Monthly Archives: November 2009

Breaking News: Allen Iverson is retiring

Originally, I was going to be writing a piece about the Atlanta Hawks, and how they were surprising everyone by sitting atop of the Eastern Conference. Then it happened. Allen Iverson has announced that he is retiring from the NBA after 13 seasons. I have mentioned A.I in a number of previous posts, and I am a big fan of the 6′ guard, all the way back to his days in Philadelphia. I just think it’s a shame it had to end this way, with Iverson essentially ostracised from the league, unable to find a club after walking out on Memphis over a week ago.
Iverson has released this statement today:
I would like to announce my plans to retire from the National Basketball Association. I always thought that when I left the game, it would be because I couldn’t help my team the way that I was accustomed to. However, that is not the case.
I still have tremendous love for the game, the desire to play, and a whole lot left in my tank. I feel strongly that I can still compete at the highest level.
Stepping away from the game will allow me to spend quality time with my wife and kids. This is a reward that far exceeds anything that I’ve ever achieved on the basketball court. I have prayed for this day and I see it as my greatest gift.
I want to thank the people of Reebok International Ltd., for always allowing me to be me and for supporting me my whole career through all the ups and downs. I have enjoyed 13 wonderful seasons in the NBA, and I am grateful.
I want to first acknowledge my fans everywhere, who have been with me throughout my entire career. Without you, there would be no me. You should all know that I appreciate your support from the bottom of my heart. Thank you!
To Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Charles Barkley and Larry Bird, you guys gave me the vision to play the game that will be forever in my heart.
To my Mom, who encouraged and inspired me to play every day, and to all of my family and friends who stood by me from the beginning. Thank you!
To my high school coach, Michael Bailey, Coach John Thompson at Georgetown University, Coach Larry Brown and to all of my other coaches, teammates, administrators, owners and staff who’ve been a part of my career, Thank you as well!
I’d like to give a special thanks to the people of Memphis. I never played a home game for your beloved Grizzlies, but I want you to know how much I appreciate the opportunity given me by a great owner in Michael Heisley, and the support of the city. I wish the Memphis Grizzlies’ organization all of the success that the game has to offer.
And finally, to the city of Philadelphia: I have wonderful memories of my days in a Sixers’ uniform. To Philly fans, thank you. Your voice will always be music to my ears.
God Bless all of you,
After clearing waivers with Memphis last week, Iverson was rumoured to be signing with the New York Knicks. However, even with a dismal showing so far this season, the Knicks were reluctant to sign A.I, even at the veteran’s minumum. Since his disastrous spell in Detroit last season, irreprebable damage has been done to Iverson’s reputation: which was underlined by a lack of interest in Iverson this summer. And then add the mess that was Iverson’s short-lived stint in Memphis: 3 games, 3 losses, constant moaning about coming off the bench, and then Iverson leaving the team for “personal reasons” and never returning.
That’s the reason why teams don’t want A.I. His attitude. It’s not about his talent, he still has what it takes to make a difference for a team. It’s a complete unwillingness to come off the bench. That is why contending teams like the Lakers, Cavs and the Magic want nothing to do with the former MVP and four-time scoring champ – who could play a part coming off the bench and win a ring. Even teams like the Nets and the Knicks, who could undoubtedly use some of Iverson’s scoring talent, would not take the risk after the Memphis debacle. Even Philadelphia, where Iverson had the best years of his career and a team that has no point guard and is struggling for results, don’t want him back.
Whatever you may think of Iverson, this is a sad end to a glittering career. A sure-fire Hall of Famer and perhaps the best little man in the league, arguably the toughest and best pound-for pound player ever deserves better. Maybe he will do a Michael Jordan and return this or next season, and accept a smaller role on a contending team so that he can end his career the right way. Whatever happens, this is a sad day for basketball…
UPDATE: Allen Iverson is returning to Philadelphia. A.I has signed a one year, non-guaranteed deal with the 76ers for the veteran’s minimum. The Sixers have signed their former franchise player as cover for the injured Lou Williams, who is out for up to 8 weeks with a broken jaw.

