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Rick Senger
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Posted: 13 April 2013 at 11:13am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

At this point the Lakers' injury train is a little ridiculous... everyone in the starting five has now had a serious issue (even Metta, who seemed the healthiest, was expected to miss six or more weeks because of arthroscopic surgery but he manned up and came back in less than two.)  To me it is as illustrative of age as bad luck... all five (Kobe, Howard, Nash, MWP and even Gasol to a degree) had been pretty reliable and resilient in their careers, but all except Howard are now at that age where things tend to start going south.  Everybody just seems to have chosen this year to have it happen, which is the bad luck part.

Kobe's achilles injury is not to be taken lightly, either... the LA Times is saying it could take an entire season to rehab and at Kobe's age, it can be especially hard to heal.  Kobe's contract is up after next season, meaning it is possible he has played his last game as a Laker.  On the other hand, if anyone can come back, it's Kobe.  But his chances to overtake Jabbar for all-time scorer (which has been one of his stated goals) do diminish if he loses an entire season.  If the Lakers' team is terrible next season (which is possible without Kobe), one has to wonder how Kobe will feel about re-signing.
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Rick Senger
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Posted: 13 April 2013 at 11:30am | IP Logged | 2 post reply

Wilson, I've only seen the Knicks a couple times this year but they certainly are making noise without Stoudamire, Chandler, Martin, Camby and Wallace.  Smith appears to be having a career year, raising his rebounds and points significantly.  Melo is leading the league in scoring and just seems to have his mind right for once, talking about wanting to win and keeping the team happy.  I definitely see them making the eastern conference finals and having as good a shot versus Miami as any team in the west. 
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Wilson Mui
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Posted: 13 April 2013 at 8:26pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

How much blame should a coach get for causing some of these injuries?  These guys are under tremendous pressure to win games.  People are already questioning D'Antoni's decision to play Kobe so much.  The Knicks coach Mike Woodson played Stoudamire too many minutes, which partially led to this problem with his "good" knee. Melo tried to get out of the game with Cleveland when he collapsed, but Woodson didn't listen to him.  The Spurs' Popovich knows how to take care of his players, resting them whenever he can.
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Rick Senger
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Posted: 14 April 2013 at 12:43pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

Kobe guaranteed the Lakers would make the playoffs and obviously felt pressure to make good on that promise, whatever the cost.  D'Antoni certainly can be second-guessed for allowing Kobe to pretty much play until he dropped.  But it's a tough call; Kobe has looked decent and has a history of toughness.  He had already quickly overcome what could have been a devastating ankle injury and we just tend to expect him to play through things and excel.  But D'Antoni's quote that Kobe "has earned the right to make that decision" sounded like such buck passing:  what is the value of a coach other than to make those big picture choices?  Many think Howard felt pressure and came back prematurely and it probably hampered his season, too.  The Lakers were so hyped, it makes sense that they buckled under the pressure to play, but who knows what might have been?  Maybe that's why the coaches make the big bucks (whether or not they deserve it!)

Boston has been resting Garnett and Pierce because they have that luxury having already clinched, though they are limping into the playoffs.  NY will be an interesting matchup in the first round.  I don't know them as well this year; Stoudamire has had injury issues for a while, though, so it may just be in his DNA.  Hopefully Melo can rest up for the next three.  Miami has been arguably resting LeBron and Wade, though they were starting to pour it on a bit during the streak.  San Antonio as you mentioned certainly has the rep for resting their veterans.  It looks like LA will face the Spurs if they get that far; without Kobe it could be pretty gruesome.

I wonder about Kobe.  Some expert on the radio said that 2/3rds of the players with achilles injuries at his age never regain their prior form and that 1/3rd of those players never even return.  Isiah Thomas had an achilles injury that ended his career at just shy of age 33.  It happened to Shaq (who was only briefly effective for Boston) when he tried to push it late in the season and wound up having his own career ending achilles injury.  Ironic that Kobe and Shaq could conceivably wind up in the same boat on that score. 

