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Friday, December 30, 2011

Jam of the Week 12/30

During the short off season, there was a lot of chatter about a few teams out west. The chatter was centered mostly around Dallas, both LA squads and Denver. But now, they're talking about the Blazers. After a 3-0 start the Portland is clicking on all cylinders with their multi-threat offense, and pernicious defensive prowess. With cornerstones Lamarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews alongside key additions Raymond Felton and Jamal Crawford, I'd have to say that this is a top 5 NBA team and a legit contender. They're deep, efficient and downright dirty. For that, this week's dunk goes out to the Portland Trail Blazers.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day Predictions, Pt. 2

On November 28th, COA predicted the three Christmas games that were initially scheduled:

Christmas Day Predictions!

New York Knicks vs. Boston Celtics
Everybody and their dog knows that the Knicks traded everything but the kitchen sink for superstar Carmelo Anthony before the trade deadline last year. Between Anthony, Stoudemire, and Billups, the Knicks have the perfect concoction of youth, experience and talent to be a special team this year. With role player Landry Fields and first round draft pick Iman Shumpert picking it up on D, D'Antony's Knicks could be dynamic in the Big Apple. Boston showed their age down the stretch in the playoffs last year, and I think this fatigue is bound to catch up to these aging superstars. Lookout Boston Three Party, there's a new sheriff out East.

Winner: New York Knicks

Miami Heat vs. Dallas Mavericks

Ya hate 'em or you love 'em, though cliché, nothing could be truer about this team. Most people expected the Heat to roll through the league with ease, but when they stumbled along the way, doubts began to arise. The Heat fell well short of NBA analyst, Jeff Van Gundy's, 72 win prediction, and people no longer felt the Heat to be favorites for the Eastern Conference crown. LeBron's Heat proved the doubters wrong and galloped into the NBA Finals. They met an unbelievably hot Mavericks team, and what can you say, they got Dirked. A little food for thought: this was the first year these three were together and they came within inches of the trophy. LeBron, Wade and Bosh are too good, too tenacious and too hungry to let the Mavs thwart them again on Christmas Day.

Winner: Miami Heat

Chicago Bulls vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Many had the Bulls riding that number 1 seed to the NBA Finals last year, but inexperience and fatigue seemed to set in as the Heat took the series easily 4 games to 1. Out west, Los Angeles seemed to show their age down the stretch, being swept handily by Dallas. Pau faded, Kobe and Artest (are we supposed to say Metta World Peace yet?) looked old and their frustration began to show. I think this will be the best game of the day and probably the closest. As a tiebreaker, I'll give it to the better conference.

Winner: Los Angeles Lakers

After this was posted 2 more games were scheduled for Christmas Night, here are our predictions for tonight's games:

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Orlando Magic

Durant and Westbrook will be a heavy load no doubt, but the Thunder never addressed a gaping hole that ultimately led to their downfall last year, post D. The game is in Orlando and Dwight Howard is going to look to prove that he still wants to play, no way he just lies down and takes it. He's too much of a superstar. I also think that the Magic supporting cast is underrated as well Resigning J-Rich was huge and I like the Magic in this
game.Orlando is always in a Christmas game and this experience will work in their favor. Howard will be too much to handle for undersized Perkins and Serge Ibaka.

Orlando Magic

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Golden State Warriors

Two Words: Lob City.

Los Angeles Clippers

Old School Pic of the Week: Christmas Edition

Merry Christmas from Court of Appeals! (and Ervin Johnson)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Twas the Night Before Tip-Off

Twas the night before tip-off across the U. S. of A,
not a player was fouling, well, maybe Monta.
All the jerseys were hung in the locker room with care,
Awaiting Pau Gasol and his unruly hair.

The Heatles were nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of Dirk's fadeaway danced in their heads.
With C-Witt in his throwback and me in my in Jazz cap,
in great and heavy anticipation, our buckles we did strap.

When on the court there arose such a clatter,
though it was only Marv Albert yelling, "drops the sledgehammer!"
Away to the TV we flew like the Flash,
jumped up and proclaimed, "what a pass from Steve Nash!"

Alongside Marv Albert, we saw something killer,
we remembered his color man was the great Reggie Miller.
When we awoke in a daze, our ending seemed too cliché
it was all a dream, and the NBA was still one day away!

So from Court of Appeals, to hoop fans everywhere,
we extend this message from our hearts with care,
"Happy Hoops and thank goodness the NBA is back,
stay tuned with COA and we'll keep you on track!"

Happy Holidays from Court of Appeals!

And (Metta) World Peace to All!

Jam of the Week 12/23

Two. More. Days.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Jam of the Week 12/16

Blake Griffin dunked the ball a whopping 214 times last season. That means about one quarter of Griffin's total points came when he dropped the sledgehammer. You may have not heard, but Chris Paul is the newest Clipper. Paul averages over ten assists per game and the potential of alley-oop acrobatics between these two studs has basketball fans licking their chops. Clippers players know that you can't stop what's coming and have fittingly dubbed themselves, "Lob City." Griffin's dunk/alley-oop stock is up big-time now that Paul is in town. Ya'll need ta hide ya kids, hide ya wife, and hide ya husband because they gonna be dunkin' on err'one out here.

"The Lob! THE JAM!"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Old School Pic of the Week 12.13

With this week's announcement that Brandon Roy would retire, the NBA lost a great player and by all accounts an excellent person (not to mention a Seattle legend.) But though his basketball career may have come to a premature end we would like to remind Roy that his future can still hold many joys.

There's no better example than the notoriously fragile Bill Walton. Though able to win two championships, Walton is remembered more for the 352 games lost due to injury than the 468 he played over his ten year career. But as Walton's toothy grin in this week's old school pic testifies, the only thing between an abbreviated basketball career and true happiness is a couple of nice bicycles.

And so, my friend, comes the time to trade in those high tops for a pair of spandex biker shorts and ride off into the sunset. The NBA is a wreck these days anyway.

