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Rick Senger
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Posted: 07 January 2013 at 1:43pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

The transition feels real this year in the NBA, where longtime dogs like the Knicks, Clippers, Grizzlies, and Warriors are all nice upside surprises and perennial playoff  / frequent finals teams like the Lakers and Celtics are sliding into the ocean and clearly done as currently configured.  The bonafide powers in the league still feel like Miami and OK City.  The only remaining competitive old guard is the Spurs at a solid 27-9, but they can't reach the finals much less beat Miami.

The Lakers are the biggest flop, with the coaching carousel, fading and unloved Gasol, disappointing Nash and Bryant and Howard reportedly in a near fistfight.  If that report is true, Howard seems likely to bolt after this year, meaning the Lakers got nothing for Bynum (himself also injured) and are now saddled with aging, overpaid vets and precious little young talent in the pipeline.  It seems David Stern's wish to prevent the Lakers from reloading as a dynasty came true after all.

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Edited by Rick Senger on 07 January 2013 at 1:46pm
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Joe Hollon
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Posted: 07 January 2013 at 3:35pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

The Lakers are in a world of hurt but I object to referring to Steve Nash as disappointing.  He's averaging 10 and 9 and shooting 53% from the field coming off a broken leg at age 38.  
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Rick Senger
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Posted: 08 January 2013 at 2:00am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

Joe, I love Nash and you're right he's coming off an injury. but he's still been disappointing for me.  He's my favorite non-Celtic and given his maximization of his talents, gritty hustle and selfless blue collar mentality, he would've been a natural in Boston.  Arguably the greatest pure shooter in the history of the league (who else could average 90%FT/50%FG/40% 3 pt FG)  He's the ultimate facilitator who improves everyone around him, a two time MVP and a great positive influence in the locker room.  First ballot HOFer and a stud.

That said, he also can't play a lick of defense anymore and just isn't suited to running the Lakers' fast break given his age and slowness.  His 8.8 assists isn't shabby, but his general output is the lowest it's been in a decade or more with declines in assists, rebounds, and points per game.  His turnovers are way down this year, but the team hasn't translated Nash's return into winning.  I struggled with what word to put on him... was going to say ineffectual because the Lakers' record with him in the lineup is mediocre, but I settled on disappointing because I somehow thought he'd have more impact on the Lakers' fortunes.
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Wilson Mui
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Posted: 08 January 2013 at 5:29pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

With Howard out due to a shoulder injury, D'Antoni can run a smaller line up.  Maybe this will be fit his coaching style more.
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Rick Senger
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Posted: 10 January 2013 at 12:33pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply

Wilson, D'Antoni did have some success in Phoenix this way.  The problem is, success is a relative term, and LA ain't Phoenix!  Even if the Lakers somehow regroup and get back in the playoffs, they do not appear likely to go far.  For a team that has long dominated and has the highest payroll, a first round or second round exit isn't acceptable.  I have strong doubts they could even get out of the first round right now.

Kobe and World Peace are actually having decent years but Howard, Pau and Nash, while still viable, don't seem their old selves.  Add a lack of bench support besides Jamison, who is also well past his prime.  D'Antoni seems to have decided not to allow Pau in the low post in favor of Howard, who hasn't really been producing.  Management has likely mandated giving Howard what he wants since Howard is seen more important in the long run, but in the short run, it probably means this season is cashed.  Howard is still a rebounding beast, but his defense has not been nearly as stifling and his offense is definitely off.   He may still recover from his injury.  But will he want to stay?

The Lakers and Celtics find themselves in similar positions... they've either stayed too long at the fair with formerly great players that accomplished much for them (Celtics) or they've latched onto formerly great players who are either too old or too injured to be reliable in their current state (Lakers).  Either way, neither teams feels particularly relevant and both face major decisions at the end of the year or next at the latest.  It would appear that elusive sixth title is going to be hard for Kobe to attain.

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Matt Reed
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Posted: 10 January 2013 at 12:50pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

I don't find myself agreeing all that often with a Celtic fan, but I think you're pretty dead on in this thread, Rick.  I'm not as doom-and-gloom as most Laker fans I know, but it has been an extremely disappointing season for a team that always has such high expectations. 
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Joe Alexander
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Posted: 10 January 2013 at 1:08pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

I am a fan of D'Antoni's offense but if I was a Laker fan right now I would get the concerns. I know Lakers expect greatness, but I don't think they will help themselves this year by making more wholesale changes. It is not easy to do, but I think the best route is to get a full summer and training camp with D'Antoni, look at adding a couple of pieces if possible, and trying for a championship that way. Either that or blowing it up at the end of the season and go forward with Howard and Bryant.

Seems that Memphis is trying to move Rudy Gay and I think he would be a good fit for D'Antoni and Nash--reunite Pau with Memphis and his brother?

As a Celtics fan, I am equally doubtful they can do much this year--rebounding is a weakness at every position except point guard.
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Rick Senger
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Posted: 11 January 2013 at 11:28am | IP Logged | 8 post reply

I don't find myself agreeing all that often with a Celtic fan, but I think you're pretty dead on in this thread, Rick.
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Thanks Matt.  You may not agree with me below, however!