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Rick Senger
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Posted: 24 April 2013 at 12:55pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply

Knicks are destroying the Rondo-less Celtics.  Boston will win one at home but it's over, probably in 5.  Lakers' last chance is tonight... if they don't surprise the Spurs in game 2, I think it's over in 4 or 5, too.

Clips have handled Memphis well, though they practically blew it the other night until Paul bailed them out with the final 8 points and his heroic last second circus shot.  I'm curious how Memphis responds. 

Golden State stole game two at Denver despite losing David Lee for the playoffs.  This may be a good series as favorite Denver's defense is surely suspect... you just can't give up 131 points in a playoff game. 

Miami and OKC are taking care of business... can anyone prevent them from a rematch of last year?  New York may challenge Miami... not sure anyone can stop OKC (Clips seem too green, Spurs seem too grey, but we'll see.)
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Glenn Brown
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Posted: 24 April 2013 at 2:53pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

@Rick...your thoughts re Kobe's return are not far off the mark at all.  It is a potentially devastating injury for a player his age, with the mileage on his legs.  It's easy to get caught up in the "If anyone can do it, it's Kobe" rhetoric but in reality...he conceivably may have played his last game when he blew out his Achilles.  
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Rick Senger
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Posted: 26 April 2013 at 12:40pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

It's easy to get caught up in the "If anyone can do it, it's Kobe" rhetoric
*****
I'm guilty of that this year. 

I've said at 34 Kobe was playing harder and better than any 34 year old I've ever seen, and that he had a shot at catching Kareem.  But the calendar catches us all.  Kobe's comment on both his ankle and achilles injuries was the same... they occurred as the result of normal physical actions he's previously taken thousands of times without incident.  The ankle was arguably because of a dirty play by his opponent, and Kobe did come back ridiculously fast from it.  But maybe that rapid return indirectly contributed to the achilles tear as the muscles, joints and connective tissues of those two seem related.  I'm no doctor, but it certainly seems like maybe Kobe's body never quite got the chance to get over the first injury, which may have led to the second.

In the moment, we start to think certain players are cheating father time, but the reality is, all the abuse ultimately catches us all.  For a guy most famous for being a slow white guy with an incredible shooting touch and gorgeous passes, Larry Bird played a crazy bruising style where he scrapped relentlessly for rebounds and regularly jumped into the stands and had more floor burns than anybody.  I loved it and at the time it just seemed like he was a little hungrier and tougher, but it probably wound up costing him two or three seasons at the end when his back and joints just gave out early because of all the abuse he caused himself.  The same with McHale, who in 1985 played much of the season with a stress fracture.  McHale had his best season in 86-87, but I think the body has a memory and that early abuse contributed to his premature degeneration.

Some players like Jordan seem to defy time, and considering his slashing style when he first came in the league, it's amazing he lasted as long as he did.  Still, people forget Jordan retired twice in the middle of his career which gave his body a chance to recover.  Also, his style of play drastically altered in the second half of his career when he perfected the fadeaway and learned how to pace himself.  He was always, always ultra-competitive but he learned to save his physicality and hard drives for key moments.  He also surrounded himself with a good supporting cast and learned to use them.  A lot of the longest lived players like Kareem and Robert Parish were known for their ability to pick their spots.  They weren't dogging it, but they conserved their energy for the right time.  That's something Kobe has never been known to do and as tough as he is, there will come a time (it it now?) when the abuse catches up. 
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Rick Senger
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Posted: 26 April 2013 at 2:42pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

After all my ink spilled above about the wear and tear of the NBA, the most resilient player in the league, Russell Westbrook, is now out indefinitely with a torn meniscus in his knee and pending surgery.  He has never missed a start in his whole career and had the longest active streak in the league, 394 consecutive games, which now comes to an end.  OKC is trying to put a good face on it, but this is as devastating as it gets.  The Spurs now have a much better look at the finals, as do the Clips.
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Wilson Mui
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Posted: 29 April 2013 at 6:38pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

I am giving up my dreams of someday becoming a sports writer.  I thought the Lakers had a good shot at beating the Spurs.

