Does New York Have a Contender?

With the unofficial addition of Baron Davis, we begin to wonder if the expectation of a title could be realistic. The Knicks have the best front-court in the NBA with Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, and Tyson Chandler. The rookie Iman Shumpert showed tons of potential in New York’s preseason game in New Jersey. The gap in their roster was in the backcourt and on the bench. Now that they’ve added an experienced veteran in Baron Davis, the backcourt is more experienced and the roster is deeper. If D’antoni decides to start Baron when he is fully healthy, there is an option of Shumpert, Douglas or Bibby coming off the bench. That’s a lot of options, especially when Douglas can play the 2.

How does this team stack up against the elite teams in the NBA? This offseason, they really made a jump from an average team, to an elite team. However, the expectations of winning a championship put a lot of pressure on their shoulders. Let’s analyze their game and see if they have what it takes.

Offense:

We all know the Knicks can score. With Carmelo and Amar’e combining for around 50 points a game, offense is never a concern. Especially when your coach is the infamous offensive minded man that is Mike D’antoni. Surrounding their two offensive stars, Tony Douglas, Landry Fields, Mike Bibby, Baron Davis, Iman Shumpert have all shown they have offensive talent. And the three ball. A deadly weapon. Their backcourt was only concern. They have four options to pick from for point guard. Now that Baron Davis is here, he and Mike Bibby can mentor the younger guards and bring experience. Let’s not forget how dangerous Baron Davis is when healthy. 

Defense:

This is the really big question for the new look knicks this season. Defense has been their weakness every season. The addition of Tyson Chandler filled a hole in the front court, and provided a defensive presence in the paint. He brought wear and tear, and toughness to a “soft” Dallas team last year, and is trying to do the same with the Knicks. Don’t underestimate the perimeter defense either. Landry Fields and Toney Douglas have proven themselves as capable perimeter defenders. Iman Shumpert also showed his defensive aptitude in the preaseason game against the Nets. Iman End to End The team defense, however is the concern. Communication isn’t a problem on this team. They have leaders, and talking to one another won’t be an issue. The issue will be working together as a team and playing defense for 48 minutes. Something Amar’e and Melo aren’t known for. No matter how good Tyson is in the paint, he can’t play defense for a whole team.

Bench:

Depth was a huge problem for the Knicks last season. After giving up practically all of their young talent in the “Melo Drama”, they were left with few assets. They’re depth in the backcourt won’t be a problem. They have four options at the point guard position. The frontcourt depth is a bit of a problem though. Renaldo Balkman won’t put up 20 points every night like he did on Saturday. Jerome Jordan, and Josh Harrelson are young players with little experience. They will have to really step up to help out when the Knicks’ dangerous starting front court takes a break. That might not be enough to win a championship. Depth is everything. It was the difference in the finals last year. The Heat were extremely limited and the Mavericks had J.J Barea and Jason Terry putting up double digits every game.

With all the new assets the Knicks are certainly a contender and a legitimate team for the first time in recent memory. However, the bar may be a bit too high for the Knicks at this point. They will hold their own against the elite but still have to prove themselves as a team. Only time will tell.

Changes Needed: Miami Heat

After a season of stardom, criticism, and losing the NBA finals, the Miami Heat have some things to think about. Playing against the Mavericks in the NBA finals really took their flaws and put them under the spotlight. There was Lebron’s disability to finish out games and their depth not being able to produce.

I think this offseason the thing they have to focus on most is their roster changes. It was clear that if one or two of the big three wasn’t producing like a superstar, their bench couldn’t hold up their load and stay in the game. They’ve won about 55 of their 58 regular season wins solely on the production of D-Wade, Chris Bosh and Lebron James. The biggest problem they knew they were up against in the Finals is the monstrous depth of Dallas’ bench. Jason Terry, J.J Barea, Brendon Haywood all contributed greatly to the success of the Mavericks. From J.J making big shots of pick and rolls, to Jason Terry scoring 27 in game 6, to Brendon Haywood protecting the paint from people like Lebron. Often times when Lebron or D-Wade or Bosh sat down for a break, that’s when the game got a bit out of hand, and they started to lose their handle on the game. Then it was too late to get back into it. The Heat need to keep their eye out for productive role players. Ones who know their place on a team and are willing to do that to win. Players like Mario Chalmers. He was the only helpful player besides Haslem off the bench but they need more then that. They need someone they can count on to pour in 10-15 points off the bench. Someone like Shawne Williams from New York or Delonte West from Boston.

