Category Archives: LA Lakers

What should Orlando do about Dwight Howard?

What do you do when your franchise player has one year left on his deal and there is uncertainty surrounding whether he will sign a new deal or test the market in free agency. Would you trade him or look for a trade?

That’s the dilemma for the Orlando Magic and their franchise center Dwight Howard. Now I know the rumours are going to be continuing for months about the “will-he, won’t he go” situation, but I thought I might as well put my opinions out there.

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that Howard has not agreed to sign an extension with the Magic, despite what was reported last week and Dwight told reporters:

“There’s no truth to that. The biggest thing right now is everybody understands I have one more year left. I’m keeping my options open, but there’s no other place I’d rather be than Orlando. I want them to understand that.

“But, at the same time, I do want to win, make sure everything is in line — our team, just everything from top to bottom — and everybody is reaching for a championship.”

Howard is the best center in the NBA and would undoubtedly make any team better, and there isn’t any team who wouldn’t want him. What I can see is that this saga will drag out until next year and next summer when Howard becomes a free agent, sees what the situation is like in Orlando and then makes a decision.

The part about winning a championship is something every player wants, but let’s face it, the Magic are not winning a title next year, and unless they can pull off some amazing trades, the next few years. Orlando are committed to huge salaries for the next few years, which severely limits the flexibility to make trades. They traded for Hedo Turkoglu, who’s got about $30m and 3 years left on his contract, and swapped a bad contract in Rashard Lewis for an even worse one in Gilbert Arenas, who still has about $60m owed for the next few years. If Hedo and Arenas rediscover their old form, the Magic could make some noise in the playoffs (I’m not saying win anything), and at least get past the first round, which is of course better than last year.

After that, you’ve got the likes of JJ Redick, Chris Duhon, Brandon Bass and Quentin Richardson, all with money owed and years left on their contracts – hardly the basis for a championship team. And with the Heat and Bulls better in the East (we’ll see what the Knicks do in the summer), Orlando won’t be competing for a title in the near future.

That’s the problem for the Magic though – they are in a Catch 22 situation. Trade Howard now and get worse, or wait for a year and then lose him for nothing, and Cleveland knows how that turned out. What I think will happen is they will wait till the February deadline, if Dwight hasn’t signed an extension by then, trade him and get something back in return, a la the Carmelo Anthony trade from Denver to New York in February.

I’m not blessed with the gift of foresight, but let’s have a look at some possible destinations for Howard if he does want out of Orlando. Obviously cap situations can change (with the new CBA) and a lot can happen in a year. Here’s a few ideas if Howard wants to win a ring (I’m ruling teams like Miami out, as there’s no way they can afford to turn the Big 3 of Lebron, Wade and Bosh into a Big 4, as Howard’s going to get max money):

Lakers:

Now I know Dwight has said he doesn’t want to follow in Shaq’s footsteps and leave Orlando for LA. And the only way the Lakers are going to be able to get Howard is via trade, as they have the huge contracts of Kobe and Gasol on the books. And that requires Andrew Bynum being traded (I know the Lakers have declared him “untouchable”, but for Dwight, you would trade him). A Howard-Gasol-Kobe trio would be deadly.

Bulls:

Again, this would have to be a trade, as Chicago owe big money to Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joachim Noah over the next few years, and will have to pay max-money to Derrick Rose. But a Noah-Howard trade wouldn’t be that bad for Orlando, as Noah is a defensive force and one of the top centers in the league (unless Chicago can somehow persuade Orlando to take on Boozer’s contract).

Knicks:

Theoretically, the Knicks can afford to give Howard max-money next summer, and a trio of Howard-Anthony-Stoudemire would be exciting. But that’s all the Knicks would be able to afford, and with a thin roster, would have no quality at the guard spots. An interesting proposal, and you are bound to hear constant Howard to NY rumours until he makes up his mind, but wouldn’t it be better for New York to have a more well-rounded team with a quality PG and a couple of quality defensive wings in there?

Nets:

The Nets have the cash and an elite PG in Deron Williams. That’s it though, as they are rebuilding, have traded away their last lottery pick in Derrick Favors, and given this year’s pick (#3) to Utah. They would be able to give Howard max money and if they can convince Williams to stay, New Jersey is appealing, especially with the upcoming move to Brooklyn.

What do you think? Do you think Howard will stay or go?

 

After destroying the Lakers, can Dallas conquer their playoff demons and win it all?

