Saturday, September 26, 2009

Top 10 NBA teams for 2009-2010 season

More than any other NBA season in recent memory, team chemistry will ultimately define many of the top ballclubs throughout the league this year.

If Shaquille O’Neal, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson and the other big-time acquisitions over the offseason aren’t able to blend in with their new squads, look for teams that pretty much stayed intact from a year ago like the Denver Nuggets, Portland Trailblazers and Atlanta Hawks to make more noise.

Here are All Net’s top 10 teams for the upcoming 2009-2010 NBA season with their ’08-’09 regular-season records in brackets.

10). New Orleans Hornets (49-33). The Hornets absolutely needed to acquire (but couldn’t afford) more support for NBA All-Stars Chris Paul and David West. They traded Tyson Chandler for Emeka Okafor to become a tad bit more offensive. But with the aging Peja Stojakovic, 34, putting in only 13 points a contest, the Hornets simply lack the consistent firepower on a nightly basis to bang with the Top Dawgs.

9). Denver Nuggets (54-28). Can they duplicate last year’s amazing run? That might be a daunting task. After acquiring a true floor leader in Chauncey Billups, the Nuggets tied their franchise record of 54 regular season victories in ‘09. Billups and Carmelo Anthony will continue to shine, so it’s up to their big men Kenyon Martin, Nene, and Chris Andersen to come through again if the team hopes to duplicate their Western Conference Finals appearance or advance beyond it.

8). Atlanta Hawks (47-35). Jamal Crawford's a nice touch to the already talented Hawks roster. With his acquisition, the team has a legit scorer to complement fellow backcourt stars Joe Johnson (above photo) and Mike Bibby. The problem, though, with the Hawks still lies in the frontcourt. With no true proven center on their current roster, the athletic Hawks just can’t physically counter the brute force of Orlando’s Dwight Howard or the CavsShaquille O’Neal in the paint.

7). Portland Trailblazers (54-28). Crafty veteran point guard Andre Miller adds valued experience to the young, promising Blazers this upcoming season. Brandon Roy has established himself as a perennial NBA superstar. The bench has established itself as one of the deepest, featuring Rudy Fernandez of Italy. Now the time’s ripe for oft-injured center Greg Oden to show his full worth as the No. 1 selection in the 2007 NBA Draft. If he does, the Blazers could pose big problems for the Mavs and Spurs.

6). Dallas Mavericks (50-32). No one’s talking much about the Mavericks these days. That could be a good thing for them. When expectations were high, they always disappointed their fans. This season has to be the final ride for point guard Jason Kidd, 36, (above photo driving) and maybe even Dirk Nowitzki, 31. The squad inserted much needed quickness and depth in the lineup with Shawn Marion and Drew Gooden. It’s just a matter if all these old men can stay healthy or not for 82 games and a playoff stretch.

5). Boston Celtics (62-20). Kevin Garnett’s knee is still a question mark. If K.G. misses any chunk of time or doesn’t return to his old former league MVP self, the Celtics will have trouble handling the Top 4 teams. Rasheed Wallace should be a help rather than a hindrance. But perhaps what’s most bothersome is the wearing down of Paul Pierce in the conference finals in May. At 31-years-old, Pierce seemingly lost that oomph in his game he so elegantly displayed in ‘08 when they won the title.

4). San Antonio Spurs (54-28). Though The Big Three (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili) were scheduled to return, the Spurs recognized the necessity to get better to remain an elite team in the league. Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess, Theo Ratliff along with rookie DeJuan Blair shore up a great supporting cast for the Spurs. But it’s how the team’s youngest star Parker will productively integrate these new guys which will ultimately decide how far the Spurs will go this season.

3). Orlando Magic (59-23). The runner-ups in the 2009 NBA Finals lost a key component in their run when Hedo Turkoglu bolted to the Toronto Raptors. Replacement Vince Carter’s legs may be a bit wary, but his game translates well into the Magic’s system. He can drain the 3-ball as well as penetrate through the lane. Both Dwight Howard (above photo) and Rashard Lewis will benefit immensely when Carter’s on the floor. If point guard Jameer Nelson returns to his All-Star play, the Magic could ruin things again for the Celts and Cavs.