Reggie Miller was doing the play by play for the final game of the series.  He commented that Dwight Howard should not be given a max contract. His reasoning is that he has a major weakness in his game namely his free throwing.  You can't rely on him to win close games in the final minutes unless the NBA changes its rules on fouling.  What do you guys think?
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Joe Hollon
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Posted: 29 April 2013 at 7:17pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

Reggie Miller was doing the play by play for the final game of the series.  He commented that Dwight Howard should not be given a max contract. His reasoning is that he has a major weakness in his game namely his free throwing.  You can't rely on him to win close games in the final minutes unless the NBA changes its rules on fouling.  What do you guys think?

********

There are reasons not to give Dwight Howard a max deal but it ain't because of his free throw shooting! 

Players who couldn't shoot FTs who were worth as much as anyone could pay them:  Shaq, Wilt and Bill Russell! (10 MVP awards and 17 championships between them!!)  I rest my case. 

Howards problems in that last game included getting two dumb technicals and kicked out....only scoring on two buckets....having 5 turnovers in only 21 minutes of play.  Bad, bad, bad!!!!
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Glenn Brown
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Posted: 30 April 2013 at 12:35am | IP Logged | 11 post reply

Dwight Howard will receive a max salary contract unless he chooses to do a Miami Heat-type of deal with another max player where they both decide to take less.  Whether he deserves it or not is a discussion worth having but business being what it is, several teams would line up to give him whatever it would take to get him.

Well, maybe not after THIS season...but you get my general point...

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Rick Senger
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Posted: 30 April 2013 at 9:00am | IP Logged | 12 post reply

I'm fascinated by the Howard situation.  He recovered somewhat in the second half (wound up leading the league in rebounds, fifth in blocks) though his offensive stats were down (17.1 ppg, terrible 0.492 FT... he's bad careerwise FT, but started out at 0.671 as a rookie and stayed around 60% until the last two seasons, which are both below 50%.  At some point I think the pressure got to him and now it's psychological.  Shaq had a similar trajectory.)

I do think there is a team out there that might bite on the max deal, but this season did not help Howard's image or cause.   Given the uncertainty of Kobe, the Lakers may still offer him the deal.  I'm not sure there are any great players who will want to hook up with him ala a Heat deal... he's still very good and could recover to become mvp caliber but he's definitely a question mark in the winning category and despite his breezy public demeanor, I'm not sure what he's like behind closed doors.  He went out meekly and weakly in game four and after more than a smattering of LA press suggested it's time for him to go, he quickly tweeted a late night apology to LA fans for how things finished and hoped to get a chance someday to redeem himself.  That tweet sounded like a guy unsure of his options trying to hedge his bets, but it was the first time it seemed like he might want to come back.  Given what happened this awful season and his apparent sour relationship with Kobe, that's surprising, but this whole Laker year has been that way.
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Wilson Mui
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Posted: 30 April 2013 at 11:03am | IP Logged | 13 post reply

What team do you think would benefit most from having him?  Teams mentioned in the press as being interested include Houston, Cleveland, Dallas, and Atlanta.


Edited by Wilson Mui on 30 April 2013 at 5:40pm
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Rick Senger
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Posted: 30 April 2013 at 8:56pm | IP Logged | 14 post reply

Houston looks viable.  If they dump Garcia, the Rockets are within a couple or five million from being able to offer a max deal and they can shuffle or trade. They were basically as good as LA without Dwight this year, so putting him with Harden and Lin and Asik and Parsons would be something.  But does Dwight want to go to a smaller market? 

If not, then Dallas and Cleveland face the same issue... both can manipulate things to create cap space and make sweet deals so he could play with Nowitski or Kyrie Irving, but does he want to go to those markets? 

Atlanta offers the chance to play with childhood friend Josh Smith and Al Horford, but his camp has been saying he has no interest in going home, so that seems unlikely to happen.

Forgetting markets, as far as Dwight's best chance for a ring, apparently the Spurs can create about $20 mill in cap space as Ginobli, Tiago Splitter and Stephen Jackson's contracts are up this year.  Duncan is coming off a great comeback year but he's ancient now and the Spurs would love to get a young center to ensure their future.  Ginobli could sign on for the mid-level exception and the Spurs would be a monster for at least the next two seasons with Duncan, Parker, Ginobli and Howard. 