No one expected it. The Dallas Mavericks have proved everyone wrong and swept the defending champs, making a mockery of the Lakers. Can they now go on and win their first NBA title?

Dirk and co. Obliterated the Lakers, winning the game by a staggering 40 points yesterday, with a record-breaking 20 3-pointers (including 9 from Jason Terry). All the Lakers could do was look on in amazement, unable to put up a fight and counter. All they could do is take their frustrations out on poor JJ Barea.

The Lakers, with their formidable front line of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, had no answer for the Dallas Mavericks. The main reason: the form of Dirk Nowitzki. None of the Lakers big men could guard Dirk and it showed, as the Mavs dominated the series. Throw in Tyson Chandler’s presence in the paint and you have an excellent frontcourt for the Mavs.

And that’s the thing with the Mavs – it’s their incredible strength in depth. As well as Dirk, you’ve got the age-defying Jason Kidd setting everyone up, the firepower of JJ Barea and Jason Terry off the bench, the defence of Shawn Marion and the shooting of Peja.

That’s why I think the Mavs can finally win a title, which they deserve after a decade of 50-win seasons with Dirk. Think about it, the Lakers and the Spurs are out, and the Mavs will have to face the Thunder or the Grizzlies in the final, which I think they can win. Yes, the Grizzlies have surprised everyone with the amazing play of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, but I don’t think they have an answer for Dirk.

And that’s the X Factor: Dirk. His detractors moan that he’s soft and isn’t clutch, but Dirk is one of the most clutch players in the league and if he and his supporting cast show up, they can beat anyone on their day.

I’m predicting a rematch of the 2006 Finals and can see Miami coming out of the East. Lebron and Wade will get their points, but if Dirk, Chandler and Brendan Haywood can boss and bully Chris Bosh and render him ineffective, then Dallas have a chance to avenge the loss five years ago.

Obviously this is speculating a bit, as the Mavs have to progress in the next round, but they have shown their true colours and that they have what it takes to beat the best.

What do you think? What are the Mavs chances of winning an NBA title?

Are the Thunder (and Kevin Durant) in danger of becoming overrated?

The Oklahoma City Thunder are on the way up, there’s no doubt about that. Fresh from a 50 win season and a trip to the playoffs, where they ran eventual champions Los Angeles Lakers close before succumbing in 6 games, expectations have increased considerably. Kevin Durant has come off a summer as the star of Team USA’s run to a gold medal and Russell Westbrook could be set for a breakout season as an All-Star, but how far can this Thunder team go this season?

Let’s start with Durant. Last year’s scoring champ is a sensational player that can score from anywhere and after Kobe retires, could very well take up the crown of the NBA’s best player. But claims that he will run away with the MVP and is the best small forward in the NBA (ahead of Lebron) are completely exaggerated. For the record, I think Durant will win the MVP award this season but I don’t think he’s better than Lebron at the moment, or even Melo at the moment (at least not offensively, as he lacks the post game of Anthony).

Then there’s the Thunder. Durant is a superstar, Westbrook in my opinion, can be an All-Star this season, and then you have a set of one-dimensional role players in Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka and Nenad Kristic, with young players like James Harden, Cole Aldrich and Eric Maynor yet to show their full potential. The problem though for OKC is their frontcourt, which has been well documented as a problem area. They just don’t have the size that the Lakers, Blazers or Mavs and lack the experience of a Spurs. Nenad Kristic, Cole Aldrich and Jeff Green, no matter how you put it, don’t match up to the likes of Dirk, Tim Duncan and Gasol and the various other 7-footers in the West.

I do like the Thunder and believe in a few years, when Durant begins to hit his peak, that they could take over the Lakers when Kobe begins to decline. But reports that the Thunder will be the second seed in the West automatically and get to the Western Conference finals are exaggerated, especially as they lack the playoff experience of a team like the Spurs.

Where will Amazing happen? The playoffs are-a-coming – Western Conference previews

We are now approaching the end of the regular season, with each team having about 5 games left to play at the time of writing. In the West, the playoff spots are all sewn up: with the Lakers, Nuggets, Mavs, Jazz, Suns, Thunder, Spurs and Blazers all set for a trip to the postseason. Obviously, the seedings are all set to change, mainly because four teams (Dallas, Denver, Phoenix and Utah) are all tied for the second spot in the West.

I am going to provide my predictions in the Western Conference playoffs, how far each team can go and their key players. The previews for the Eastern Conference will follow later this week.