Pace Yourself: Why You Should Keep an Eye on the Indiana Pacers in 2012

So far this off-season, one team has surprised many by pulling one of the most highly touted free agents, ex-Hornet David West. Many reports linked West heading to Boston. I couldn't have been any less surprised. In my mind, the classic "free agent star-to-LA-Boston-Miami or New York unwritten rule" had held sway (not an official rule yet, but it seems to be trending). Out of seemingly nowhere, reports heralded that not only had Boston not landed West, but he had agreed on a 2-year contract with the Indiana Pacers. I couldn't believe it until the rumor was confirmed by multiple sources. West had picked playing time on a less talented team, over adding himself to an established set of superstars, swimming against the trend of the modern NBA star. To me, this says so much about West as a player and as a person. Instead of joining the multitude of triumvirates that are starting to permeate the league, West chose to see minutes and attempt to build a dynasty from the ground up (cash may have been a factor, but don't ruin this for me people). Not only did I find a new respect for West, but started to examine the Pacers squad as a whole, and liked what I saw.

The Pacers are young, tough and talented. They've slowly accumlated pieces such as, Darren Collison and Roy Hibbert, that they knew down the road would be payoff. This team is packed full of potential and the addition of David West may push them over the hump in order to become a legit presence in the East. Let's take a look at the starting 5 as of today:

Indiana Pacers

PG, Darren Collison

SG, George Hill

SF, Danny Granger

PF, David West

C, Roy Hibbert

Off the Bench: PF Tyler Hansbrough, SF Brandon Rush, SG/SF Paul George

The Bench:
Tyler "Psycho T" Hansbrough held down the starting PF spot last year, but will inevitably lose his spot to West, for the better. Hansbrough is an energy guy any team would love coming off the bench. Realistically he's not a starter in this league, but an invaluable sixth man every good squad requires. He's a tough guy with a high motor, high basketball IQ and he'll hit ya' right in the Adam's apple if you look at him wrong. Rush provides shooting off the bench, like he did in the 2011 NBA playoffs, and the second year man Paul George is an athletic slasher to compliment Rush's stroke. Lance Stephenson is a guy potentially off the bench worth mentioning just in case he isn't incarcerated or suspended for most of the season.

The Starters: Collison came over from New Orleans last off-season looking to get minutes and to make his own name in the league, just like fellow teammate David West. Collison is a unique combination of scorer/distributor and perfectly suits this team, as he can put up points any given night but also facilitate to stars Granger and West. George Hill is known as a great defender, but only a decent scorer. He was acquired from the Spurs via trade during the NBA draft. He'll serve as the defensive anchor of the team and will fill a role as a seasoned leader as well. Granger has only one All-Star game under his belt, but in all honesty should probably have more. Expect Granger to do what he's been doing ever since his rookie year, score and play hard. With opposing defenses now having to focus on West down low, look for Granger to explode this year.

West will be expected to play his game, that is, rebound, defend and be consistent on offense. West is a dependable and consistent player who is going to give you 100 % night in and night out. He is already familiar with Darren Collison having played with him in New Orleans, and I expect for them to reconnect with dynamic PG-PF chemistry. Last year I predicted Hibbert to be the Most Improved Player. While he didn't acquire this accolade, he did improve leaps and bounds. Though his numbers only increased slightly, Hibbert found a role for himself and that 7'2" frame on this team. Hibbert was often criticized for his passiveness and lack of effort, last year he showed glimpses of fiery competitiveness and stepped up as a leader. These intangibles only have room for growth.

The Skinny:

If West can mesh with the established crew in Indy, this first year may be indicative of great things to come. As many teams continue to accumulate 2 or 3 superstars, the Pacers have done a fantastic job of accruing talent across the board. I love the fact the West chose Indiana over Boston (I'm a sucker for small markets), and I hope that he can prove that you don't need a team like The Heatles or the Boston Three Party to garner success in the NBA. Keep your eye out for the boys from I over the course of the season.

Court is Adjourned

Friday, December 9, 2011

Jam of the Week 12/9

The New Jersey Nets are a bad team. Hopefully Pauly D and Snooki don't show up to my house at 3 AM brandishing hair gel and Ed Hardy bags filled with bars of soap in order to fist pump my teeth into the back of my head because of my frankness, but someone has to step up and say it. Rumor has it that the Nets are closing in on a deal with coveted Brazilian big man, Nené. Bad teams overpay, so if a deal is struck, this is going to be one very rich man. If signed, expect to catch Nené at all the hottest night clubs on the shore decked out in the tightest Armani Exchange shirt, alongside wingmen Pauly D and Mike "The Situation" fist-pumping the night away, throwing grenades and whatever the hell else it is they do on that show. Here's to you big fella'.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Old School Pic of the Week 10.6

The lockout is over and free agency is upon us! You know what that means; it's time to for the recently locked out NBA players to put down the TV remote/video game controller/large pizza (looking at you Eddy Curry) and get in shape for training camp. 

But players aren't the only ones getting back to action. Sir Charles and the rest of the league's broadcasters are going to have to be looking fit and trim for debut this season. Let's not forget, the camera adds 10 pounds.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Free Agency Predictions

With NBA free agency officially kicking off tomorrow, here is a look at where the offseason's top available players might be headed:

Tyson Chandler - New York Knicks

Chandler, perhaps this off-season's most coveted free agent prize, is coming off a big season in which he anchored the Mavericks' defense en route to a Championship. Dallas' $84 million payroll last year -- among other things -- indicates that owner Mark Cuban isn't exactly stingy with his dollars, but the new free agency rules put in place by the recent Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) could make signing Chandler difficult. NBA teams have proven their willingness to fork over millions to any 7-footer with a pulse (see: Diop, DeSagana) so given his standing as a legitimate starting center, Chandler should be fielding some lucrative offers. The most lucrative of the offers so far seems to be the Knicks' 4-year, $58 million proposal, which Chandler is reportedly close to signing. Dallas will not be able to make the same type of offer given their salary constraints, and the team is reportedly hoarding their bills to instead throw at Deron Williams or another member of the heralded 2012 free agent class.

