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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:

Starters:
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)

Reserves:
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:
Starters:
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)
Reserves:
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.

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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.

My Predictions for the new NBA season

With barely two weeks left till the new season tips off and all of the big name free agents snapped up, it’s time to predict what’s going to happen in 09/10. It was an offseason where the elite teams got better and the weaker teams got worse off. The Lakers got Ron Artest, Shaq landed in Cleveland, Vince Carter swapped New Jersey for Orlando and the Spurs acquired Richard Jefferson. The Raptors and Wizards improved their rosters in a bid to return to the playoffs, whilst lottery teams like the Bucks, the Nets and the Suns dumped salary in a bid to stay under the luxury tax. With that in mind, here are my predictions for the 09/10 season:

Team to win a ring:
LA Lakers:

The Lakers strolled to victory in the finals against the Magic in June and made it a priority to re-sign all of their free agents (Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza and Shannon Brown). Odom and Brown return, but Ariza left to sign with Houston. In Ariza’s place, the Lakers signed defensive specialist Ron Artest from the Rockets, in what is an upgrade at small forward. If Artest can perform like he did last year for Houston and Andrew Bynum can fulfil some of that potential which could see him become an All-Star center, the Lakers are the team to beat in the NBA this season. With Kobe and Pau Gasol as stars of the team, the Lakers are even stronger than last season.
DARK HORSE – San Antonio Spurs:

Tim Duncan only has about 2 more years before his skills start to decline, so the Spurs need to make a run for it while they still can. If Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker can stay healthy and Richard Jefferson can settle in well, the Spurs can win their fifth championship in the Duncan/Poppovich era.

MVP – Lebron James

I can see Lebron winning a second consecutive MVP award. His numbers across the board will continue to improve and I can see him becoming even more of a defensive presence with his high-profile blocks and King James could even scoop the DPOY award. I don’t think the Cavs will be as good as last season, but Lebron will have them hovering near the top of the East.

Dark Horse – Carmelo Anthony

Last season, thanks to the arrival of Chauncey Billups, Melo and Denver were able to get out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. Melo has always been an offensive powerhouse and arguably the most accomplished offensive player at the moment, but his improvement in attitude has translated onto the court. I can see Melo putting up high numbers in scoring, as any night he is capable of going for 50. I still think Lebron and Kobe are the favourites, but Melo could surprise a few people this season.

Rookie of the Year – Blake Griffin

This is Blake Griffin’s award to lose. He was clearly the best player in college last year and should see a lot of playing time on a Clippers team that only really has Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby in the frontcourt. If Griffin can stay healthy and avoid the “Clipper curse” that has affected their franchise players like Elton Brand, Darius Miles and Shaun Livingston, then the Oklahoma forward should have a solid rookie year.

Dark Horse – Tyreke Evans

The 4th pick out of Memphis should see a lot of playing time in a Kings team that is expected to stink this year. Not a pure point guard, he is bigger than a lot of players at that position and is good at driving into the lane and getting into the paint. If he can fit in well with Kevin Martin in the backcourt, I think Evans could be a force in the NBA this year.

Surprise Team: Oklahoma City Thunder

Starting with a 3-27 record last season, the Thunder were the laughing stock of the NBA. They turned it around, winning 23 games and thanks to GM Sam Presti, have one of the most exciting young cores in the league, with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green and rookie James Harden. If Durant improves his numbers like expected and becomes even more of a force in the NBA, expect the Thunder to contend for a playoff spot in the West. With teams like the Rockets and the Hornets getting worse in the offseason, the Thunder might be able to scrape that last playoff spot.

Bulls, Deng victorious as NBA returns to London

A buzzer-beating fadeaway with less than a second on the clock by rookie James Johnson was enough to give the Chicago Bulls a victory over the Utah Jazz at London’s O2 arena tonight.

Chicago ran out 102-101 winners and even though they were missing key starters Derrick Rose and Tyrus Thomas, had British superstar Luol Deng making an appearance in front of his home crowd. Deng, playing only his second game after a six month absence that caused him to miss this summer’s European championships for Team GB, impressed for the Bulls (18pts, 5 assists, 8-12 FG’s), despite sitting out all of the fourth quarter. The Bulls led for most of the game, leading by 7 at halftime, before a superb third quarter from Jazz point guard Deron Williams (16pts, 3 assists) brought Utah back into contention.

Bulls rookie Johnson had an impressive game (18pts, 8 rebs) as well as scoring the buzzer-beating fadeaway over Andrei Kirilenko, as did point guard Jannero Pargo (16pts, 5 assists) for the Bulls, in a game where both sides rested key players for large periods of the game.

Paul Millsap led all scorers for the Jazz (18pts, 6 rebs), and Wayne Matthews (16pts). Carlos Boozer had a woeful game for the Jazz (6pts, 5rebs, 4 fouls) in just 19 minutes, heightening rumours that he may be on the way out of Utah, especially given Paul Millsap’s recent performances and the fact that the Jazz are $14 million over the salary cap.

17,000 fans packed out the O2 arena, and celebrities such as footballers Joe Cole, Jermain Defoe and Rio Ferdinand were in attendance, as was boxer David Haye.