Then they need Lebron to start playing like the label he gave himself. A king. Not a scared little boy afraid to get physical in the paint. C’mon Lebron you owe the NBA better then you have given us this year. This summer it’s not his skills or his endurance or his jumpshot that needs refining but it’s his self confidence, his ability to make big plays when they count and his aggressiveness back. In the first 3 rounds of the playoffs he was attacking that basket like a man fighting for his life. He saw the basket, and drove straight to it. That was the Lebron we expected in the finals but unfortunately for some people and fortunately for those Lebron haters it wasn’t the one we got. He passed the ball away too many times in big moments to players like Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller. What does he expect those guys to do with the rock in their hands in the biggest moment of the game. I was so disappointed with how he played, and this summer he has to look in the mirror, start listening to the criticism, get angry, and translate that into his play. For the big moments there is no way to practice those until your actually in the big moment but Lebron’s problems are all in the mind. That’s harder to solve then the play itself. But he is the king, isn’t he?

It’s not all him though, Lebron isn’t perfect, he wasn’t exactly given a plan in the 4th quarter. He had had to improvise which is hard to do when the pressure is all on his back. Erik Spoelstra was out coached during the finals in his aspect of 4th quarter planning. They ran no plays for Lebron or D-Wade. I bet if Lebron or D-Wade were given a play to run in the 4th quarter and a plan to work on then their 4th quarter production would be much greater then it was.

To be honest the Miami Heat played a great series and with some slight depth changes and some determining of their 4th quarter star then the Miami Heat will be the ones with the parade after next season.

 

 

 

The Kidd Without the Credit

While Bill Russell stood up on that stage and handed Dirk the much deserved Finals MVP trophy, the only thing anybody could do was cheer. Here he was, one of the all time greats receiving his first finals MVP from sports’ best champion. He held that trophy up high and let out a childish german smile. Surrounding him was his loyal and hardworking teammates like Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler, Shawn Marion, Deshawn Stevenson, but squished between all the 6-7 feet champions was the 38 year old unsung hero, Jason Kidd.

The spotlight on Dirk has never been brighter. He took a team of hungry veterans to the NBA finals and with his determined attitude he took them to a championship. Fans everywhere are glad that Dirk got the championship he’s always deserved, but we may be forgetting about the other 30 year old without a ring.

The facilitator named Jason Kidd.

In 2008 when Mark Cuban shook up the basketball world by sending his developing young point guard named Devin Harris to Dallas for the experienced veteran in Jason Kidd. Jason had had two chances at an NBA championships in New Jersey, but fell short both times. The trade was seen as a negative through the eyes of fans and analysts. Jason Kidd’s career was winding down, he was 36, he couldn’t run fast or jump high, but Mark Cuban had faith. He had faith that Jason Kidd didn’t need the athleticism of this era of basketball, all he needed was experience, maturity and a passing skill like no other. Now as the Mavericks have been crowned basketball champions of the world it seems the trade was a success.

Jason Kidd may not turn up in the stat sheet a lot. His plays may not pop out to the typical NBA fan, but he played his heart out in those 6 games. In game 5 it was his three pointer that put Dallas up 4 points with about 40 seconds remaining. In game 6 it was his control of the pace and of the game that slowed the game down in Dallas’ favour. It was his big threes that gave momentum to the silent Dallas crowds and silenced the loud Miami crowd. It was his ability to get Dirk’s offense rolling and his ability to reach the open man that won Dallas the NBA finals.