Nenê - New Jersey Nets

Though the Nuggets can offer him top dollar, Nenê supposedly wants out of the Mile High City. According to numerous reports he has already received interest from six other teams, with Indiana, Houston, and New Jersey as the most likely suitors. If inclined, New Jersey and Indiana can both offer max deals worth around $17 million annually. On the heels of a lockout caused primarily by ridiculous contracts for marginal players it may seem odd that teams would be willing to throw so much money at Nenê, who definitely falls in the good-but-not-great category. However, centers come at a premium in this league so he will be paid quite handsomely when it is all said and done. Houston can provide the most compelling roster for Nenê, but it is becoming more likely that they will add Pau Gasol in a three-way trade that would send CP3 to the Lakers. If that is this case, expect Nenê to land with the Nets, as owner Mikhail Prokhorov needs to add incentive for Deron Williams to re-sign next summer.

David West - Indiana Pacers

You might have forgotten amidst all the recent talk about Chris Paul that David West is the team's only major free agent at the moment. But despite that fact, whether or not the Hornets choose to resign West is entirely contingent on the fate of his point guard. The first school of thought is that New Orleans needs to sign West so that Paul will have reason to stick around come next summer. The second is the belief that Paul already has one foot out the door and bringing West back without the team's best player would be a hefty investment that would not yield many wins. As Paul's likelihood of leaving town increases so too does West's. The Pacers have expressed interest and have the cap room to land him.

Marc Gasol - Memphis Grizzlies

Though the younger Gasol spent most of early years doing is best impression of a fat Seattle Sonics' Squatch mascot, last year he emerged as a very productive center on a contending team. As a result, the Grizzlies have publicly stated they will match any offer made on him. Done. Next.

Jason Richardson - Utah Jazz

Jazz GM Kevin O'Connor recently stated the team's intention to sign an athletic shooter this offseason. Richardson isn't the same young lad winning dunk contest after dunk contest anymore, but he still fits the bill quite nicely for the rebuilding Jazz. And if the Jazz's contact offer isn't enough reason to sign in Utah, surely the Twitter plead from our very own Danny Franks to J-Rich will do the trick.

Thaddeus Young - Philadelphia 76ers

Young emerged as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate in 2010-2011 and, put simply, Philadelphia has the funds to make sure he sticks around in Philly.

DeAndre Jordan - Los Angeles Clippers

As a restricted free agent, the Clippers can match any offer Jordan fields. While it will likely take a hefty chunk of change to keep Jordan in town, the Clips (or The Blake Show, if you prefer) would be wise to keep their young core of Gordon, Griffin, and Jordan intact for the foreseeable future.

                                                                                    Jamal Crawford - Orlando Magic

The Gilbert Arenas Experiment in Orlando is over. Consider him and the remainder of his $121 million contract amnestied. To fill his place, the Magic will look for another explosive scorer at the shooting guard position, albeit one for half the price with a less extensive history as a team cancer. Everyone wins. Except for Gilbert Arenas. And the Magic once Dwight Howard inevitably bails. So, in conclusion, no one wins. Except Jamal Crawford.

Caron Butler - Los Angeles Clippers

It's already been settled, Butler will receive $24 million over the next 3 years to refrain from chewing straws throw lobs to Blake Griffin.

Grant Hill - San Antonio Spurs

In attempt to either win one last championship or become the oldest team on this side of my grandpa's retirement home squad, it looks as if the Spurs are eyeing Hill. For a team that doesn't have a particularly well established plan for the post-Duncan era, this move is a short term solution, but one that could pay dividends. The 39-year old veteran had a productive year last year and should be able to at least match Richard Jefferson's numbers from last season, assuming Jefferson will soon be amnestied.

Jeff Green - Boston Celtics

Boston GM Danny Ainge's bold move to trade Kendrick Perkins for youth on the wing in the form of Jeff Green was criticized for most of last year, particularly after the Thunder made a deeper playoff run than the Celtics. But when Ainge made the trade he had the future in mind and I would not expect him to cut his losses on this investment just yet.

Tayshaun Prince - Detroit Pistons

Already agreed to re-sign with the Pistons for $27 million over 4-years. Seems like I should've written this entire post 4-7 days ago. Moving on...

Aaron Afflalo - Denver Nuggets

With seemingly half of their team stuck playing in China at the moment, the Nuggets will have the available resources to keep Afflalo even though contenders like the Bulls would love to acquire him.

Greg Oden - Portland Trailblazers

There's no debate on this one. Oden has accepted a qualifying offer for 1 year at $8.9 million to remain in a Portland uniform. Which is particularly interesting because -- given his injury history/propensity to take nudey pics -- it's rare to see him in any uniform at all.

Samuel Dalembert - Anaheim Sacramento Kings

Dalembert could take less to play for a contender, but the Kings have to do some major spending just to reach the NBA's minimum team salary and that should keep in Sacramento or where ever the Kings are going to being playing for the life of his contract.

Court adjourned.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Jam of the Week 12/2

Deron Williams is one of the most well-rounded point guards in the NBA. He's quick, smart and has a pernicious crossover that turns defenders' legs in to jell-o. A great player no doubt, but to say that he has earned a jersey retirement in the NBA would be a long shot. But in Williams' brief stint in Turkey, his club Beskitas has granted him this honor. This feat is not only an impressive personal accolade for the point guard, but also a testament to the respect and admiration overseas ball fans have for the NBA. A true diplomat of the game, our Jam of the Week goes out to D-Will.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

2011 Free Agency: Better Than The Decision?

Though I've enjoyed filling the basketball-shaped void in my heart with college hoops for the past few weeks, nothing can compare to the pros. But before America (or at least its basketball nerds) can receive the greatest of all gifts in the form of a Christmas Day triple-header, we've still got to sort out who is suiting up for which team.

While the 2011 NBA free agent class won't cause the same hoopla as last season's crop, that is not to say there won't be some serious shuffling, wheeling, and dealing in this year's condensed free agent period. There are a number of factors that could make this just as exciting, if not more so than the Summer of The Decision. 