Can the Knicks at last become a relevant franchise, or is another season of mediocrity for the MSG faithful?

When Donnie Walsh took over as President of the New York Knicks, his job was to take his impressive resume of running the Indiana Pacers to transform the fortunes of an ailing franchise. Years of inadequacy and failure had plagued the Isiah Thomas GM era.

Success was not expected overnight, and Walsh convinced Mike D’Antoni to bring his high-octane, 7 seconds or less offence that was so successful in Phoenix to Madison Square Garden. The expensive salaries that contaminated the Knicks payroll were slashed and troublemakers like Zach Randolph, Stephon Marbury and Jamal Crawford were shown the door. Yet still the Knicks failed to make the playoffs, but they did win nine more games than the previous year.

It has been well documented that the Knicks are saving their cap room for the summer of 2010, where the stacked free agent class could include players like LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, Shaq and Dirk Nowitzski. The Knicks are aiming to attract two of these top free agents, in a bid to return to the glory days of the 1970’s, where the Knicks won two NBA titles with the likes of Walt Frazier and Willis Reed.

So far this offseason the Knicks have faced one disappointment after another. Firstly, Golden State dashed their hopes after taking Stephon Curry with the #7 pick in the draft, the Knicks had to make do with Jordan Hill out of Arizona. Then they were unable to convince Jason Kidd to leave Dallas in what could have solved their point guard crisis. Talks with their own free agents David Lee and Nate Robinson have broken down, with both players holding out for more money and long-term deals. What New York needs though is a point guard, someone who can replace the disappointing Chris Duhon and fit in with Mike D’Antoni’s system D’Antoni needs a Steve Nash for his system to work, or at least someone like Nash, a Duhon hasn’t managed to fit the bill so far. A number of players have been linked to NYC this offseason: Jason Williams, Jamaal Tinsley even Steve Francis (???) But to me, there are only two options: Ramon Sessions or Allen Iverson.

Sessions is one of the hottest free agents still left on the market and is one of the D-League’s success stories, having a breakout season for the Bucks last year. A.I came off a nightmare season with Detroit last year, and has been largely ignored by most teams this offseason due to his apparent unwillingness to come off the bench.

So which player is the best fit for the Knicks? Sessions is undoubtedly the player with the better potential and could be their point guard of the future. However, he would require a multi-year deal starting at the mid-level exception, and it would have to be a sizeable amount of money to dissuade the Bucks from matching the offer, as Sessions is a restricted free agent. Iverson, meanwhile, could be signed to a one year deal for the mid-level exception and would have something to prove in NYC. It was only a year ago that A.I was a top 3 scorer in the league, and he could thrive in D’Antoni’s system. If Iverson could perform well for the Knicks, he would be a huge draw for NYC, the city would be A.I-crazy and the franchise would be relevant again. If it worked out, it would allow Iverson to show he has got something left to give and then he could re-sign with the Knicks next year, or another team, on a multi-year deal.

The Knicks need to get one of these players to have a shot at making the playoffs next season – do they go with the one for the future (Sessions) or a temporary option (Iverson) to appease the fans till next summer where LeBron, Bosh, Wade and co. could be gracing MSG. My opinion: I would love to see Iverson with the Knicks. It would be cheaper, if it didn’t work out, Iverson’s contract would come off the books next summer and then the Knicks could go after two free agents. If it did, then New York could re-sign A.I to play alongside LeBron or whoever they can attract to the bright lights of Madison Square Garden.

If the Knicks can re-sign David Lee and Nate Robinson, even if it’s just a one-year qualifying offer, then they could make the playoffs (even if it is scraping the 8th seed). In an Eastern conference that has so far seen the likes of the Cavs, Celtics and Magic get better, and the Wizards and Raptors improve their rosters, the rest have traded some of their best players for cap relief. The 76ers, Nets and the Bucks have worsened, losing the likes of Andre Miller, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson in a bid to save money. You never know, the Knicks might just make the playoffs, Al Harrington, David Lee and Wilson Chandler will continue to put up points, Danilo Gallinari is due to prove why the Knicks picked him #6 in the 2008 draft and coach D’Antoni isn’t used to losing that many games. They are not going to be challenging for the East, but at least they will be able to compete. And then next year, they might be able to make Donnie Walsh’s christmas’ come at once if they can entice the King to come to town….

From the Answer to a Cancer – why does the whole of the NBA want nothing to do with Allen Iverson?

No doubt: Allen Iverson is a fantastic player: a true warrior. Since entering the league as the #1 pick in 1996, A.I has a career average of 27.1 points, was the NBA MVP in 2001 and is a 10 time All-Star – maybe even a future Hall of Famer. But after a disastrous stint with the Detroit Pistons, no team in the NBA wants anything to do with him. Detroit showed that Iverson disrupted a team’s chemistry and wasn’t a veteran that could mesh with a team and fit in well.