At the end of the day, though, my gut is he stays in LA.  He may not like Kobe, but Kobe may be gone after next year or may have even already played his last game.  LA is a big market and Dwight reportedly likes the city.  He gets another year if he does the max deal with LA and can make more money there than anywhere else.


Edited by Rick Senger on 30 April 2013 at 9:04pm
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Glenn Brown
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Posted: 30 April 2013 at 9:11pm | IP Logged | 15 post reply

Rick, sorry but I forget...are you an LA resident?

Reason why I ask...the vibe here in LA is, IMO, ambivalent about Dwight resigning.  The city was already lukewarm on him based on how he handled the Orlando situation and his public proclamations that he didn't want to play in LA.  Call it arrogant but that kind of attitude doesn't fly in LA.  As one of the premier franchises in all of sports with a very proud history and legacy, the prevailing sentiment is that you WANT to play in LA, it is a PRIVILEGE to play in LA.  It's kind of like that in all respects.  A beautiful woman doesn't want you?  Pffft.  Another one will be along in a minute.  Here, they're a dime a dozen.

Same sentiment with sports superstars.  Dwight doesn't want to be here?  Good luck in Houston or NJ.  We'll get another superstar in '14 when our cap space opens up.

Now, assuming he wants to be here...he'd better get over this "I need to think about it" act REAL fast unless he wants a repeat of the Orlando Dwightmare.  Mitch Kupchak has already said that the sooner he makes a decision, the better for all parties...meaning, let us know what you want to do because we have other decisions to make. We have options.

I like Dwight but he's a very special case.  Meaning, you definitely have to have the right combination of players and coach around him in order for him to be most effective.  He's a top five player arguably when he's healthy, but he cannot do it alone.  The Lakers are going to look VERY different from this point forward.  Its a new day...
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Glenn Brown
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Posted: 30 April 2013 at 9:15pm | IP Logged | 16 post reply

Houston is definitely in play...not only for Dwight, but Morey wanted Pau Gasol a year ago via trade.  I'm hearing that Pau is a VERY coveted commodity within the league and with the right deal, LA can get some cap relief and assets in return for him.  Would love to deal with Minnesota to pair him with Ricky Rubio and get Kevin Love but that might be a pipe dream.  I don't think Derrick Williams is enough for Pau but him with a strong defensive minded guard and wing...maybe..?
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Rick Senger
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Posted: 30 April 2013 at 9:46pm | IP Logged | 17 post reply

Glenn, I am in LA and I agree the city doesn't really care one way or the other about Dwight.  Gasol outplayed him of late (two triple doubles in recent games, more rebounds, better scorer) and is more popular locally but I would guess he's gone this summer.  Kupchak has gone on the record as saying the Lakers have already offered the max they can to Howard and they want him back.

Howard won't sign, however, until July at the earliest because only when he becomes a free agent can he then sign for the most lucrative deal per league rules and that's the time when such would occur. 
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Glenn Brown
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Posted: 30 April 2013 at 11:25pm | IP Logged | 18 post reply

I think Gasol is gone.  Rick Fox made a great point on the radio recently about why Pau appeared to be mis-handled by D'Antoni during the season.  He speculated that a deal was in place for Gasol but fell through or someone pulled out, etc...but that D'Antoni backed off of playing Pau because he had been told that Gasol wouldn't be there and therefore wasn't in his plans.  Made sense to me.  After being jerked around so much I don't believe that Pau's heart is in it for LA anymore.  He WAS traded for Chris Paul...that deal was done.  Eff'ing commissioner rescinded a deal that had been agreed upon by all general managers involved...unprecedented.

In other news, the Clippers are toast.  After all of that...Memphis is going to get that sixth game, I believe.
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Rick Senger
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Posted: 01 May 2013 at 12:39am | IP Logged | 19 post reply

Yeah, Gasol was clearly being phased out until it became clear they couldn't make the playoffs unless they went back to him. 