Reason 1: The amnesty provision of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. It will allow teams to cut loose a player of their choice whose contract they wish to take off the books, and make them available. Rashard Lewis and his $118 million deal is pretty much the reason this clause was put in place, so expect to see him and other overpaid players like Baron Davis and Brandon Roy to hit the market. It's a shame for Roy, but as a wise man -- I believe Confucius -- once said: if you're owed $68 million, you're knees better be functional.

Reason 2: With no marquee free agents available this offseason, the focus of free agency will not be on fringe teams trying to instantly become contenders by landing a perennial All-Star. Instead the main storyline of free agency will be how elite teams will find the missing pieces to put them over the top. On the surface this may sound less intriguing, but the NBA needs a little irony every now and then and I, for one, cannot wait for the inevitable 72 hours when Samuel Dalembert becomes the central focus of the basketball world.

Reason 3: Speaking of 72 hours, the new CBA now allows teams only 3 days (as opposed to the previous 7) to match an offer for a restricted free agent. This change, coupled with the time crunch before training camp should make for a hectic and entertaining free agency period. Blink and you might miss your favorite player packing his bags and shipping off to Cleveland Boston.

Reason 4: In perhaps the most thrilling of the CBA's new stipulations, players that are amnestied will then have their services auctioned to the highest bidder. Awesome, I know. If the NBA has not yet arranged to do so, this event should be televised live on prime time in high def. I want to be able to see every bead of sweat on Minnesota GM David Kahn's brow in super slow-mo replay after he pulls the trigger (too soon?) and bids $9 million annually for Gilbert Arenas.

Back soon with more predictions on how free agency shakes out.

Court adjourned.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Old School Pic of the Week 10.29

NBA is back! After 149 days of anger, contempt and greed, the NBA lockout is no longer, and you will not find a happier individual than Delonte West me. Between the agents' attempted mutiny against Billy Hunter, Dwyane Wade's verbal assault of David Stern, Micky Arison's $500k fine for spilling the beans on negotiations, and the NBA's threat of a "nuclear winter," it's more than fair to say the road to this point has been a bumpy one.

However, of the countless developments throughout the NBA Lockout saga (The Nuclear Autumn, if you will) the most surprising was Michael Jordan's emergence as the most adamant hardline owner attempting to screw over the players. This was particularly surprising because -- as you may or may not be aware -- Michael Jordan used to play a bit of ball himself.

I'm no lawyer, no economist, hell, I'm not even a motivational speaker, but I am willing to bet that if you let me bring a 6' x 4' blowup of the image below to the negotiating table I solve the lockout in three hours tops. There's honestly no way MJ could cause a scene, demanding a 47/53 split of revenue while he's staring down a bigger than life version of himself silently but continually insisting, "Hey, we should all totally, like, just get along and be friends, man." 

Worth noting: the new collective bargaining agreement has a mutual opt-out in 6 years. Holler at me in 2017, players' union; I'll keep this photo on file.

Court adjourned.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bold Predictions for the 2011/2012 NBA Season: Part I

I woke up uncharacteristically early Sunday Morning November 26, 2011, still recovering from a turkey induced coma. This unusual early morning wake up can only be categorized as a beautiful instance of fate. I wearily looked at my phone, body aching with the after effects of thirds and fourths of garlic mashed potatoes, to see a tweet sent to me by fellow COA writer, Connor Witt, that read, “#NBAisBack.” Never hath my eyes turned upon such a simple yet glorious proclamation. I had a brief moment to gather myself, possibly a few single tears of joy, and then fervently tore through any sports media I could get my hands on, because it seemed too good to be true. The "tentative deal" struck between the NBAPA and NBA Owners seemed to emerge out of thin air, but there it was, unlikely and controversial, but to this beholder, beautiful. NBA basketball lived.

At this point, I must apologize to our loyal readers. I hate to admit my writing professionalism was shattered. I wanted to sulk, cry and curse the s
ystem. When the abbreviation NBA was uttered, a video montage of NBA highlights played in my head to the tune of REM’s “Everybody Hurts.” This doesn’t justify my neglect, but I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive my absence. It was a dark time. Needless to say, I was not optimistic about an NBA season coming to fruition. I had all but counted my proverbial chickens and was ready to start my bracketology studies much earlier than I expected or wanted.

Against all odds, the league and players came through. And now, the NBA’s delayed start has begun to really tickle the imagination and eagerness of basketball fans everywhere. As the old adage goes, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Quite frankly, this season has all the pieces to be potentially one of the most tremendous basketball seasons in recent memory. These 66 games have presented the Association with the opportunity to make believers out of the many doubters created by the NBA lockout More than ever, there are a lot if ins, a lot of outs, and inevitably, a lot of what-have-you’s. So without fu
rther ado, let the speculation begin! Here are some bold predictions for the 2011/2012 NBA season, brought to you by none other than Court of Appeals.

Christmas Day Predictions!

New York Knicks vs. Boston Celtics
Everybody and their dog knows that the Knicks traded everything but the kitchen sink for superstar Carmelo Anthony before the trade deadline last year. Between Anthony, Stoudemire, and Billups, the Knicks have the perfect concoction of youth, experience and talent to be a special team this year. With role player Landry Fields and first round draft pick Iman Shumpert picking it up on D, D'Antony's Knicks could be dynamic in the Big Apple. Boston showed their age down the stretch in the playoffs last year, and I think this fatigue is bound to catch up to these aging superstars. Lookout Boston Three Party, there's a new sheriff out East.

WINNER: New York Knicks

Miami Heat vs. Dallas Mavericks

Ya hate 'em or you love 'em, though cliché, nothing could be truer about this team. Most people expected the Heat to roll through the league with ease, but when they stumbled along the way, doubts began to arise. The Heat fell well short of NBA analyst, Jeff Van Gundy's, 72 win prediction, and people no longer felt the Heat to be favorites for the Eastern Conference crown. LeBron's Heat proved the doubters wrong and galloped into the NBA Finals. They met an unbelievably hot Mavericks team, and what can you say, they got Dirked. A little food for thought: this was the first year these three were together and they came within inches of the trophy. LeBron, Wade and Bosh are too good, too tenacious and too hungry to let the Mavs thwart them again on Christmas Day.