All-Star ballots are announced – My predictions

We are now at the three week mark into the season, with each team playing around ten games each. It may be too early to predict who will be victorious come June time, but we do know a few things. Phoenix and Houston are two early suprise packages, with the Suns run and gun offense that worked so well under Mike D’Antoni back and has placed them top of the West with a 9-2 record. Steve Nash has also got some MVP talk, and Amar’e Stoudemire is back in fine form following an indifferent season last year. The Rockets (6-4) are without Yao and T-Mac but players like Aaron Brooks and Trevor Ariza are surprising a few people. At the weekend, Bucks rookie Brandon Jennings exploded for a 55-point game against the Warriors, the fifth highest of all-time for rookies and putting him as the front runner for the Rookie of the Year award. Jennings (25.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 5.1 apg) is leading a Bucks team without Michael Redd to a 5-2 record and making GM’s in New York, Memphis and Minnesota agitated after passing up on a player of Jennings’ talent in this year’s draft.

Last week, the ballots for next February’s All-Star game in Dallas were released. 120 players, 2 teams, 12 spots per team. Here are my predictions for who is going to be an All-Star in February and the reasons why.

Western Conference:

Amar’e Stoudemire, C, Suns (19.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg)

Tim Duncan, PF, Spurs (15.8 ppg, 11.5 rpg)

Carmelo Anthony, SF, Nuggets (29.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg)

Kobe Bryant, SG, Lakers (30.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg)

Chris Paul, PG, Hornets (23.8 ppg, 9.2 apg)

Pau Gasol, PF, Lakers (Injured)

Dirk Nowitzki, PF, Mavericks (25.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg)

Kevin Durant, SF, Thunder (28.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg)

Brandon Roy, SG, Blazers (20.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 5.2 apg)

Tony Parker, PG, Spurs (15.2 ppg, 4.2 apg)

Deron Williams, PG, Jazz (20.4 ppg, 9.9 apg)

Steve Nash, PG, Suns (17.6 ppg, 11.5 apg)

The likes of Kobe, CP3, Pau and Dirk are a cert for the ASG. Melo is in fine form and gathering some MVP talk, and Amar’e and Nash are leading the Suns to an impressive record since the high-octane offense has been resurrected in Phoenix. Tim Duncan has still got it, and will be in Dallas. Durant is the next big thing and will have a breakout year this season, Brandon Roy will be in Dallas again and Tony Parker have a good season with the Spurs. The only real question mark was Deron Williams. Yes, he deserves it, having put up All-Star numbers for the last few years. It just means I had to leave Chauncey Billups out of the game. “Mr Big Shot” will lead Denver to the playoffs again and will have a good season, but Billups is getting older and I think Deron deserves his chance. Also, Andrew Bynum was left out. This is Bynum’s best chance to make the ASG as Yao Ming is injured, but I just can’t see him being picked over the likes of Pau, Dirk and Amar’e for the game. David West was left out because I think the Hornets will really struggle this year, and so far he has been terrible. Also, Allen Iverson doesn’t make the cut, as he has left Memphis for “personal reasons” indefinetly and may not return.

Eastern Conference:
Dwight Howard, C, Magic (19.2ppg, 11.5 rbs)

Kevin Garnett, PF, Celtics (13.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg)

Lebron James, SF, Cavs (27.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 7.6 apg)

Dwayne Wade, SG, Heat (29.7 ppg)

Rajon Rondo, PG, Celtics (10.3 ppg, 8.7 apg)
Shaquille O’Neal, C, Cavs (11.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg)

Chris Bosh, PF, Raptors (27.7 ppg, 11.6 rpg)

Paul Pierce, SF, Celtics (18.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.1 apg)

Danny Granger, SF, Pacers (24.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg)

Joe Johnson, SG, Hawks (21.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 4.4 apg)

Gilbert Arenas, PG, Wizards (23.4 ppg, 6.3 apg)

Derrick Rose, PG, Bulls (13.8 ppg, 5.3 apg)