1) Los Angeles Lakers (55-22)

The Lakers have sewn up the first seed out West but the defending champs are struggling, losing to the Spurs and the Thunder this week. Their are queries about the quality of their bench, Derek Fisher has been a major problem both on offense and defence this season and you cannot predict which Ron Artest will show up for the playoffs. The Lakers will need Kobe and Gasol at their best to repeat, as well as the likes of Odom and Bynum to step up.

Key man: Kobe Bryant – was it really going to be anyone else?

Prediction: I’m still going to back the Lakers to get out of the West, but not easily.

2) Dallas Mavericks (50-27)

The Mavs have got a great chance of challenging the Lakers for supremacy out West. Dirk is great, they added an underrated piece in Brendan Haywood at the trade deadline and Caron Butler can provide some scoring if Dirk is having an off-night. But can they beat the Lakers?

Key Man: Dirk Nowitzki – no other seven-footer in the NBA can shoot like Dirk, and his clutch shooting is the key for the Mavs.

Prediction: Second round.

3) Denver Nuggets (50-27)

The Nuggets reached the conference finals last year and Carmelo Anthony has continued his fine form this season. Denver have Melo, the clutch shooting of Chauncey Billups and JR Smith can shoot the lights out off the bench. They desperately need the defensive presence Kenyon Martin back though.

Key man: Carmelo Anthony – the Nuggets need Melo at his very best if they want to get out of the West.

Prediction: Conference finals

4) Utah Jazz (50-27)

At times this season, the Jazz have been exceptional, going on a something like a 12 game win streak this year and playing some excellent basketball. Carlos Boozer has been in fine form for the Jazz this year and Utah need him and Deron Williams to perform at their best to get out of the first round. Andrei Kirilenko is a key man for the Jazz, if he does well, the team does well.

Key man: Deron Williams – the point guard is one of the best in the league and his scoring and assists are vital to what the Jazz do.

Prediction: Second round

5) Phoenix Suns (50-27)

The Suns have surprised everyone this season, as many expected them to be lottery-bound. Steve Nash has been at his mercurial best and Amar’e Stoudemire has been a beast recently. The main problem for Phoenix though, is defence. Nash and Amar’e in particular don’t shine on the defensive end and against the better teams, they will get found out.

Key man: Steve Nash – the point guard’s ability to set up his teammates and make the killer pass is key for the Suns hopes in the playoffs.

Prediction: It all depends on matchups, but I think a first round exit is on the cards.

6) Oklahoma City Thunder (48-28)

The Thunder have been a revelation this season, led by their third-year superstar Kevin Durant. Durant has been in excellent form this season, ranking second in the league in scoring at 27.9 ppg, just behind Lebron James. Russell Westbrook has continued to develop into a promising point guard and rookies like Serge Ibaka have impressed. The only problem for the Thunder is that this is the first trip to the playoffs for this team, so they lack the experience that other team’s possess.

Key Player: Kevin Durant – KD is now one of the best player’s in the NBA but will find it  difficult in the playoffs as defences step up and double team him.

Prediction: First round exit.

7) San Antonio Spurs (47-29)

The Spurs are unbelievably unpredictable and you don’t know which team will show up. They have the playoff experience and Tim Duncan will continue to perform at a high level. It’s his teammates that are the worry – Manu Ginobli’s ankles are a concern, Tony Parker is injured and doubtful for the playoffs and the Richard Jefferson trade has been a disaster. If they get a favourable first round matchup, then they could progress, but with the Spurs this season, you never know..

Key Player: Manu Ginobli – Duncan is guaranteed to try hard but Manu is the key. If he can stay healthy, his clutch scoring is a massive asset to the Spurs.

Prediction: I’m going to say a first round exit like last year, but I’m not sure. If they perform to their best, the Spurs could reach the conference finals.

8) Portland Trailblazers (47-30)

And finally we come to Portland. Injuries have hit them hard – with Greg Oden and Joel Pryzbilla ruled out for the season early on. Marcus Camby has partially filled that gap in terms of rebounding but their frontcourt is definitely a worry. Brandon Roy is dangerous and will put up big numbers, but it looks like Portland will be facing the Lakers in the first round.

Key man: Brandon Roy – Portland’s best player will need to be at his best if the Blazers want to progress, and his pick and pop with LaMarcus Aldridge is the best in the league.

Prediction: First round exit

Stay tuned for the Eastern Conference previews, they will be following soon.

Is Kobe the best Laker ever?