Winner: Miami Heat

Chicago Bulls vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Many had the Bulls riding that number 1 seed to the NBA Finals last year, but inexperience and fatigue seemed to set in as the Heat took the series easily 4 games to 1. Out west, Los Angeles seemed to show their age down the stretch, being swept handily by Dallas. Pau faded, Kobe and Artest (are we supposed to say Metta World Peace yet?) looked old and their frustration began to show. I think this will be the best game of the day and probably the closest. As a tiebreaker, I'll give it to the better conference.

Winner: Los Angeles Lakers

Mike Brown wins Coach of the Year
One of the bigger headlines from the Dallas Maverick’s sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers last year was that longtime coach Phil Jackson would finally retire. Jackson created an absolute basketball juggernaut in LA and his triangle offense works season in and season out. The unique thing about the Lakers though, is that they have a head coach on the floor. With the system that Jackson has implemented, NBA superstar Kobe Bryant has inherited this structure as second nature.. In Spike Lee’s movie, Kobe Doin’ Work, Lee sheds light on not only the brilliant and unbridled athlete Kobe is, but also the basketball knowledge he has mastered. All first year head coach, Mike Brown, needs to do is stick to formula that Phil Jackson has established. If Brown sticks to the script and lets his players do the work, the Lakers will continue to do what they always do and Brown will get the credit.

Monta Ellis becomes a 76er and leads them to deep playoff run

The small guard combo of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry in Golden State has, so to speak, proved to come up short. The lack of defense and rebounding in this system has yielded little results. There’s no doubt that the Warriors have to make a change to be a contender in the ever-competitive Western Conference. There’s no doubt that Philly has been trying to shop Iguodala and a straight swap for Ellis seems to make perfect sense. Iggy provides height, defense, length and rebounding to a team that desperately needs all of these things. Philly needs a running mate to pair with emerging forward Thaddeus Young. Ellis is one of the most exciting and dynamic players, and could relieve thrive in the Eastern Conference. Monta reminds me of a guy the Sixers used to have, and if memory serves me correctly, that guy did pretty well in that system.

Alec Burks wins Rookie of the Year
Burks has never gotten much love as a basketball player. Going into college, the best school to look his way was the University of Colorado-Boulder, not exactly basketball Mecca. Ever since, Burks has played with a chip on his shoulder, which has served to his benefit. Being drafted 12th overall by the Utah Jazz, Burks has a blossoming NBA game and will get plenty of playing time with a system that allows its rookies to prove themselves, a la Wes Matthews. “Draft experts” knocked Burks for not having the three-point range a shooting guard in the NBA needs to be succesful. Burks has used this lockout time to foster his three-point jumper. At the Pro Player Charity Classic, Burks efficiently stroked the pumpkin, going 5/6 from downtown and finishing with 29 points. In a draft class heralded as one of the weakest in recent memory, I think Burks unexpectedly steals the show, like he’s so used to doing.

Kevin Durant wins MVP
This lanky assassin has undoubtedly proved to be an elite player in the NBA. With unchecked range, and slick basketball prowess Durant has sealed himself as a league favorite. Though Durant was knocked for disappearing during last year’s playoff series against the Mavericks, Durant is young and will get plenty of chances to go deep in the spring. Durant will always get his numbers, and with this young team a year older and a year wiser I see them a legitimate contenders out of the West. With his squeaky-clean reputation and humble demeanor, the league is dying to give this guy MVP honors and I think this could be his year.

Miami Heat, NBA Champions
This season has been tailor-made for LeBron, he only has to play 3/4 of it! Joking aside, the guy is the most dominant force in the NBA and won’t let the chance to get his ring slip through his fingers again. The Heat nearly accomplished what they had promised in one year of play. The Heat had virtually no role players, and this year have the opportunity to snag some guys that can take the load off of the Big Three. Three names come to mind, Nene, Samuel Dalembert and Mehmet Okur. These three guys are huge competitors, aging and are hungry for a ring. With all the clout and hate surrounding the Heat last year, they made an unlikely run to the Finals but were thwarted by an unreasonably hot Dallas team. The only way Dallas was going to beat the Heat was if they played out of their mind, and they did. LeBron gets his ring. Everyone has had their shot at the King, but remember, he who laughs last laughs loudest.

Court is adjourned.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Old School Pic of the Week 10.25

It's tough to know what's really going on with the NBA lockout. First there's a huge gulf between the parties, one day we've almost got a new CBA, and next thing you know  the sides are no longer on speaking terms.

After relying on sound bites from the NBA and union to try to make sense of this ordeal, this week the world had the opportunity to hear from head of the NBPA, Billy Hunter, on Bill Simmons' podcast.

Sure, Hunter revealed some interesting stuff about the negotiations: the bias towards owners in the media, divisions between the small-market and large-market owners, and Mark Cuban's proposed elimination of the salary cap to name a few. But the real news was the shocking revelation that David Stern and Hunter were in fact fraternity brothers in Sigma Alpha Mu back in their college days. 

Which got me thinking, is there a better pair of frat brothers to feature in an Old School Pic of the Week than the high-flying duo of Hakeem The Dream and Clyde The Glide from University of Houston's prestigious Phi Slamma Jamma?

I think not.

But don't think the story ends there. The metaphorical significance of this photo -- I'm looking at you, Hunter and Stern -- is that former fraternity brothers, though they may split up and compete against each other for many years (Houston vs. Portland), can still reunite and achieve great things ('95 NBA Champions).

Court adjourned.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Legacy of Superman

In the now-controversial interview with Scott Raab of Esquire magazine earlier this week, Dwight Howard commented on his impeding free agency and future with the Magic. Among other things, he stated, "I just don't know what else I can do [in Orlando]."

How naïve, Mr. Howard. The immediately list of things that come to mind includes developing a mid-range game, restructuring Gilbert Arenas' $111 million contract, and visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, just to name a few.