Lebron, Wade, KG, Dwight and Pierce and Bosh are certs for the game, Joe Johnson should return, as should Danny Granger. The East is hard to predict because of a lack of quality depth compared to the West – I think Shaq will be chosen as a reserve centre, even though his numbers are down, he’s still popular enough to be chosen. Who else apart from Howard could be chosen over Shaq? Bargnani, Chandler, Horford, Jermaine O’Neal? I don’t think any of the reserves from last year’s ASG will return – Jameer Nelson, Mo Williams are not good enough, Rashard Lewis is banned for ten games and will see Vince Carter take away some of his shots. I like Devin Harris but he is currently injured and playing on a Nets team that is 0-10.

Which leaves the point guards – I have chosen Rondo as the starter and Gilbert Arenas and Derrick Rose. Rondo is an all-round triple double threat each night (10.3 ppg, 8.7 apg, 2.7 spg)and is chosen because of the weak class of guards in the East. Ray Allen could have been chosen but you can’t have 4 players from the Celtics. After KG and Pierce, it is between Ray and Rondo, plus at 34, Ray is not getting any younger. The Celtics have the best defense in the league and Rondo is a key player for them. So unless, someone like Vince Carter or Ben Gordon can break through and move Wade to point guard for the ASG, I’m going with Rondo.

With the reserves, even though the Wizards are struggling, Agent Zero is averaging 25 ppg and once Jamison returns, they will be stronger. Rose is the next big thing and a future superstar and is putting up solid numbers.

There are my predictions. We will see how they turn out and who will be making the trip to Dallas in February 2010 and who will be watching the game from their sofas.

Byron Scott becomes first casualty of the season, fired by Hornets

The New Orleans Hornets have fired head coach Byron Scott after the team’s disappointing start to the season, where they slumped to 3-6 after losing to the Suns last night. Hornets GM Jeff Bower will take over coaching duties in place of Scott.

Scott led the Hornets to 2nd place in the West in 2008, with a 56-26 record, picking up the Coach of the Year award in the process. But injuries took their toll on the team last year, with the Hornets losing in the first round of the playoffs to Denver, which included a 58-point loss in game 4 of the series.

We are only two weeks into the season, but the warning signs date all the way back to last season. Injuries to key players highlighted a lack of depth in the squad, with reserves Hilton Armstrong and Sean Marks playing key minutes in games. In the offseason, center Tyson Chandlers was traded to Charlotte for Emeka Okafor, a move that annoyed Chris Paul but Okafor is more of an offensive threat than Chandler. It didn’t make sense though from a financial standpoint, the Hornets are supposedly looking to cut payroll, trading the likes of Rasual Butler to the Clippers for basically nothing, but took on Okafor’s large contract ($63 million over 5 years), which is a big gamble. Sure, Okafor is virtually a double-double machine, but Chandler’s contract would have came off the books next year.

And then there’s this season. The Hornets have looked horrible defensively, losing by more than 10 points in five of their six losses. Mo Peterson at shooting guard looks terrible, as does Julian Wright at small forward. James Posey has done nothing since he joined from Boston (don’t get me started on the $25 million over 4 years for a reserve – doesn’t matter if he has two rings), and Peja is one of the most overpaid players in the league ($13.3 million a year) for a man who seems to have lost his scoring touch and can never stay healthy. Even David West’s numbers are down. The only player who is performing well is Chris Paul. CP3 is carrying the team by himself and his numbers (26.1 ppg, 9.3 apg, 1.56 spg) are career-highs. But not even CP3 can carry the team by himself. It seems like he doesn’t trust his teammates anymore – and the only time New Orleans can click on offense is when CP3 is orchestrating it.

Scott’s sacking can only be a good thing. This team was struggling and hopefully Bowen can inject some fresh life into the franchise and get the role players and the starters to contribute and not just rely on Chris Paul. And with the competition in the West being even stronger this season (what with teams like the Suns, Rockets and the Thunder over-performing), then the Hornets need to step it up to make the playoffs. Dwayne Wade showed last season that it is possible for one man to get a team to the playoffs, but that was in a weaker Eastern Conference – but CP3 is going to need the likes of West, Peja and Okafor to help him out to even get anywhere near the dizzy heights of two years ago.

