"You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em, Know when to walk away and know when to run. You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table. There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done."
Hard to say, but they bring their team into a pretty tough version today against the 11-1 Lakers.Not that the venue itself is particularly daunting... well, ok - the lighting's awesome (at least, it is for Lakers' games), but the crowd itself are pussy cats. 'Cept for Cap'n Jack - but he's so over the top he's almost like a caricature at any rate.
No, it's not the venue, but who resides there that make this a tough trip.
The Lakers have opened this season on a mission. There's a surprise. And they are playing the best defense I've seen a Laker team play in many, many years.
That's not to say they can't lose. Sooner or later, they're going to - I have Christmas Day penciled in as a big game... ok, probably before that - but just LOOK at their schedule! Post this game, 2 days rest, then Dallas, 2 days rest, then Toronto. Then look at December: first 3 weeks they barely see a team with a better-than-.500 record!
One'd almost think David Stern loves LA or something.
Oh, wait a sec...
Anyway... Yes, LA will lose - and probably soon, but it won't be today. LA by 14 here.
2. Boston - Beastly. Of course, what would you expect from a team with the world's best player. Just ask Paul Pierce - he'll tell you.
3. Cleveland - the Samsonites are doing a pretty good job of riding LeBron James coattails. And damn, can he carry a team or what? There's a bit of a gap between 3 (Cleveland) and 4 (Houston) at the moment within the NBA.
4. Houston - really tight here. There's not a helluva lot between Houston and Phoenix at the moment, but with Ming, McGrady & Artest this team can beat anyone on any given day. Problem is - health. This unit is just waiting to be the NBA's answer to M.A.S.H.
5. Phoenix - pretty much the only reason I rank them behind Houston is because at times, they look really, really lost out there. Terry Porter's a good fit for Shaq, and the Big Cactus is performing at levels he hasn't seen since leaving LA. Problem is, the half court offense's not such a good fit for Nash.
6. Detroit - at times they can look really, really good... but at times they look just average. Losses to Boston (twice now - once at home, once away) and Phoenix (in PHX) are understandable... but the Nets? Detroit have to sort out their entire "we-play-when-we-want-to" routine. Didn't work last year, and won't this year.
7. Orlando - The Magic live and die with Dwight Howard, and when he is absolutely in dire straits, they look average. Yao Ming virtually put a dress on Dwight, and had the rouge out for him as well. Still have a way to go before the Magic can be included on any "best-in-NBA" conversations.
8. Utah - Same ol', same ol'. More Jerry Sloan's legion of the undead. Boozer, and Williams out, and they still have the will to win. Need garlic and a cross to put this one down.
9. Atlanta - A string of recent losses, including a loss to Indiana and two to New Jersey are really worrying. The loss in Cleveland? Meh, so what - a lot of teams will get beaten by LeBron this season. Horford not looking good and the unit doesn't look any where near as good as it did at the start of the season. Still hoping they're Hawks, and not pigeons.
10. Denver - The middling 10 of the Power Rankings are tough at the moment... could go anywhere. But 10th spot's for the Nuggets, who looked really good with the Billups trade. Until they hit a buzz-saw in LA. Thinking of running out the ol' "Enver" nick-name for them again.
11. Portland - Still have a way to go to be one of the elite, but it was truly gratifying to discover that Greg Oden probably isn't Sam Bowie.
12. Toronto - Several near misses have this good team sitting at a precarious .500. Already hamstrung with Jose Calderon not being 100%, look for this team to plummet further if Jermaine O'Neal's injury equates a fair amount of games missed. Bargnani isn't anyone's version of a savior.
13. San Antonio - hard to place them above NOLA - who have a better record... just - but the Spurs are playing some decent ball again after a truly dismal start. Timmy. Enough said.
14. New Orleans - You know those Discovery channel documentaries when they pull up a statue from deep see covered in grime, they wipe away the grime and it's actually made of gold? Well, the Hornets are kinda like that. In reverse. Wipe away the glittery stuff and they are looking average. The next two weeks will really tell us who this unit are this season.
15. Philadelphia - Definitely surprised at how mediocre this team has managed to look thus far this season. Sitting at .500, but so? They're in one of the tougher divisions in the East, and wins have come over Pacers, Thunder and Clippers. So that's not so hot... have to improve, and fast.
17. Milwaukee - up a bit from last rankings, and looking half-decent. Their losses have come at the hands of those that are clearly better, and the Bucks are winning the games they're meant to win. That's something that can't be said for a lot of other teams around this mark. Look for this team to climb the rankings somewhat: Jefferson and Sessions are playing well, and Bogut's becoming bit of a minor beast - averaging a double/double (11/11).