But honestly, I'm in no position to tell Dwight Howard what he can and cannot do. He's the 3-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and I'm a defensive liability at my local YMCA. Shaquille O'Neal on the other hand holds a bit more clout...

and if Dwight has the same affinity for his leisure activities that he has for Shaq's "Superman" moniker, then he should take after his namesake and enjoy the nautical scene in Orlando's own Lake Apopka.

It's as if he's yelling out, "C'mon in, Dwight! The water's great!!"

But if his interview is any indication, it appears doubtful that he will actually mimic Shaq's aquatic ways. Unless, of course, you take aquatic ways to mean the joining the Lake Show, in which case it is far more likely. 

After all, they both share the whole Being a 7-Foot-Tall Center Drafted First Overall by the Magic, Later Adopting the Nickname Superman and Losing in His First NBA Finals Appearance thing, so it seems that the logical next step would be Subsequently Pairing with Kobe Bryant on the Los Angeles Lakers Via Free Agency.

Let's just hope Dwight doesn't force a trade to team up with Dwyane Wade on the Heat in 2019 or he might find himself the defendant in a copyright infringement case.

Court adjourned.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Old School Pic of the Week 10.4

It's Day One-Hundred-and-Whatever of the NBA Lockout. It's sad news, but here's a photo of a mini Georgetown block party (pun intended) at the 1995 All-Star Game to cheer you up. If Patrick Ewing's flat top, those outlandish jerseys, or the mere presence of Dikembe Mutombo can't bring a smile to your place then you need to reevaluate yourself as a basketball fan.

Court adjourned.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Old School Pic of the Week 9.27

This week has very important historical significance in the world of basketball. 20 years ago, USA Basketball selected its national team to compete in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. In case you were unaware, that 1992 Olympic team (better known as the Dream Team) would go on to win its eight Olympic contests by an average margin of nearly 44 points en route to a gold medal.

So of course this week's installment of the Old School Pic should be Charles Barkley dunking on a member of the Angolan national team or something of that nature?

Pshhhh. NOPE!

This post is dedicated to the 1992 Dream Team's most notable snub, one Isiah Lord Thomas III. Here he is wearing a fur coat on the banks of Lake Michigan, probably thinking about what the weather is like in Barcelona.

Court adjourned.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Old School Pic of the Week 9.20

Former University of Michigan sharpshooter Glen Rice was known for his ability to score. During his junior campaign in 1987-88, Rice led the Wolverines in scoring with over 22 points a game and led the team to the Sweet Sixteen.

However, last week it became apparent that Rice's ability to score was not limited to the basketball court. During a tournament in Alaska in 1987, Rice reportedly had a nice little one night fling with a local sports reporter named Sarah Heath.

But why exactly is that particular rendezvous newsworthy? After all, the team's co-MVP surely got plenty of sugar from the lovely ladies of Ann Arbor.

Well, seven months after the hookup, Sarah Heath married her high school sweetheart Tim and became the woman we know today as Sarah Palin. Which led to...

... the Glen "Great Balls of Fire" Rice trading card. Either this represents an awesome coincidence or the card company got the memo about the Palin fiasco some 16 years before the general public. You be the judge.

Court adjourned.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Old School Pic of the Week 9.13

I'd be lying if I said I didn't look at Twitter's trending topics each time I log in, though more often than not they are meaningless and arbitrary (a current top 10 trend in the U.S. is #AnnoyingThingsPeopleSay.) But early on Sunday, Twitter gave me the greatest meaningless and arbitrary gift I could have ever asked for, the trending topic of #randomNBAplayers. Needless to say, I wasted the next few hours tweeting every random NBA player of all-time I could think of until I had real-life-type things to do. (The full transcript is available here.)

For this week's photo, I wanted to continue that theme with a lovely image of everyone's favorite mullet-clad, 7-foot-2, former Florida Gator, San Antonio Spur, and Mobile Reveler, Dwayne Schintzius!

With career averages of 2.7 points and 2.5 rebounds per game -- not to mention a 40.4% field goal percentage -- Schintzius could in fact be the league's most random player ever.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Old School Pic of the Week 9.6

In light of Maryland football trotting out quite possibly the most hideous sports uniforms ever to hit the playing field, Andy Gray of Sports Illustrated announced he would be compiling a photo gallery for the SI Vault of history's ugliest sports uniforms. While I easily could've posted a photo of the early 90's Nets "Tie Dye Unis" to fit the theme, I decided to go another route and focus instead on history's ugliest player. Hence, the photo of Sam Cassell.

Court adjourned.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Keyser Söze and Larry O'Brien

by Connor Witt

Times are tough for hoops junkies, even more so for those of us expected to continue writing even as the most compelling stories in basketball are Delonte West’s incoherent Twitter rants and Kevin Durant’s scoring outbursts in pro-am games. Recently, I’ve taken to re-reading Bill Simmons’ Book of Basketball for the umpteenth time in hopes of filling the gaping void in my soul with some sort of basketball-related content. Even though I can practically recite the book by heart at this point, one bit of information in The Legend of Keyser Söze chapter struck me differently this time around (probably because I am so desperate for something to write about that I will not hesitate to pick at the proverbial scraps.)

On page 638, Simmons defines his criteria for the best single season team of all-time, that which most closely resembles ruthlessness of the aforementioned Keyzer Söze. His third point focuses on a team’s ability to stay hungry for victory even after winning the title in the previous year(s). He writes, “Show some pride. Protect your title. Make us feel like you’d rather die than lose your championship belt. What’s the point in winning a title if you’re not going to defend it?”

Now let me stop you before you go thinking that I am suggesting the NBA should switch to championship belt rather than the current prize (though the irony of Jason Terry justifying his preemptively-tattooed championship trophy only to have the prize switched might be worth it.) Mark Cuban’s proposition to move away from the traditional championship rings was met with criticism from his own players, and I’m sure they would feel the same about replacing the iconic Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Rather, I am suggesting that in order to fight complacency in reigning champions, the O’Brien Trophy be prominently displayed behind their bench for the duration of their playoff run. This instills an added sense of pride; not only is the team competing for the NBA’s greatest prize, but it is physically theirs to lose. It would have a similar effect for opponents. If the challenge of facing the defending champs were not enough motivation, there is the potential joy of looking on as a weeping former champion – surely Kobe Bryant in a 2011 scenario – clings to the trophy while suit-clad men pry his fingers away and pack the trophy into a stainless steel suitcase to be whisked away.