2). Cleveland Cavaliers (66-16). The Cavs learned in a painful way that winning 66 games in the regular season doesn’t mean a thing without a ring. The 2009 MVP LeBron James actually has more at stake this season with Big Shaquille O’Neal in town. Kobe won with Shaq. D-Wade won with Shaq. What if LeBron fails? At 37, Shaq can still get it done 20 to 25 minutes a night. So with basically the same unit returning along with O’Neal, there’s no excuse for King James if he doesn’t hoist his first NBA trophy this year.

1). Los Angeles Lakers (65-17). The Lakers have the best coach, player and team in the league. Yes, starter Trevor Ariza departed, but Ron Artest can quickly fill that role. At this juncture in his career, Artest wants to win and that’s what the Lakers do. So despite some anxiety, Ron Ron won’t be a distraction at all. Back-to-back titles would virtually be a wrap if the Lakers could get steadier production from big fellas like Andrew Bynum and Josh Powell. The team’s Jekyll and Hyde play is a concern. There are just too many potentially good squads in the NBA for that inconsistency in ’09-10.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Who will be first, Shaq, Duncan or Kobe?

One riveting sidebar story that will most likely persist the entire 2009-2010 season is which future Hall of Fame NBA player, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan or Kobe Bryant (photo above holding trophy), will possibly capture his fifth championship title first this season.

Big Shaq won three straight titles with the Los Angeles Lakers (2000, 2001 and 2002) and one with the Miami Heat (2006). The Big Fundamental has captured four championships with the San Antonio Spurs (1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007). And Kobe, currently the best baller in the game, got all his rings with the Lakers of course (2000, 2001, 2002 and 2009).

All three dominant NBA players clearly have a legit shot at the trophy in ’09-‘10.

The Spurs acquired Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess in the offseason to give the aging Duncan, 33, a boost down in the paint. The defending NBA champion Lakers did lose a starter in Trevor Ariza but picked up Ron Artest and resigned Lamar Odom to appease Kobe. And O’Neal was shipped from Phoenix to the Cleveland Cavaliers who have the reigning NBA MVP LeBron James and posted a league best 66-16 record in ‘09.

Certainly this lively conversation will linger all season long, but here’s what some sportswriters are already saying about the NBA’s Amazing Race for 5:

“If pressed, I'd have to put my money on (Kobe) Bryant… He has the right system, motivation should not be a problem, and (Pau) Gasol's presence just seems to vault him over the top, to me.” Shaq, Kobe, TD… who’s the first to plead the fifth? (Yahoo!Sports).

“The winner presumably will be the best player of this generation, or more accurately put, in the post Jordan era. The plight to have each finger on one hand be engaged in basketball bliss will be a historic one.” The Drive for Five: Duncan, Kobe, Shaq battle for supremacy. (Bleacher Report).

"Breaking it down by the numbers, it seems more likely that Kobe Bryant will be the first to win his 5th NBA championship ring. However, with all three of these teams vying for the crowns - and potentially the strongest team in the field, the Boston Celtics, also in the mix – anything can happen.” First to 5: Kobe, Shaq, or Duncan? (Associated Content)

Well, on your mark, get set….

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Top 10 NBA players for 2009-2010 season

The scenery has definitely changed in the NBA. Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Garnett are surprisingly nowhere to be found on my list this year.

Here are All Net’s Top 10 Players for the upcoming 2009-2010 NBA season.

10). Tim Duncan, 33, San Antonio Spurs. Although tendentious hampered his knee, the NBA’s best power forward of all time kept grinding last year. Rising NBA stars like Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose didn't make the cut this time because The Big Fundamental hungers to be first in his race with Kobe and Shaq for a fifth championship ring.

9). Brandon Roy, 25, Portland Trailblazers. B-Roy (photo above) possesses the all-around skill set to eventually creep inside our list of Top 5 current NBA players in the game. He can do it all on the floor and loves being the go-to-guy in tough, pressure situations. Playing in Portland thankfully hasn’t dimmed the spotlight on his rapid climb to the top of the league.

8). Chris Bosh, 25, Toronto Raptors. Bosh is another big name free agent who should be available next offseason. He averaged 22.7 points and 10 boards a night in ’08-’09, but a more defining year as that “franchise player” would do wonders for his marketability. The agile, lanky Bosh epitomizes the evolution of the NBA big man with his crisp inside as well as outside game.

7). Carmelo Anthony, 25, Denver Nuggets. Melo still displays the smoothest game in the NBA today. Everything looks so natural and effortless on the court. The addition of veteran PG Chauncey Billups to the Nuggets last season will only further enhance his overall game in ’09-‘10.