Seems that Memphis is trying to move Rudy Gay and I think he would be a good fit for D'Antoni and Nash--reunite Pau with Memphis and his brother?
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I agree that would help the Lakers.  Gay is a good shooting small forward so no more conflict with Howard, and he can fill it up.  He's also got quick hands and steals the ball a lot, something the Lakers need. Their salaries aren't far off, either.  Here's the problem...I don't think Memphis wants Gasol back.  As a small market, why would they dump a younger star's big salary in favor of a fading star's big salary?  I'm sure his bro would love to have him, but the net would be that Memphis traded Pau to LA for his best years then took him back for his decline.  They were crazy enough to trade him to LA for Kwame Brown back in the day though, so who knows!

As a Celtics fan, I am equally doubtful they can do much this year--rebounding is a weakness at every position except point guard.
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Rondo has been recruiting Gay too, as I'm sure you know.   Boston certainly has its challenges and won't win it all, but I think they're in slightly better shape than LA.  While Garnett is older and clearly outclassed by Howard, he's a known quantity and staying for now.  Metta World Peace and Brandon Bass are both decent, hustling defensive minded forwards who can score a little.  Metta is a better scorer and honestly he's having a pretty nice season so far, but Bass like 7 years younger, so long term I like Bass.  Pierce is also old but still playing at a high level, well above any forward in LA (sorry Gasol!)  Rondo is a bit better than Nash (not nearly as good a shooter but more points, assists, steals and rebounds, equally scrappy and he raises everyone's play.)  And he's 13 years younger.  Kobe is miles ahead of Jason Terry, obviously, but Terry can still play.   LA's starters are somewhat better than Boston's, but Kobe, Nash, Metta and Gasol are all old and declining (Kobe less than the rest).  Their youngest starter, Howard, may not stay. 

Rondo is Boston's best player and he hasn't even reached his prime yet.  Pierce is old but he still seems quite consistent. Bass is durable and will play long after Metta World Peace is done.  Boston, who is far from young, still seems more stable longer term, particularly if the Lakers lose Howard.

You can argue the above, but here's why I think Boston is better.  They play defense (#8 vs Lakers #26), their bench is superior and the politics / culture of their locker room is sound.   Rookie Jared Sullinger is quietly averaging almost 6 rebounds in just 19 minutes.  Avery Bradley's stats aren't much yet (he only just returned), but he shuts people down and is the defensive stopper Boston has needed all season.  It's no coincidence they're 4-1 since he returned, including recent wins over the Knicks and Hawks.  Jeff Green is a decent scorer off the bench.

Thanks to the stabilizing presence of Doc Rivers, Boston has a pretty healthy locker room.  Rondo is a handful but Rivers really seems to have figured out how to deal with him, much as Jackson handled Rodman back in the day in Chicago.  I like D'Antoni, but he clearly fumbled the Gasol situation and the Lakers just don't seem to be playing together.  D'Antoni deserves more time, but so far he hasn't been the calming influence many hoped.  Players like Jamison are second guessing things and it seems clear LA is a team divided.

Bottom line, I think Boston could make the second round.  If everything went their way, they might sneak into the Conf Finals again, though it seems unlikely unless Bradley's return really invigorates the team. People forget they were ahead of Miami 3-2 last year in the Eastern Conf Finals until LeBron played out of his mind and carried Miami to the championship.  Boston's still on the decline and would probably lose 4-1 to a healthy Miami but they are still a playoff team and one many in the East would prefer not to have to play.
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Rick Senger
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Posted: 28 January 2013 at 12:29pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

Amazing games yesterday... the Celtics sans Rondo beat the Heat in double OT.  The Lakers with the new Share The Wealth Kobe handled the Thunder.  Boston's teamwork, heart and defense shows you can still over-achieve, though without Rondo they're done for the season.  The Lakers' win was similarly impressive considering Howard had a pretty weak game (8 points, 2 for 10 from line).  Kobe's 14 assists in two straight wins can't be a coincidence and it will be interesting to watch teams trying to adjust to this new strategy if it continues.  I've always respected Kobe but never really liked him because he seems  selfish to me.  If he is willing to give up his stats in order to win like this, I may have to change my view.  There's just enough time in the season for them to come back and at least it interesting, which would be fun. As a lifelong Nash fan, I am torn between wanting him to get a ring and not wanting LA to win.  I still don't see them going past the second round, but this new approach could take them somewhere better than where they were headed. 
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Wilson Mui
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Posted: 28 January 2013 at 6:00pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

The Celtics also beat the Knicks w/o Rondo when he was suspended for bumping into the referee.  It seems they can definitely rise to the occassion when necessary.  I can't root for them though.  Rondo, Garnett and Pierce seem like unsportsman-like jerks.
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Rick Senger
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Posted: 29 January 2013 at 12:07am | IP Logged | 11 post reply

Rondo, Garnett and Pierce seem like unsportsman-like jerks.
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Rondo and Garnett have their reputations, but what did Pierce do to give you that impression?
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Wilson Mui
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Posted: 29 January 2013 at 9:53am | IP Logged | 12 post reply

No, you are right.  I can't really lump Pierce in with those two guys.  He just has these little tricks on the court to score that I don't like.
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