Which brings me to the fine print of this concept…

1)    Though the trophy is to be displayed behind the incumbent champion’s bench, it is not under any circumstances to be touched by any of the players until they are crowned NBA champions

2)    The trophy is to be handled by either a) The exact guys in white gloves and suits that handle the Stanley Cup, or, in the event of scheduling conflicts b) exact replicas of the guys in white gloves and suits that handle the Stanley Cup

3)    If the reigning champions lose a playoff series the trophy is, as I indicated above, taken into NBA custody until a) it is presented to the eventual champion, or b) it is displayed at midcourt during Game 7 of the Finals

4)    The trophy is not to appear during the regular season unless the reigning champions are on the verge of elimination from playoff contention. (This rule has unbelievable potential. If the defending champs must win and also have a conference foe lose in order to avoid elimination, there is the possibility the rival’s contest could go final while the champs are still mid-game. This, of course, would leave the Stanley Cup holder guys no choice but to package up the trophy and make their exit, signaling the dramatic conclusion of their quest to repeat.)

So here’s how this is gonna work, David Stern. I let you implement my idea without bestowing unto me the wealth of riches that I deserve for such an awesome innovation. In return, you accept the next Player’s Association collective bargaining proposal and guarantee me a full 2011-12 season. Good doing business with you.

Court adjourned.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Old School Pic of the Week 8.30

As the lockout approaches its second month, more and more players have made plans for the upcoming season aside from the NBA. When Deron Williams inked a deal with the Turkish club Besiktas in early July, his decision lead many fellow players to pursue playing overseas as well. Since Williams' signing, the likes of Ty Lawson (Lithuania), Jordan Farmar (Israel), Sasha Vujacic (Turkey), and Leandro Barbosa (Brazil) have agreed to play abroad for the upcoming season in the event of a continued work stoppage.

The league's reigning scoring champ, however, has an entirely different agenda for the upcoming year. Kevin Durant will be taking his talents to South Beach Baton Rouge, Louisiana to star in an upcoming Warner Bros. Film. Little is known about the project at this point, but if Durant's acting prowess is anywhere comparable to his shooting touch then we could have the next Jesus Shuttlesworth on our hands. Even if his performance does not merit any Oscars, Durant can let this week's Old School Pic serve as a reminder that a man's movies don't have to be good for him to sleep with 20,000 women become one of the best basketball player's ever

Wilt Chamberlain as Bombaata in the
1984 film, Conan the Destroyer

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Old School Pic of the Week: 8/2

Unlike the NFL, that just reached a labor agreement, things aren't exactly looking up for professional basketball the at the moment. Both the NBA and the NBA Player's Association (NBPA) have filed complaints to the National Labor Relations Board claiming the opposing party has not "bargained in good faith." The NBA then filed another lawsuit in federal court that seeks to void existing player contracts if the union chooses to decertify and countersue.

It is easy to lose faith that NBA action will soon return when use of jargon like decertification and countersue outnumber the dunks, screens, or passes.  But all hope is not lost, and this week's photo proves it. 

This shot from the 1988 NBA Finals shows heated rivals Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas setting aside their differences and finding harmony in the sweet, sweet game of basketball. NBA and NBPA, I hope you're taking notes.

*Potentially Ominous Sign: In the years since this photo, Magic and Isiah's relationship has soured considerably. Both Thomas' rumored questioning of Magic's sexuality and Magic's emphasis on keeping Isiah off the 1992 Dream Team have fueled the quarrel. Let's hope the NBA situation ends more cordially.

Court adjourned.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Jam of the Week 8/1

The venture for other occupations continues for NBA players, as they still find themselves at a stalemate with owners. Recently, "Big" Ben Wallace of the Detroit Pistons indicated that he now hopes to attend law school and eventually become a defense lawyer, a fitting profession for the 4-time Defensive Player of the Year. We at COA wish Wallace the best of luck in his endeavor, and hope that someday he gives us a credit as the first Court he appeared in while his new career began to get off the ground.

"15 years, Big Ben."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Old School Pic of the Week 7/26

For likely the first time since the 1996 NBA Finals, Seattle was center of the basketball universe as it played host to this weekend's H206 charity basketball exhibition. The showcase matched Seattle-bred players led by Jamal Crawford, Aaron Brooks, Martell Webster against "The League" team featuring Michael Beasley, Dorrell Wright, and Nolan Smith, among others.

Though it provided only a fraction of the pleasure of an NBA team, H206 displayed Seattle's desire for basketball at the highest level. If this is what it's going to take to get NBA athletes playing in the Emerald City once again we need to have lockouts more often.

Payton: "Man, I still can't believe there's no NBA team in Seattle!!"
Kemp: "Simmer down, bud. We're gonna get through this"

Monday, July 25, 2011

Jam of the Week 7/25

Last week Oklahoma City Thunder big man, Serge Ibaka, was granted Spanish citizenship. His allegiance, competitively speaking, will no longer lie with his native Congo but to Royal Spain. As soon as the OKC fan favorite Ibaka, "swears loyalty to the Spanish crown and constitution," he will be playing alongside fellow NBA international players Pau Gasol, Rucky Rubio, Marc Gasol, Rudy Fernandez and Jose Calderon in International competition. Look out USA in the next FIBA World Championship. From Sevilla to Madrid, the people of Spain must be shouting, "¡Viva la Serge!"


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Finding Homes for 2011-2012 Free Agent Game-Breakers

As the NBA lockout continues to loom over the heads of basketball fans like a Saturday morning tequila hangover, the anticipation of a potential season keeps us optimists speculating. I for one, am excited to see the array of transactions that are inevitably going to take place in a post, "The Decision," basketball world. Seeing players find new homes and how these players effect the dynamic of a team, for better or for worse, is to me one of the most intriguing things about NBA basketball. Look at how the NBA has shaped around the movement of LeBron and Bosh to Miami. As you can imagine, while the days of the lockout have contined to pass, my imagination has been running wild. Many game-breaking type of players are up for grabs in this year's free agent market, here's where I believe these game-breaking guys are going to take their proverbial talents next season.