Let’s not forget about Jason Kidd. He may not shoot off of one leg, or score 27 off the bench. But this veteran does more then that. Wasn’t it him who took over as the vocal leader during Dirk’s flu game. All these behind the scenes things that Jason Kidd did, helped win them this championship. What about guarding Lebron sometimes and guarding Mike Bibby. He deserves one just as much as Dirk, he has played longer and has been through some rough times. To win this championship means the same to him then to Dirk, although it may not be his MVP he knows what he has done is indescribable.

At an age of 38, Jason Kidd does not want to be forgotten. His performance in the Finals prove to us that the little things count in big games. A big three, a great pass, a jolt of energy on the bench. Think about how much effort and hustle Jason Kidd has to play with at the age of 38 to win a championship. Most NBA players are young, quick, athletic but here is a 38 year old man playing alongside players like Lebron and beating them.

While Dirk held up that MVP trophy, Jason Kidd wasn’t sighing with jealousy, but cheering because he knows his production can’t be measured and because he helped Dirk get to where he wanted to be.

Finals: Game 6

This could rap it all up. This could roll out the curtain call. This could pop the champagne bottles. This could give Dirk his much deserved championship. Miami won’t let it slip though. If Lebron thought game 5 was now or never then wait till he is embraced by the anxious South Beach crowd.

Miami is the little boy at school being held up against the wall and robbed of their lunch money. The Mavericks are the bully.

Miami has so much pressure on them to keep the series alive that Lebron just might have to play Lebron James basketball. At least give us a little taste of what the “King” has in store. So far this “king” has played more  like a peasant locked up in the dungeon. Dwyane Wade has played like the king this series. Averaging around 28 points and showing everybody who the man in town is. Dwyane is a leader, and a captain and he knows that he needs Lebron to get involved for them to win. Dwyane can’t do it alone. Even in 2006 he had Shaq and Gary Peyton helping him out. Bosh has even played better then Lebron this series. Those two guys need to call out Lebron on every possession he is not aggressive enough. His sissy play on the perimeter is not going to win championships. Driving into the paint and attacking the rim is going to win championships. That’ll be key for the Heat to win this game.

 

The Heat as a whole have to come out on fire in game 6. Their crowd will be eager for something to cheer for, and they have to create an environment that Dallas won’t want to play in. They have been letting Dallas get the upper hand when the games have begun and they have found themselves fighting back in the first quarter. Not this game. They have to force turnovers, and get Lebron, Bosh and Wade into a rythm offensively. Then they need their role players to step up. Dallas’ depth has killed them in the past two games. The only player who is really producing is Mario Chalmers. That’s one 12 points bench player against a crew of Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, J.J Barea, and Tyson Chandler. The supporting cast has to step up. I always say that the bench will play better at home. It proved correct for the Mavericks, let’s see if it will prove correct for the Heat.

The Mavericks know what they’re going to be up against. They know how much hype is surrounding this game. They also know how loud the Miami crowd is going to be. Which is why they have to use their veteran skills to their advantage. Most of their players have been in big game situations, for a long time in this league. When the 4th quarter rolls around they have to jump on any opportunity to silence the crowd. They have closed out games terrifically, but they have to be sure to hold the Heat when the 4th quarter arrives. Lebron will be looking for more opportunities and they have to be ready to counter that with defense and maturity.

They also need their role players to continue playing like they have. They struggled a bit in Miami in the first two games but when they got home they were on fire. Now as they step back on the road they can’t shrink out from the spotlight. Last game it was big threes from Jason Terry and Jason Kidd that won them the game. They need that production from those same guys again.

When they’re hot offensively, it spreads the floor for Dirk. Giving him room for his one legged jumper and room for him to spin to the hoop more often. Defenders have to stay with their men and Dirk gets to dominate. That only works if the Dallas supporting cast comes to play. And they must. If they do then this game will be won. If not then look forward to a tense game 7 showdown.

Game 6. See you in 1 hour.

 

 

Finals Game 5: Notes

He stepped up. Just not enough, it wasn’t enough. A regular triple-double of 10 assists, 10 rebounds and only 17 points were how he responded to his meltdown.

He wasn’t as aggressive as I expected him to be. Those 10 assists show that, and his 17 points. He only attempted 2 free throws this game. It just shows you that against a tough defense, Lebron chooses to settle instead of attacking the hoop like he should.