6). Chris Paul, 24, New Orleans Hornets. Forget Kobe and LeBron, Paul (photo above, dribbling) is the most exciting player to watch in the league right now. Hornets head coach Byron Scott may be forced to release the reins if he hopes to contend with the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and Denver Nuggets in the West. That would be nothing but sweet music for CP3 fans.

5). Deron Williams, 25, Utah Jazz. Yes, Williams gets the slight nod over Paul from a pure physical standpoint. Both young, cagey PGs seemingly have eyes in the back of their heads and are exceptional floor generals. But at 6-foot-3, 207 pounds, D-Will is the better overall defender and offensive threat.

4). Dwight Howard, 24, Orlando Magic. The best big man in game desperately needs to improve his free-throw shooting. He shot a Shaq-like 59 percent last season. Otherwise, Superman’s simply unstoppable in the paint and with the helping hand of Vince Carter could wind up hoisting his first NBA trophy.

3). Dwyane Wade, 27, Miami Heat. D. Wade (photo above) is a lot closer to the No. 2 spot than most may realize. Last season was his best to date, coincidentally coming in 3rd in the Most Valuable Player voting in May. His teammates need to contribute big early in the season, so Wade can save his heroics for down the stretch.

2). LeBron James, 24, Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron’s physically the best in the sport. His defensive prowess and outside shooting touch has improved tremendously since his rookie campaign. Shaquille O’Neal’s arrival in town couldn’t have come at a better time to buffer King James’ brilliant career.

1). Kobe Bryant, 31, Los Angeles Lakers. He’s closing in on our list of Top 10 NBA players of all time. A fifth championship ring this season would only boost his legacy. Some say Kobe’s slowing down. We say he’s conserving energy for crunch time.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Kobe vs. LeBron: No debate who's best

Who’s the best baller on the planet right now?

Kobe Bryant or LeBron James.

This debate was seemingly raging highest during the course of the 2008-2009 NBA regular season.

A highly-anticipated 2009 NBA Finals showdown of the sport’s two biggest heavyweights might have provided a little insight, but Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic spoiled the suspense by knocking out King James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.

On the September issue of Pro Basketball magazine, the Cavs phenom and Los Angeles Lakers superstar are pictured side-by-side with the huge headline “LeBron vs. Kobe. Who’s better?” underneath them.

Inside the hoops publication, writers Michael Murphy and Eddie Sefko articulately editorialize who they think is the superior ballplayer in the game today.

Murphy chose LeBron. Sefko picked Kobe.

However, at this juncture in both superheroes’ respective careers, is there really a debate?

Kobe, 31, is entering his 14th season. LeBron, 24, is set for his 7th year.

Sure, LeBron’s currently putting up sick, mind-boggling numbers. He averaged 28.4 points, 7.2 assists and 7.6 rebounds a game in ‘09. But at this stage in his NBA career, Kobe could care less about statistics and accolades.

Kobe shines four NBA championship rings, while LeBron sports zero and has only one NBA Finals appearance.

According to former Lakers general manager and NBA legend Jerry West, LeBron has the potential to be the greatest ever to play the game.

“Even though it’s hard for me to be objective, because I brought Kobe to Los Angeles, I do think LeBron has surpassed Kobe as a player,” West said last season about LeBron who captured the 2009 MVP award.

But my question to West is, what weaknesses has he seen within Kobe's game lately for him to get surpassed by LeBron?

LeBron led his squad to a 66-16 mark last season. But, Kobe’s Lakers went 65-17.

In watching Kobe, he hasn’t slowed a bit to me. As crazy as it sounds, his overall game seems to be improving.

In 2008, Kobe hoisted his first NBA MVP trophy and in 2009 he finally got that monkey off his back by winning his first NBA championship without former sidekick Shaquille O’Neal.

It seemed West based his opinion on the future potential and the physical makeup of LeBron rather than the now factor and unheard of mental toughness of Kobe.

"He's just too big, too strong, too quick. And he has incredible body control,” West added about LeBron who's 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds.

Well, what about winning championships, staying power in the league and mastering the mental approach of the game a la Kobe?

While good rap for sports talk radio stations and sports sections of newspapers to compare two unbelievable athletes, this hyped debate over the past few seasons of who’s better between Kobe and LeBron is an open-and-shut case to me.