Jason Richardson, SG Orlando Magic:

2011-2012 Team: Chicago Bulls

J-Rich has established himself as a reputable and memorable player in NBA basketball. Nobody will forgot his performances in dunk contests he competed in, he was key in the Golden State Warriors magical run in the 2007 Playoffs, and he's a team player any team would love starting on their squad. Richardson can provide the most help to Chicago, whose only weak link last season was at the 2 spot, juggling between aging Keith Bogans and Ronnie "What's Offense?" Brewer. Not that these guys aren't good players in their own right, but in the end, the scoring load was too much for MVP Derrick Rose down the stretch. Many speculate the Bulls will trade for Memphis sharpshooter O.J Mayo, but I think they have too many options in the Free Agent market to give up any essential pieces already in place. Richardson, though aging, has a few good years left and makes this team an even more legitimate contender for the Title.

Andrei Kirilenko, SF Utah Jazz

2011-2012 Team: New Jersey Nets

When healthy, Kirilenko provides some of the best defense at 3 position in the NBA. The Jazz seem to be moving in a new direction and are going to cut ties with AK47, thus ending the Williams-Kirilenko-Boozer era. Kirlenko is a savvy vet that could help an array of teams on both ends of the floor. Rumor had it, that when star guard Deron Williams was shipped to the New Jersey Nets, Nets owner/gazillionaire Mikhail Prokhorov tried to get the Jazz to include fellow Russian and friend, Andrei Kirilenko, in the deal. Kirilenko won't head overseas like many have speculated, because he is now an American citizen and seems to want maintain his comfortable lifestyle in the States. He'll head to the Nets to reunite with former Jazz teammate Deron Williams and try to spy on corporate elites on Wall Street for Russia with fellow spy Prokhorov begin the new era for a struggling New Jersey Nets franchise.

Nene Hilario, PF/C Denver Nuggets:

2011-2012 Team: New Orleans Hornets

Nene reportedly opted out of his player option with the Denver Nuggets, and now that Carmelo has skipped town, the Nuggets are a whole new team and Nene will look to part with the new kids on the block. In an attempt to keep superstar Chris Paul in the Big Easy, New Orleans will go get Nene and will concoct a frontcourt that Paul will be more than happy to play with for some time, Nene and Emeka Okafor. This signing might keep Chris Paul from joining the speculative big three in New York. This frontcourt makes the Hornets competative against any Western Conference team, especially the huge frontcourt of the Los Angeles Lakers.

J.R. Smith, SG Denver Nuggets:

2011-2012 Team: New Jersey Nets

This is the season where the Nets will start to flex their new Russian fortune. Deron Williams is in his contract season next year, and to stay competitive in a newly forming point guard league, the Nets know they need to try to entice him to stick around. The Nets are thin at pretty much every position besides Point Guard and Center. But with J.R. smith out of Carmelo Anthony's shadow in Denver he's going to want to prove that he is a star, and he is guarenteed a starting role with this squad. The Nets can offer J.R. an overpaying contract, and it also doesn't hurt that he is a New Jersey native. J.R.'s jaw-dropping plays will make Nets' Co-Owner Jay-Z change his famous line to, "if Jeezy's payin' LeBron, I'm paying J.R. Smith."

Tyson Chandler, C Dallas Mavericks:

2011-2012 Team: Dallas Mavericks

Chandler works hard, plays D and likes to win. 2010-2011 NBA Champs, Need I say more?

Rip Hamilton, SG Detroit Pistons:

2011-2012 Team: Utah Jazz

Rip had a huge falling out with the Pistons' front office and coaching staff last season. His time in Detroit is over and everybody knows it. The question is, "does Rip still have it?" As we know, he can be a big time player when he actually cares, but his age does raise some questions. I think that teams will figure it's worth a roll of the dice on the masked avenger. It makes sense for Rip and the Jazz. The Jazz are very young across the board and are weak at the 2, Rip provides veteran experience and toughness as well as scoring at shooting guard. The Jazz will also have some cash to spend as the max contract of Andre Kirilenko, 16 Million, is now off of their backs. The Jazz now have the talent to be a solid team in the West in the next 4 or 5 years and if Rip thinks he will stay in the NBA that long, he could be a perfect part of the equation.

Jamal Crawford SG, Atlanta Hawks:

2011-2012 Team: Atlanta Hawks

The 11-year vet has found a nice little niche in the ATL. He's found playing time, personal accolades and most importantly, success. The Hawks have been consistently playoff contenders since the Joe Johnson-Josh Smith-Jamal Crawford era. Crawford is no spring chicken. His situation is optimal in Atlanta for a few more years, if he is willing to take a cut in salary to bring in some younger talent as Josh Smith looks to be headed towards a trade. Crawford is likely to stay with the Hawks if a reasonable salary can be agreed upon. If Crawford can't be financially appeased by the Hawks, I would speculate he would join Steve Nash in Phoenix as Vince Carter is probably departing.

Tayshaun Prince, SF Detroit Pistons:

2011-2012 Team: Los Angeles Clippers

The latest/hottest rumor is that Prince will head to D-Town and help bolster the defense of the reigning champs. While I can see this as a realistic scenario, my inclination is to have Prince head back to his hometown of LA. Prince is Straight Outta' Compton and I would imagine jump at the oppurtunity of playing for some hometown fans. The Clips don't see either Jamario Moon or Ryan Gomes as their SF of the future and I think the intriguing lineup of: PG Mo Williams, SG Eric Gordon, SF Tayshaun Prince, PF Blake Griffin, C Chris Kaman/DeAndre Jordan, is going to be too good for Prince to pass up. The long versatile player is going to have a homecoming comprable to Kanye (is it blasphemous to have NWA and Kanye West in the same article blurb?). If prince heads back to LA, look for the Clips to be playoff contenders next season, you heard it here first.

Court Adjourned.