What is going wrong with the Cavs?

I’m going to borrow this quote from Dime’s “Smack” column to start – “With 4.3 seconds left in the fourth and Chicago up by one, LeBron of course got the ball at the top of the key to do whatever he wanted against Luol Deng. If it’s Paul Pierce in that situation, you know the pull-up jumper is likely coming, or maybe he drives and finds Ray Allen for a better look. Kobe is even more unpredictable; he might attack the basket, launch a three, or anything in between. B-Roy, Carmelo, D-Wade, Dirk — they’ve all got an arsenal of multiple reliable weapons. So does LeBron, but too often it seems he’s determined to do what he did Thursday: Put his head down and force his way into the lane even if he doesn’t have a shot, putting himself in position to need a bail-out call by the refs. This time the zebras didn’t cooperate. ‘Bron went left and Deng stayed glued to his hip, then Joakim Noah came over for the help D. LeBron didn’t even get a shot off, fumbling the ball out of bounds and hoping for a foul that never came.”

That has basically summed up the first week of the Cavs season so far. Chicago got the win and the Cavs suffered their third loss of the season. After losing their first two games to the Celtics and the Raptors, and then trouncing perennial doormats like the T’Wolves, Knicks and the Bobcats. Currently the Cavaliers have a 4-3 record and sit seventh in the East.

Obviously it’s too early to write the Cavs off. But the Cavs had one mission this season: as Shaq put it, “to win a ring for the King”. It doesn’t matter what they do in the regular season, they want to win a championship. Shaq was acquired from Phoenix, Anthony Parker, Leon Powe and Jamario Moon also made the move to Ohio. But just before the start of the season, starter Delonte West goes and gets himself for weapons and drugs possession. This, combined with the rumours of depression and spiralling personal problems in Delonte’s life, is a big problem for the Cavs. West is back in the team, but the Cavs are going to need him at his best if they are going to compete with a stronger Celtics and Magic for the Eastern Conference.

So what is going wrong with the Cavs? Cleveland has always been known for its excellent defense, but that has suffered big time with the introduction of Shaq. The big man has never played great defense, and regularly suffers on the pick and roll. Also, you have to find room to acclimate Shaq into your offense, which is a hard thing to do, as Shaq is going to need to get his shots in order to keep him happy.

It’s not just defense that is the problem though. Much of Cleveland’s offense seems it is just a bunch of players standing around watching Lebron. Yes, Lebron is the best player in the league, but he can’t take on five guys by himself and do everything, he needs his teammates to contribute. Mo Williams (15.7 ppg, 4apg) and Shaq (11ppg, 7.4 rpg) need to step up if the Cavs are going to emulate last season’s record in the league.

I think the Cavs are going to struggle this year. Yes, they will make the playoffs and Lebron is going to be a beast on the offensive and defensive end as per usual, but King James can’t win a ring on his own. And with the Celtics dominating with the return of Kevin Garnett, I can see the Cavs coming unstuck come the time the playoffs roll around in April. Unless Lebron can get some help and his teammates can pull their weight, the Cavs are in trouble.

Iverson looks to have ruined his reputation – once and for all…

Allen Iverson has always been shrouded by controversy… the practice quotes, scrapes with the law, but his talent on the floor could always make those questions go away. A 10-time All-Star, former NBA MVP and multiple scoring champion, Iverson is perhaps the best little man in the history of the game. But a dreadful first week in Memphis and constant moaning about playing time has led to A.I taking an “indefinite” leave of absence due to personal problems.

According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Iverson is contemplating retirement if he doesn’t rejoin the Grizzlies. Annoyed with playing a reserve role and coming off the bench, A.I played 17 minutes in his debut last week against the Kings, backing up starters Mike Conley and OJ Mayo. Immediately after the game, he told the press he didn’t want to be a reserve. “I had no problems with the hamstring. I had a problem with my butt sitting on that bench for so long”, says Iverson.