Not as earthshaking but much more pragmatic debates for this upcoming NBA season should instead be: King James vs. Superman (Dwight Howard) or even Kobe Bryant vs. NBA Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

As remarkable a basketball player LeBron is right now, he just hasn't elevated to Kobe’s status yet.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Memories of Jordan, Stockton, Robinson

On Friday, perhaps the best class ever will be enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. In tribute to the Class of 2009, here are some jaw-dropping video career highlights of the Big Three honorees, David Robinson, John Stockton and Michael Jordan.

3). David Robinson. The Admiral was a beast for the San Antonio Spurs for 14 seasons. Offensively, he was a terror facing the basket as well as playing with his back to it. On the defensive end, Robinson had surprisingly agile feet for a big man and was a superb shot blocker and rebounder. He played in 10 NBA All-Star games and won two championships.

2). John Stockton. He simply epitomized his position. Smart. Crafty. Relentless. Stockton may be the best point guard ever to play the game. He ended his historic 19-year career with the Utah Jazz as the NBA all-time leader in assists and steals. Unfortunately, Stockton never won a championship ring despite all his contributions to the sport and the league.

1). Michael Jordan. What more can be said? Because of his superior basketball skills and personal charisma, it’s hard to envision another current or future NBA player touching him as the greatest to ever lace up sneakers. His career highlights speak volumes: six NBA titles, five NBA MVP trophies, 14 All-Star appearances and one NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

5 ridiculous stories in 2009 NBA offseason

Presumably because it is the offseason, some of the wackiest stories in the NBA seem to surface June through August.

I guess everyone has too much free time on their hands to stay clear of the news cameras.

The 2009 NBA offseason was definitely no exception. Here are five of the most ridiculous stories surrounding the NBA to emerge over the summer.

5). Davis’ laptop stolen.
Is Los Angeles Clippers’ star Baron Davis (photo, left) still crossing his fingers?

According to his attorney, Davis’ jacked laptop computer contained a “variety of private images of (him), his associates and his colleagues.”

Seemingly so distressed about the thievery, Davis summoned his attorney to immediately send out letters warning media outlets they’re subject to litigation if the point guard’s embarrassing files and photos are published or sold to another party.

The two-time NBA All-Star apparently must have some heavy personal stuff stored on that hard drive.

4). Jefferson gets cold feet.
Calling off a wedding’s nothing new. But hours before the $2 million occasion? That’s heartless.

Although the San Antonio Spurs’ newest key acquisition Richard Jefferson disputes the timetable and the actual cost of the event, he can’t dispute the coldness and shamefulness in his actions.

“He called two hours before the wedding. It was nuts,” one of Jefferson’s close friends told the New York Post.

Jefferson can’t be all bad, though. He did reportedly give his jilted bride a make nice “six-figure” sum to move on without him in her life.

3). Miller called homewrecker.
Former NBA long-range bomber Reggie Miller better watch his back from now on.

Sure, the TNT analyst was unscathed this time around, but most men usually don’t play around when it comes to boneheads flirting with their women.

So what Reggie’s the 12th leading scorer in NBA history and drained the most threes ever in the league?

He could still catch a beatdown.

According to the restraining order filed against him, Miller waited over an hour in a grocery store parking lot for the engaged woman and sent her 53 text messages in a four-hour span.

Reggie called it simply flirting, but it sounds more like simply stalking.

2). Dirk’s ex-fiancĂ©e gets 5 years.
Poor Dirk Nowitzki (photo, right). It seems he just can’t win.

In spite of his efforts of continuously leading the Dallas Mavericks to the playoffs and one of the top records in the NBA every season, the 7-foot German still hasn’t captured that elusive championship after 11 seasons in the league.

Now, his ex-lover is sentenced to five years in prison. To make matters worse, the 39-year-old convict may be pregnant with his child.

At 31-years-old, Dirk’s playing days are dwindling in the NBA. So now there’s a chance the longtime Maverick could retire heartbroken as well as title-less.

1). Nike seizes dunk tapes.
LeBron James may well be the best basketball player on the planet, but even he’s not immune to being posterized.

At first, Nike officials confiscated the dunk tapes, claiming it was against the rules to videotape after-hours pickup games at LeBron’s camp. Then, the sports appeal giant returned the seized tapes, reiterating it didn’t take them because the Cleveland Cavaliers’ superstar was dunked on.

So what was it?

If the tapes were swiped because of camp policy, then why were they returned? Or, as one of the videographers implied, were the tapes snatched per LeBron’s request?

Whatever the case, in the end it made the royal King James look more like an everyday sore loser on the playgrounds than the 2009 NBA Most Valuable Player.