I noticed that in this game Dallas came out ready to play. They were prepared, they were energetic and they were wild on defense. They started the game forcing turnovers and not giving up the easy lane to the basket. That was the beginning of their road to victory. Dirk made his first two shots from the field and his first two free throws.

Dirk was in a rythm.

Jason Terry started to look for his offense.

 

Shawn Marion was getting out in transition.

Everything was going well for the Mavericks, yet Miami was still persevering. Lebron was playing more aggressive, and the role players were helping him out.

This game was close. Closer then some games that have been played in the NBA Finals so far. Then the 4th quarter rolled around. People sat up in their seats, people put their drinks down, they started biting their nails, kids all around america begged their parents to stay up a bit longer, analysts looked more intensely at Lebron James and the Miami Heat, and Dirk Nowitzki and Lebron got ready. Here it was, the biggest game of their lives so far. The most important 12 minutes of their life so far. To put it all out there is an understatement, to do anything it takes to win sounds about right. This is the place where legends are made, and chokers are established. This is the place that Dirk has made a name for himself as one of the most clutch players in history, while Lebron has made a name for himself as the one who chokes. This was the moment for one of them to take their team to victory.

It started off like most 4th quarters. Close and tense. Until Dallas made a little run and then Miami made a comeback run, and it went back and forth until about 2 minutes in the quarter when Dirk span baseline and dunked the ball in to ignite the crowd and his teammates. Then Jason Kidd hit a big three and Jason Terry hit a big three the next possession. Then it was over. The Mavericks 4th quarter antics got them the win.

Lebron James on the other hand scored 2 points in the 4th quarter. Only 2 points in the game which was supposed to be the biggest of his career. If that’s how he treats the biggest quarter of the biggest game of his career then I am not looking forward to his career developing at all.

If Game 6 goes the same way. If Dirk’s supporting cast of Tyson Chandler, Jason Terry, J.J Barea, Jason Kidd, and Shawn Marion can score 62 points again. Then it will go very smoothly for Dallas, and their title hopes. If Miami can’t get Lebron to attack the paint and get to the line then the series will be done in 6 games.

 

Finals: Game 5

This will be a test of true will and effort. To win a must win game, takes concentration, 100% of effort and coming up big when it counts.

I know this game will come down to the 4th quarter. How can it not? Dwyane and Bosh are on top of their game, while Dirk keeps serving up his german dose of 30 points 10 rebounds. It’s whichever team will seal the deal when they can.

One thing I know I can look forward to is Lebron domination. Lebron domination in a roudy, road stadium, in the finals, in a must win game. I am so excited to see him go crazy tonight. He’s going to start this game going in to the paint, drawing fouls and just being classic Lebron. I see a 30 point outing for the young fella from Cleveland tonight.

The only problem I see with his mindset towards tonights game is this. With all the criticism he has taken for his underachieving 8 point game 4, he knows he has to play aggressively on offense. He needs to fill up the stat sheet and produce. His teammates know this too, they know he is going to be looking to score more then anything. Which is why I see a shy cast of Miami Heat players tonight. If Lebron is going to produce at a high rate, and look to do so, his teammates may think more about his offense then their own. They may shy away from scoring and get it to Lebron on more possessions. This i believe will cause Dwyane, Bosh and all the productive role players to lose some of their hot rythm. Tonight will be a test to see how Lebron’s aggressive mindset will be adjusted into the offense and minds of the other players.

The Heat as a team have to win this game, and the way they do that is by executing in the 4th quarter. Too many times have I been absolutely disgusted by the way the Miami Heat have executed in the 4th quarter. It started with their 15 point meltdown, then Dwyane Wade dropping the ball, then Lebron not taking a shot in the 4th quarter. This isn’t so hard. You run a play for your best clutch player-(Dwyane Wade.) You get him the ball, all the other players move aside as he scores a bucket, or gets to the line. I have been disappointed more that they couldn’t finish out games because they have two superstars and future hall of famers on their team. It should be a piece of cake. That’s been the difference when you look at Dwyane Wade and Dirk in this series. One has produced in the 4th quarter with timely baskets while the other hasn’t. The finals will be a grind, they’re going to be within 3 or 4 points heading into the 4th quarter. It’s the superstars job to take care of business when it counts. And, oh boy does it count now.

