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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.