before he got there and still managed to not only get into the postseason, but into the NLCS. There’s also all those Manny dreadlocks that were sold.

And, just like classic Manny, he was even more dangerous in the postseason, hitting .520 with four homers, 10 RBIs, nine runs scored and 11 walks in eight playoff games. He’s helped lead Cleveland to two World Series, helped Boston win two World Series, and helped the Dodgers get into the NLCS for the first time in 20 years. Instead of insult him, why don’t you embrace him.

Tell him, that you and the McCourts love him so much and think of him so highly that you are going to make him, per season, the highest paid player ever in the history of the sport. That’s how highly you think of him.

Offer Manny $30 million for 3 with a 4th year option. You know that shorter deals are always better, especially a player at his age. But, uh, a 2 year deal? That’s straight up spitting in his face.

And this is all coming from a guy who has never, ever, ever liked Manny. Despite the HOF career, I can't respect anyone getting paid ungodly amounts of money who quits on his team and acts the diva. Hated Bonds. Hated Sosa. Hate Curt Schilling.

Was listening to Scott Boras on ESPN radio talking about how he got Bonds and ARod deals that both took and will take them to 42 years of age. Big deals. Arod, the biggest.

Uh, if I were Boras, I’d maybe rethink that line of thinking. Bonds got to play until he was 42 because, well, he put unnatural substances into his body. Now, whether you believe that or not, you can’t deny that 99.9 percent of all players who push 40 years of age, decline rapidly. None of them, Bonds included, have ever hit 40 plus homers and batted .320 into their 40s. But that’s what a $25 million per season salary signifies.

Also, Arod plays both ways, and while Manny is better-than-advertised in left, he’s not an asset by any stretch of the imagination.

Accept a shorter deal and be content in the knowledge that you got your client the most lucrative, per season salary of all time. Another notch on your belt. Because, if you keep trying to get a 6 year deal, the Dodgers might just go out and try and trade for Jake Peavy and sign C.C. Sabathia instead. Because, like Cole Hamels has shown once again, pitching wins in the postseason.

So, let’s get the Manny deal done people. Please.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Westside Connection Pt. 1

Westside Connection will be posts that highlight a few different teams each week. Here's the first installment featuring the Clippers and the Nuggets.

-Denver, with their trade for Chauncy Billups, have boosted themselves up into the playoffs, especially considering the Clippers’ dreadful start, Portland’s injury to Greg Oden, and San Antonio looking like they have a big 2 and that’s it. Chauncy Billups is exactly what the Nugs need. He is selfless, a real point who gets others involved, and one who can muscle opposing guards and play way better defense at the one than Denver has seen in years. Plus, he will get the ball to Melo, J.R. Smith, and Nene, so the team will stop giving Kenyon Martin 12 shots per game. K-Mart is best as a finisher. Let Chaunce be the initiator. The team even has a decent bench now, with Linas Kleiza, Chris Anderson, Renaldo Balkman and Anthony Carter. You can even throw in Cheik Samb, who should get some minutes with Steven Hunter's knee being messed up.

-Another tough loss for the Clippers tonight. They played, for the first 3 quarters, as I had envisioned them playing when they made their roster overhaul. They held the high-scoring Lakers to only 71 points over the first 36 minutes. They played slowed down, grind-it-out defense. Marcus Camby got 7 boards and 4 blocks…in 16 minutes. He and Kaman with Baron (3 steals) is a formidable trio on defense. The rest of the team is shaping up too. Al Thornton, by the way, looks like the real deal on offense. He’s taken another step towards improvement. He’s got a pretty consistent, though admittedly ugly-looking fadeaway jumpshot that, when he shoots it, you look and think, “Damn, that’s ugly, no way that’s going…” and then he nails it. Mike Taylor is greased lightening. All he needs is a chance to, gasp, play more. 7 and 4 with only a single turnover in 12 minutes is better than anything Jason Hart could hope to do on his best day.

-The main problems for the team are that Baron hasn’t found his shot yet, they’ve played two whole games together, and that Mike Dunleavy doesn’t know how to utilize the talent he has on his team. He’s totally misused Ricky Davis.

-Come to think about it, I’m about to call for Mike Dunleavy’s head. Cat Mobley getting 39 minutes? Really? I mean, really? He shot 4-11 and actually improved his overall shooting percentage to 39 percent. He’s at 33 percent from beyond the arc. He’s sporting a 0.5 assist to turnover ratio, a nifty little 9.75 PER and jacking up nearly 14 shots per game. I don’t know what Eric Gordon has done, or if Dunleavy just has some sort of prejudice against athletic wings who get to the hole (Maggette), but EG should be playing. Period. No question. Who cares if the team struggles with him out there? They’re 0-5 anyway and Eric can’t possibly do any worse than Mobley. Plus, there’s plenty of upside. Gordon’s a solid defender, so there won’t be too much drop off there. What he brings to the table is the ability to actually shoot the freaking ball. He can rain threes from anywhere—which would open up the middle for Kaman and Camby to go to work instead of allowing opposing defenders just cram the middle. Thornton has improved his 3 (hit 2 of 3 tonight) but the team needs floor spacing. Gordon would provide that. Plus, he’s the future, and Mobley is not. I hope they are showcasing Cat in the hopes of trading him, but at the rate he’s “producing” the Clips would be better off sitting him and letting his rapidly fading rep of a savvy veteran do the talking.

-Uh…pretty much ditto for Tim Thomas. Though, while I’m sure DeAndre Jordan would bring some WOW dunks, he might look completely lost out there. Then again, pot-smoking Darrell Arthur is playing well out in Memphis, so why not roll the dice on the upside? What have they got to lose…More games?

-Check my Lakers blog for a Lakers update

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My Bear Crush on the Grizz

I like the Grizzlies. Sure, two wins, one over a struggling Warriors team and the other over a struggling Orlando team, don’t really amount to jack diddily, but, just for the record, here’s a post I wrote all the way back in July.

After Gasol’s outbreak Monday night, 27 points and 16 boards (albeit, against the Warriors) as well as Darrell Arthur who has looked incredibly raw no doubt, but in general a beast, it’s not too hard to say that the Grizzlies are much better off after trading away Pau Gasol.

No question.

Yeah, the Lakers are the best show in any town, but the Grizz have looked very respectable. And while my generous love for Marko Jaric and slight liking of Antoine Walker (both of whom have yet to dislodge their butts off the pine) may have been on the overly optimistic side, I gotta just say toldja to all the Grizz haters of the trade.

Of course, in my preseason predictions, I felt like they would be a great offensive team and not be able to stop anyone so, can’t be right all the time, though, we strive to be more righter than everyone else at all times here at Westcoast Slant.

The Grizz are, in fact, quite the opposite. Ranked sixth in the entire league in defensive efficiency and holding their opponents to a measly 85.3 points per game for fourth best, the Grizz’ active defense and general athleticism have kept teams off balance and been the main reason behind their success. Their opponents haven't been too shabby either. SW division leaders, Houston (a game they were very much in until they collapsed in the fourth quarter), Orlando, Chicago and Golden State. Especially considering that the average age of their starters is barely old enough to drink (21.5 years).

My mans Q Ross and even Greg Buckner have added to this defensive mindset. But O.J. Mayo and Gay and Gasol have all stepped up to the plate. Darrell Arthur can mix it up too.

I’m not going to go pronounce them team of the century anytime soon, but nobody’s talking about how lopsided the Pau Gasol trade is anymore.

And, dude over at Hornets247, shut yo mouth!