The Mavericks need this game more then the Heat need it. To go back to Miami down a game is tough. The atmosphere in a game 6 in Miami with the chance to win it all will be overwhelming for any team. If they can go back up a game, then the pressure is on Miami to please their overwhelming crowd, who will be louder then if they were up a game because they know their praise will keep their team going when it counts most. They need to do exactly what they did in game 4. The Dallas bench was on fire. Chandler had 13 points and 16 boards, Terry had 17, Marion had 13, Barea had 8.

41 points from those four guys plus a healthy Dirk Nowitzki is unstoppable. If you think that they won that game with a sick Dirk, imagine all that bench production with a healthy one. Hopefully the bench doesn’t shy away because he is healthy now, they can still be a big part of the offense and not defer to him too much.

Game 5. We’ll see you in 8 hours.

 

 

Game 4: Notes

Yes, I have a fever of 101 degrees. Your point?

Dirk wasn’t going to let anything hold him back from playing in this game. Not even a 100+ fever. He knew he had to carry his team and he did so in the last 20 seconds. The same play from game 2, just against Haslem and from the other side. He backed up, span around drove to the hoop and softly laid the ball in the net.

Dwyane on the other hand was cutting around the top of the perimeter. Mike Miller tossed the ball in, he grasps it lightly but lets it go. He sprints toward half-court and dives for the ball with determination.

He tosses the ball back and into the hands of Mike Miller. He throws up a prayer and the game ends. Dallas 86-Miami 83.

That was the difference in this game. When it counted one star player showed up while the other one dropped the ball. That’s not to say D-Wade had a bad game. Besides that fumble, he had the best game on the court. 32 points, 2 blocks and 6 rebounds. He put it all out there and can be proud of how he played. Sometimes the cards aren’t drawn the way we’d like.

As soon as the game started I noticed a different energy about Dallas. There was an extra umph to their game. Some extra swagger to their step. They were going crazy on defense, waving their hands around, moving quickly, covering everybody. They looked like a new team. For the first time this series it wasn’t just Dirk who was playing well it was the whole team. Shawn Marion was knocking down shots, Deshawn Stevenson was hitting threes, Jason Terry was flying down the runway, Tyson Chandler was thumping his chest, J.J Barea was even flipping up some reverse lay-ups. All this while holding Miami to 25% from the field. The depth that was supposed to kill Miami was suddenly playing some kick-ass basketball. Some basketball that brought a smile to my face.

The momentum is with them now. Tyson Chandler got his rage back inside, Jason Terry got some flight time, J.J Barea was doing his acrobatics and the crowd is hungrier and crazier then ever. It’s going to be hard for Miami to go to Dallas play a must win game against a crowd high on energy and a team high on momentum. It’ll be hard and Dallas has set themselves up very well for this pivotal game 5.

For Miami I was impressed with their countering skills. The game started off with Dallas dominating on defense, hustle and effort yet the score was still tied. That was all due to the calm, composed minds of the Miami Heat. They could see a more aggressive team but they didn’t back away, or play any less then they could. They fought back harder and finished the half up by two points. That shows me some improvement from the game 2 meltdown. Instead of giving up when they could they fought and fought and ended up with the lead for the first half. Unfortunately they lost the game, but from a development standpoint it shows an improvement in maturity and heart.

I also noticed that Lebron will be getting a lot more criticism from now on. After getting 8 points in a crucial game 4.

There is no elbow excuse now, even Erik Spoelstra says Lebron is physically fine. He just has to get more aggressive. He’s standing around the perimeter looking for teammates, or in the post looking for teammates. He is rarely jab stepping and getting ready for a drive or a jump-shot. Let’s not get Lechoke back Lebron, you and I both don’t want that name stuck on you. He has to be more aggressive for Miami to win this series. We’ve all seen what Lebron can do when he is at the top of his game. It’s just a matter of putting your concentration to it and dominating.