“I’m not a bench player,” Iverson continued. I’m not a sixth man. Look at my resume and that’ll show I’m not a sixth man. I don’t think it has anything to do with me being selfish. It’s just who I am. I don’t want to change what gave me all the success that I’ve had since I’ve been in this league. I’m not a sixth man. And that’s that.”

Not a good start if you want to prove your doubters wrong, after an offseason where most teams wanted nothing to do with A.I. After a hamstring injury that sidelined him for the entire pre-season, Iverson could not expect to start straight away. Yes, he has been a great player in the league, but the current perception is that Iverson is a shadow of his former self on the court and a big problem off it. Simply said, he should not have been running his mouth off after just one game.

Should Iverson be starting for the Grizzlies over Mike Conley? Of course he should. But he should not be causing problems from the start of his career in Memphis. When he signed for the Grizzlies, people were split on what he would do for the team. Bought just to sell tickets? That was a theory bounded around. Best case scenario was Iverson would regain his form and lead a team with a promising young core of Mayo, Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley to make a run at the playoffs. And then he could sign with a contender the next year and go for that elusive championship ring to fill that hole in his resume. Worst case scenario is what is happening now: Iverson would moan about playing time about cause a rift in the locker room. If only A.I could have just got on with proving the critics wrong, and then no doubt he would be starting in a few weeks.

When questioned about his relationship with head coach Lionel Hollins, Iverson said, “we have never talked to each other. That’s probably why it’s at this point right now. We’ve just never had a conversation, so it’s probably going to always be hard for me and him to see eye-to-eye, because we’ve never even talked to each other. Obviously that’s what you do if you’re trying to accomplish the same goal.”Not that positive if you want to make a good impression then with your new team.

No team in the NBA is going to want to trade for A.I now. Iverson’s constant moaning about being a reserve has led to probably an inevitable and destructive end with the Grizzlies. The scenario where Iverson led a young Memphis team to the playoffs and then next year to bigger and better things look to be doomed already. If and when Iverson returns to the Grizzlies, hopefully he can be content with being a reserve for a few weeks and let his performances on the court do the talking. If not, it will be a sad end to a career that, frankly, deserved a much better way to go out.

The Nuggets are unbeaten, and it’s all because of Melo

The NBA season is finally underway, with the first week of games already completed. It won’t tell us who will be victorious come June time, but it has confirmed some things: the Nets, Bobcats and the Kings will stink. The Cavs (2-2 at the time of writing) may take a while to integrate Shaq into their offense and Delonte West is going to need to overcome his personal demons in order for them to eclipse their last season exploits, where they finished with the NBA’s best record. The Celtics and Magic have dominated, both are still undefeated, and the return of KG in Boston have made the Celtics favourites to return to the Finals if they can stay healthy.

The one surprising factor so far is the form of Carmelo Anthony. Building on his impressive form in the playoffs last year, Melo has averaged 37.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists so far this season, scoring 30 points against Utah, 41 points against the Blazers and overshadowing OJ Mayo’s career night by lighting the Grizzlies up for 42 points. So far, the Nuggets are undefeated and if Melo can continue this form, he could lead the league in scoring this year as well as competing with fellow 2003 draftees Lebron and D-Wade for the MVP race.

Ever since Chauncey Billups arrived in the Mile High city from Detroit last November and brought his vast playoff experience and fondness for defense to a Denver team that hadn’t advanced past the first round since 1994, Melo has improved vastly. He is arguably the most complete scorer in the NBA and now he is delivering on all that potential and elevated himself to “superstar” status in the NBA, joining fellow draftees Lebron, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in the upper echelon of the league.

Gone are the days where Melo and Allen Iverson took turns to score 30 points in a game. This is a new Carmelo Anthony. One who has had a taste of playoff experience and is determined to lead Denver to the top of the West again and exact revenge on the Lakers. The most complete scorer in the NBA is going to light it up this year – Denver might not have the tools to compete with the Lakers and Spurs out West or the Big Three in the East, but Melo will lead the NBA in scoring, and prove his doubters wrong.