In last night’s loss to the Grizzlies, Kobe Bryant became the all-time leading scorer for the Los Angeles Lakers, surpassing Jerry West in the third quarter. His 25,208 career points ranks 14th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. After the game, Kobe said:

“It’s a great honor, to say the least, to be with all the great players and the rich tradition that we have.

It’s a great accomplishment. (Jerry West) taight me so much when I was 17 years old. He taught me a lot about the game, and the rules, and on and on. It’s me passing him in the record books, but I feel like it’s us. It’s still Magic (Johnson). It’s still all of the other great players.”

He is without doubt one of the game’s greats, but where does Kobe rank amongst the Lakers list of all time players? He has excelled in LA since entering the league in 1996, winning four championships and one MVP in that time, and Kobe has the advantage over players like Shaq and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as he has spent all of his career with the Lakers, and was drafted out of high school, allowing him to break franchise milestones and get himself into the record books. He is also one of the most clutch players ever, and is arguably the most clutch player at the moment in the NBA, alongside Paul Pierce and Dwayne Wade. Kobe also holds the second highest points total in a game, dropping an astonishing 81 points on the Raptors in 2006. That said: some Laker fans just don’t like Kobe and would prefer to place him beneath the likes of Magic, Kareem, Elgin, West, Wilt and Shaq.

Here are the stats: Kobe ranks No. 1 in total points and fourth in scoring average (25.3 ppg) among Lakers, third in field goals made, first in threes made, and second in free throws made. Bryant is third in total assists and 10th in rebounds, second in steals and seventh in blocks. He has won one ring less than Kareem and Magic, but has plenty of time to win more rings, and the Lakers are favourites to repeat this year.

Here are my choices for the greatest Lakers of all-time:

5) Elgin Baylor

Played for Lakers: 1958-1971. Drafted: 1st pick, 1958.

Points: 23, 149 Rebounds: 11,463

Assists: 3,650

Awards: 11 x All-Star, Rookie of the Year 1959

An excellent shooter, the 6’5’ forward was known for his hanging jump shots, as well as being a gifter rebounder and passer. Jerry West described Baylor as, “one of the most spectacular shooters the game has ever known, I hear people talking about forwards today and I haven’t seen many that can compare with him.”

4) Jerry West

Played for Lakers: 1960-1974. Drafted: 2nd pick, 1960.

Points: 25,192 Rebounds: 5,366

Assists: 6,238

Awards: 14 x All-Star, 1 x MVP (1972), Finals MVP (1969), 1x NBA champion (1972)

A combo guard excellent both on offense and defence, West was known as “Mr Clutch”, for his exceptional ability in the clutch. One of the best ball-hawks, man to man defenders and shot blockers among guards, West remains the only player to win a Finals MVP as a member of the losing team.

3) Kobe Bryant

This is where I believe Kobe fits in. If he can win a few more rings for LA and carry on producing at the same level for at least the next five years, he could end up as number 1 on this list.

2) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Played for Lakers: 1975-1989. Joined: from Milwaukee Bucks, 1975

Points: 38,387 Rebounds: 17,440

Blocks: 3,189

Awards: 19x All-Star, 6 x MVP, 2 x Finals MVP, 6 x NBA champion

The 7’2’ center is the NBA’s highest points scorer ever and is known for his famous “skyhook” shot, which was basically unblockable. An unstoppable threat, he was a key player in the Lakers’ “Showtime” era along with Magic Johnson.

1) Magic Johnson

Played for Lakers: 1979-1996 Drafted: 1st pick, 1979

Points: 17,707 Rebounds: 6,559

Assists: 10,141

Awards: 12 x All-Star, 3 x MVP, 3 x Finals MVP, 5 x NBA champion

It had to be Magic here. Johnson was “Showtime”: a fast-paced style of basketball described as a mix of “no-look passes off the fastbreak, pin-point alley-oops from halfcourt, spinning feeds and overhand bullets under the basket through triple teams.” The NBA’s all time leader for assists, Magic combined the size of a power forward (at 6’9’), the one-on-one skills of a swingman, and the ball handling talent of a guard, making him one of the most dangerous triple-doube threats of all time; his 138 triple-double games are second only to Oscar Robertson’s 181. He even played at center in Game 6 of the 1980 Finals, deputising for the injured Kareem and scoring 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals to win his first NBA championship.

Honourable mentions: Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, James Worthy, Gail Goodrich, Adam Morrison (only joking!)