The Clips are in deep trouble with Griffin's ankle injury.  But for Paul's late heroics in game 2, Memphis would already be in round two.  Now the Clippers must win in Memphis on Fri then again at home on Sun, which could be a tall order if Griffin can't suck it up.
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Rick Senger
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Posted: 01 May 2013 at 11:40am | IP Logged | 20 post reply

Could be the last gasp for Boston tonight. They played a typically gutty game 4 to prevent the sweep but now we're back in New York with Smith playing again.  Would love to see Boston get back home for a game 6 because it would put a lot of pressure on the Knicks, but I think that's my heart talking, not my head. 
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Wilson Mui
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Posted: 01 May 2013 at 3:54pm | IP Logged | 21 post reply

Wouldn't Dwight Howard going to Houston be redundant?  They already have a very good Center with Omer Asik.  I'd like to see the Rockets add Denver's Andre Iguodala or Atlanta's Josh Smith instead.  I'm not sure if these guys are worthy of max contracts either.

Re the Knicks, I agree the Celtics may be done.  Even without Smith's production, the Knicks almost won.

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Glenn Brown
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Posted: 01 May 2013 at 4:58pm | IP Logged | 22 post reply

His attitude notwithstanding, Dwight Howard >>>>>>>>>>>>>>> >Omer Aski.  At his best, Dwight is definitely one of the top ten and arguably top five players in the league.
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Wilson Mui
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Posted: 01 May 2013 at 11:59pm | IP Logged | 23 post reply

Celtics survive to fight another day as JR Smith failed to save the day.  Instead, he went 3 for 14, missing his first ten shots.  Can they take back the Sixth Man Award from him?

The Houston/OKC game was another nailbiter.  OKC resorted to repeatedly fouling Omer Asik and forcing him to make free throws.  Forunately, it failed.  The Rockets strategy of keeping the ball out of Durant's hands is paying off.

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Rick Senger
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Posted: 02 May 2013 at 9:06am | IP Logged | 24 post reply

A ton of surprisingly compeitive first round series.  #8 Houston can  beat #1 Westbrookless OKC if they win at home on Friday.   #6 GS can beat #3 Denver if they win at home tonight.  Memphis can do the same at home vs. the Griffin-gimped Clips.  Rondo-less #7 Boston has won two straight and can tie also depleted #2 NY tomorrow at home and force a nervous game 7 (no NBA team has ever come back from being down 3-0).   The #6 Hawks can tie the Pacers by winning at home and force their own game 7 showdown with #3 Indiana.  No upsets yet, but injuries and intangibles are showing how quickly the playing field can be leveled.
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Rick Senger
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Posted: 02 May 2013 at 9:43am | IP Logged | 25 post reply

I love it when teams claw back.  All the Knicks wearing black for Boston's funeral made for good bulletin board fodder but the truth is, Melo and Smith just had bad shooting nights and Boston hit their threes and d'ed up.  NY only has to win once to close out the Celtics but a strange pressure emerges when a team you thought was dead suddenly finds signs of life.  It messes you up and makes you question things. Some people call that "character building," and the Knicks are acting blase, but I can't imagine their sleep patterns are serene and peaceful right now.

I still feel NY is likely to win if for no other reason than Boston has a recent history of showing a lot of guts early but not being able to extend their old bodies into the late games of series.  They somehow shockingly got ahead 3-2 vs. Miami last year but were just too tired (and LeBron too amazing) to close it out.  They were ahead 3-2 vs. the Lakers in the finals before that but couldn't close that out, either.  Their age hasn't diminished their pride but it has made them human.  Garnett going for sixteen pts and eighteen rebounds is awe-inspiring, even against the big depleted Knicks, but without Rondo they're pretty vulnerable.  NY needs to find an answer for Jeff Green, but it seems unlikely Terry will hit five three-pointers again.  

Boston appears likely to finally get broken up this year after a great run.  I think they have virtually no chance to even compete with Miami if they somehow beat the Knicks.  But what a cool parting shot for the legacy of Garnett and Pierce if they somehow went out with the first and only series comeback victory after being down 3-0.  That would be kind of like winning the championship for this modest, beaten down Celtics team.
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