18. Miami - Dwayne Wade, the Amazing Teflon Boy, is back and playing some damn good basketball. That's enough to see Miami climb somewhat, but I still find myself tentative on Wade, and thus Miami. I'm not convinced that he's *not* fragile.
19. New Jersey Nets - Sheesh... Devin Harris is a start in the making, and they're doing ok, but expect them to sink into the Atlantic post a tough road trip next week.
20. Chicago - 2 and a half weeks on the road is not going to treat this team kindly. Some nice work at times, but you can only fall back on the "baby Bulls" tag for so long before it becomes a mere apology for a poorly performed team.
21. New York - Big trades make for an interesting line-up. Still a lot of work to do... and NYK fans have a long 2 years to wait until all this pain and suffering (and with the roster they currently have, there will be pain and suffering!) maybe - MAYBE - pays off.
22. Golden State - Something's just not working here. Nellie had better figure out what that is and then some. Some of their players are doing very well - Stephen Jackson, Andris Biendrins... but it's just not equating 'wins'.
The waxing of the LA Lakers coincides with the waning of Golden State.
23. Indiana - This team's ability to blow double digit leads borders on the uncanny. Fold worse than a cheap suit.
24. Sacramento - Kevin Martin's good. So's John Salmons. The rest of this team are simply off-cuts, junk and throw-aways mixed with some over-the-hills.
25. Memphis - even tho' there's cause for a little optimism with the roster they're building, they're in for a rough time of it. The South West has more guns than an Arnie movie.
26. LA Clippers - climb a lil' purely on having signed Zach Randolph who should make a difference. Not a helluva lot, but they won't be the Washington Generals any more.
27. Charlotte - Note to Bob: to win games, you have to score. Sell the team to Michael and be done with it.
28. Minnesota - Traded KG to get younger and better. A season on, what do we have? A year older, and no better. Still somewhere down near the bottom of the pile. Sure, some of these losses have been by narrow margins, but a loss is a loss.
29. Washington - Flip a coin, who's worse? OKC or the Wiz...
30. Oklahoma City - Kevin Durant's a nice player... but OKC Thunder? Ewwwww...
November truly is the slowest month in baseball.
Sure, some people want a "break". Others are bored because there is no free agency, games, or trades to talk about.
By November, the World Series is completely old news. Due to the abrupt way the season ended in a three-inning continuation game that upset a good portion of the country in this years small-market World Series, even fewer people are interested currently. In fact, only nine million people watched game three on TV, one of the all-time lows.
In November, there are no winter GM meetings that conclude with an exciting blockbuster trade that we could see in December. Thus, November is almost a "pubescent-ly" awkward month for the sport of baseball. This is why I spend most of my November's watching football, eating lots turkey, celebrating no-shave November by not shaving, awaiting the joys, breaks and holidays December has to offer, and every four years watching a lot of CNN (speaking of which, did anyone see those holograms?? PS We have a new president).
One exception to the "not much going on November" rule is the announcement of MVP (this year Albert Pujols and Dustin Pedroia) and Cy Young (Tim Linecum and Cliff Lee) Awards. However, there were no real surprises to get people talking; no extraordinarily close races. To add to that, this was a new generation of winners that we haven't seen a major award from before (with the exception of Pujols), and the average older baseball fan is much too lazy to pay attention to the younger names. Even more, three of the four winners were from small market teams that don't have a huge fan base. And oh the awfulness, for the AL MVP did not go to a long ball hitter. So the one thing that can happen in November kind of came and went without much of a bam.
Latest Machine vid-clip from Peendog. Man... the Lakers lost the Finals because of batteries?no comments
The first question that needs to be answered is did Denver add by subtracting Allen Iverson? Clearly.
But the next equation is... is the addition of Chauncey Billups enough to make them one of the truly elite in the Western Conference?
Jury's still out on that one.
They lost their best defensive presence in Marcus Camby, and yes, Nene is playing some damn fine 'ball... but relying on a guy who's spent more time in rehab than on hardwood for the past few years?
Denver spent the entire off-season focusing on defense, and adding a defensive-minded Billups and minusing the more-than-slightly defense-challenged Iverson really adds a bit more bite to what was one of the weakest defensive units in the West. Clearly, they're better defensively.
But losing a player with the ability to put up points like Allen Iverson? That has to hurt!