With many of the top free agents available this summer already signed up, like Jason Kidd, Ron Artest, Trevor Ariza, Charlie V and Ben Gordon – why has A.I not found a new home? There has been concerns that he would be disruptive to a team’s dressing room, that he would be unwilling to be a #2 option on a team, or even come off the bench. Iverson said last season he would rather retire than play as a reserve – but surely this isn’t the right way for a player of Iverson’s calibre to bow out?

The Grizzlies have considered signing Iverson, as they are a team that desperately needs to sell tickets. Numerous problems exist here: would having A.I and Z-Bo (Zach Randolph, who joined the Grizzlies in a trade with the Clippers last week) disrupt the young talent of OJ Mayo, Rudy Gay and Hasheem Thabeet? And would Iverson be willing to come off the bench in Memphis? Surely you can’t expect A.I to have to back up Mike Conley?

Iverson has put Miami at the top of his wish list, looking forward to playing with Dwayne Wade. Wade himself has stated he wants A.I on his team, saying “You can’t turn your nose up at Allen Iverson”. A.I and Wade would make for an exciting backcourt for the Heat and give Miami that elusive second scorer that they have been after.

The problems? Iverson’s arrival could stunt the growth of second-year guard Mario Chalmers, who Miami hope to be their point guard of the future. Would Iverson be willing to play a sixth man role behind Chalmers? I don’t think he should. As a big A.I fan, I believe he should start for the Heat. Then there’s the problem of Iverson liking the ball to be in his hands, when everything in the Heat offence runs through Wade.

Other places for A.I? Much has been said about a reunion with Larry Brown in Charlotte. Iverson and Brown each have huge respect for each other, having flourished in the glory days in Philly, when they reached the NBA finals in 2001. The Bobcats need scoring desperately, and A.I can offer that. He’s just turned 34, but Iverson still has something to offer. He could return to Philly, the place that he established himself as a legend, and with an improved team containing the likes of Elton Brand, Dre Igoudala and Thaddeus Young, the Sixers could make some noise in the East next season.

Where do I think A.I will go? He may have to accept a one year deal and he won’t be making anywhere near the $21 million he picked up last year , but I think Iverson has a place on South Beach. Forget all the rumours about going to Memphis, there is time for a new A.I experiment? He and Wade may be able to accomplish what he and Carmelo failed to do, and it’s a concept that is worth a second shot for a single season. You never know, it might be enough to keep D-Wade in a Heat jersey for the next few years….

The Celtics should have gone for youth instead of signing Sheed

In an offseason that has already seen the NBA’s elite upgrade their rosters for a shot at the championship next season, one more big name has jumped ship to contend for a championship. The Lakers have got Artest, the Cavs got Shaq, Orlando got Vince , the Spurs traded for Richard Jefferson and now the Boston Celtics have announced they have signed former All-Star Rasheed Wallace on a two-year contract.

Sheed, whose contract expired on July 1, spent six seasons playing for the Detroit Pistons and won an NBA championship in 2004. He joins a Celtics team packed with All-Stars in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen that is hoping for a final shot at a championship.

Celtics GM Danny Ainge was on a recruitment mission to capture ‘Sheed, showing up on his doorstep in the Detroit suburbs the night free agency opened. Ainge was joined by KG, Pierce and Allen, who convinced the 35 year old to join the C’s.

The arrival of Sheed does give the Celtics of solid line up, with KG, Pierce, Allen and Rajon Rondo, they can compete in what will be a much-improved and more competitive Eastern Conference next year. The only problem is, the Celtics are OLD. Their best players are all the wrong side of 30. Sheed is 35, Allen and KG are 33 and Pierce is 31. Yes, they are set up for a run next season, but what about when they all retire? It would have been better for the Celtics to land someone younger, who could learn from KG, Pierce and Allen and provide a core for the future with Rondo and Kendrick Perkins. They should have followed the Spurs’ example, as the trade for Richard Jefferson gave them a shot of much-needed youth and allowed them to challenge for an additional few years before Tim Duncan retires.

Sheed himself, is surrounded by question marks. Will we see a motivated Wallace who can contribute to the Celtics’ second championship in 3 years, or will we see a repeat of his performance in the Pistons’ sweeping by the Cavs in the playoffs, where it looked like Sheed had nothing in the tank and only average 6 points throughout the series. Personally, I won’t be expecting much out of Wallace apart from hanging around the arc shooting the odd 3. Another shooter will help them, but the Celtics need a scorer, someone to create their own shot and give Pierce a rest.

Yes, the addition of Sheed is a good one for now, but not for the future. If KG can return to full fitness and their key players stay healthy, the C’s have a chance at securing their 18th NBA title. But where their competitors are getting younger and more athletic, e.g. the Cavs, the Magic and the Lakers, the Celtics’ bunch of veterans may struggle to keep up with them. But I think its either boom or bust for this team: either they fail and cannot compete with the likes of the Lakers or the Cavs and their band of All-Stars go their seperate ways and it’s time to rebuild: or KG’s promise of back-to-back championships come true: just look at the San Antonio Spurs – everyone always writes them off – but 4 championships in 10 years speaks for itself… and the Celtics’ will be looking to put last seasons dissapointment behind them and prove their doubters wrong.