Well... not entirely. Denver have the pieces to put up a big score, Melo can easily drop a cool 40+ on any team in the league - and it's not like they call Billups "Mr Bigshot" for his passing ability - but Billups definitely is more of an 'enabler' than Iverson ever has been.
I really like the way this Denver unit is beginning to look. They have some nice pieces in Kleiza and Smith... and amazingly K-Mart is still putting up relatively good numbers.
But... can they beat the Lakeshow on their own turf?
LA are rolling, the three-headed monster of Gasol/Bynum/Odom is increasingly difficult to stop. Kenyon Martin and Nene are going to have their hands full with that threesome - 2 on the court at all times. Everything's hunky-dory.
And with the coasting finish over Phoenix yesterday, Kobe's playing less than 35 minutes per. It's over a decade since #24 played so little - you have to go back to '97-98 to find Bryant averaging less playing time. His second season.
There are more than half a dozen players on this squad that could light up for 20+. The depth that the Lakers possess is hard to look past. Just ask Terry Porter's Suns, who couldn't keep Bryant on the court for the 4th quarter.
The final score of 105-92 flattered Phoenix, who really didn't look like they were in the game from pretty much the second quarter on. Shaq looked decent enough, but the slowed down game clearly isn't sitting well with the Suns, who at times looked lost and disjointed.
Anyway, back on tomorrow's game...
Whilst I think that the Lakers could open with a more dynamic line-up if they'd insert Ariza rather than Radmanovic, or even Vujacic (and run Kobe at the 3), it's hard to argue with what Phil's doing when they're 9-1.
Denver are good, but they're not that good. LA by 11.
Wow. Just wow.
I'll pre-empt the following with an acknowledgment that Shaquille O'Neal is playing the best basketball he's played for - quite literally - years. He hasn't consistently put up numbers that he's putting up now since he left LA.
And now, he says he'd go back to LA. He'd finish his career there, if he had the chance.
Oh yeah, and now apparently it was Phil Jackson's fault that he didn't get along with Kobe.
The sooner that Shaq takes ownership for at least being partly to blame for the way he departed LA, the better.
It was Kobe's fault.
It was Jerry Buss's fault.
It is Phil Jackson's fault.
How about it being (at least partly) Shaquille O'Neal's fault?
Anyway - sidetracked there! But if the above doesn't provide some motivation for the Lakers, nothing will.
LA rides into town the only team that's unbeaten on the road thus far this season, and I don't see any reason for it to change in Phoenix. The Suns are a good unit, but still getting used to the new coach Terry Porter - a vast move away from the 7 seconds run under Mike D'Antoni. There have been a few hiccups thus far, and as a result Phoenix are only 3-2 at home. Porter's system seems to favour O'Neal - he's playing the best basketball since the '03-04 season (his last in LA).
O'Neal will have his hands full on Thursday tho' - two aggressive 7 footers in Gasol and Bynum. And let's not forget that there's really no resting against LA, who are running a combination of Gasol/Bynum/Odom - with 2 of them on the floor at pretty much all times. For Phoenix to have any sort of a chance, Amare Stoudemire will have to bring his defensive 'A' game, and then some (Amare's not exactly well-known for his defensive prowess).
The match-up between O'Neal and Bynum will be most interesting, as both have something to prove. Bynum, matching up on the guy who declares himself to be the best ever, and may well be. O'Neal on the young guy who replaced him at LA. LA the team he said he'd like to finish his career at.
And Phil... I place money on a wry grin on his face when the game kicks off on Thursday.
LA by 8.
Those last two sentences will evoke strong emotive reactions from some. "HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT???" "KG ROXORZ". I've probably ruined any chance of ever being welcomed in Boston (not that this'd ever be widely enough read to actually achieve that).
Don't get me wrong... the Kevin Garnett of a few years ago was a perfect sportsman. Intense, focused, but never to the point of being worthy of a "punk act" label. Class act. Anyone who stated they hated KG at that time only hated him because of how good he was. I was a fan. One of my favourite players, I kid you not.
The swipe at Andrew Bogut was pure goon. See here for yourself - ball's long gone, Bogut has just come down on top of him, and Garnett throws a hand into Bogut's face. Not an act worthy of someone as storied as The Big Ticket.
His behavior post winning the championships last season wasn't something we'd be encouraging our children to imitate. As a wise man once said to me: "...at least act like you've been there before, or are likely to be there again." (thanks Dad)
Kevin Garnett is listed as 6'11". One would think that he'd done all the growing up he could.