Showing posts with label celtics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label celtics. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

More Redd Evaluation

In a previous post about Team USA clinching an Olympic spot, I quoted ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan, who gave Michael Redd a B+ for his performance in the FIBA Americas.

SI.com's Chris Mannix also recently graded each player on Team USA. Mannix thought even more highly of Redd, rating him an A-, on level with Kobe Bryant and Jason Kidd, and trailing only LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, who received A's.
"Michael Redd: The long search for a steady perimeter threat is over thanks to Redd, the purest shooter to don a USA uniform since Ray Allen. Redd admits even he is noticing his impact on the floor. In a preliminary round game against Venezuela, James drove to the basket against single coverage thanks to the help defender being afraid to leave Redd open. Redd could pick up his defense a little, but any deficiencies are probably more noticeable due to the fact that he is usually replacing the ball-hawking Bryant in games."
These high marks are simply continued reinforcement that Redd is a near-lock to make the Olympic team. Taking a step back from the situation, it's pretty amazing to think that Redd is likely to go to Beijing next summer and play on what should be one of the greatest basketball teams ever put together. Further, his roster spot will likely come at the expense of superstars like Gilbert Arenas and Paul Pierce. He's certainly representing the city of Milwaukee and the Bucks franchise pretty well for a second-round pick.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Around The Blogosphere, Plus Reaction

The following are some intriguing recent posts from around the web along with my reaction:

The Bratwurst: Patterson to Boston?

Excerpt:
“Patterson will be a much better fit for Boston than the other players they are apparently chasing now that Reggie Miller figured out that he has no business suiting up any longer. James Posey is a moderately better defender than Patterson but nowhere near the offensive player, and Dahntay Jones has no business being in the NBA. He was the worst player on Memphis last year, which really says something.”
Reaction:

The Celtics indeed would be wise to pursue Ruben Patterson, who quietly had a very strong season in Milwaukee last year. It’s true that his career year did happen to coincide with his contract year and he’s had disturbing off-court problems, but he’s always been a competitive, tough player. And at 32 years old, his game and character have seemingly matured. From the Bucks' perspective, with Bobby Simmons, Desmond Mason, and hopefully Yi in the fold, there is reason to believe Patterson won’t be sorely missed, but the article does accurately point out that he was the team’s most consistent player last season.

Loy’s Place: Patterson, Posey or Jones?

Excerpt:
“Patterson was also convicted of misdemeanor assault outside a Cleveland night club in 2001 and arrested in 2002 on felony charges of domestic abuse that were later dropped. Patterson has said his struggles with alcoholism were the culprit for his past problems and reiterated to the Bucks staff that he's moved on. Harris agreed. Now, maybe it is just me, but we just got a player who had a drinking problem off the books and I don't feel like spinning the wheel and taking a chance on another.”
Reaction:

Okay, so Celtics Nation isn’t completely sold on Patterson. Even with all the new talented faces in Beantown, it’ll take both time and cooperation to create the necessary chemistry to produce a juggernaut. So it’s understandable there would be some hesitancy in taking in someone with Patterson’s past troubles. But there isn't much about the Celtics offseason that says "not going for it," and this might be the gamble that puts them in charge of the East. Plus, isn't mortgaging your franchise's future to take a shot or two at the Finals and then signing an inferior player (Dahntay Jones=not the answer) because you're scared off by some old off-court troubles kind of a risky thing in itself?

Bucks Fans: Yi, Ilyasova, and Markota in Turkey

Excerpt:
“China fell 96-76 to Serbia in their second game of the EFES World Cup 6, with Yi Jianlian once again the best player on the court for the Chinese. Yi tallied 17 points and 9 rebounds on 8/12 shooting from the field and 1/2 from the line."
Reaction:

Yao Ming isn’t playing for China in this tournament, meaning Yi Jianlian is the go-to guy. It also means China has trouble keeping up with some of the talented teams in Europe, like Serbia. Individually though, Yi impressed, as his statline and the video highlights in the linked story attest to. He certainly has a smoothness to his game that makes it easy to see why Milwaukee Bucks brass is so enamored with him.

Sports Illustrated: Brazil blasts Venezuela

Excerpt:
“Machado hit four of the 3s in the first half when Brazil (2-0) took a 43-36 lead. Leandro Barbosa, who plays for the Phoenix Suns, picked up his play in the second half, scoring 12 of his 15 points as the Brazilians pulled away. A layup by Tiago Splitter with 3:07 left in the third quarter gave them a 68-45 lead."
Reaction:

As one of the few threats to Team USA in the FIBA Americas, it’s worth tracking Brazil. They topped Venezuela 101-75, a twenty-six point victory. Impressive, but not quite as dominant as the Americans forty-three point crushing of them a couple days earlier. The Team USA/ Brazil showdown takes place Sunday, August 26.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Ranking The Dream Teams

Okay, there really only was one Dream Team. We all know the story. 1992. Barcelona. MJ. Bird. Magic. Sir Charles. +43.8.

To this day it’s uniformly considered the greatest basketball team ever assembled.

Since then, there have essentially been eight different versions of Team USA, with the current senior team training in Las Vegas, Nevada for the this week’s FIBA Americas Championship soon to be the tenth overall.

For ranking purposes, I'm only considering Team USA's that featured different groups of professional players that played in competitive tournaments. Judging by that criteria, there are nine to compare:
  • 1992 Olympics
  • 1996 Olympics
  • 2000 Olympics
  • 2004 Olympics
  • 1994 World Championships
  • 2002 World Championships
  • 2006 World Championships
  • 1999 FIBA Americas
  • 2003 FIBA Americas
There is a lot of hype surrounding 2007's Team USA, and rightfully so. But where will history rank this team? The Olympic team next year is of greater importance than this summer’s team. And it should challenge the top three. But it’s too difficult to forecast that roster, and the games must first be played.

Ranking the Dream Teams:
This is the team that we can in large part thank for the rest of the world falling in love with, and ultimately becoming very good at basketball. The Dream Team that traveled to Barcelona, Spain showcased not only the greatest collection of basketball talent the world has ever witnessed, but revealed what happens when maximum individual talent conforms perfectly to the concept of unity.

The roster is the most striking ever assembled, doubly impressive considering the legendary players all fell between ages 26-32 aside from Larry Bird (35) and Christian Laettner (22).

Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, and Chris Mullin were each 29. Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, and John Stockton each 30. These guys were not only the ultimate superstars, they were in prime condition.

The team’s run to gold medal was also the most convincing. Their first Olympic game was a 116-48 trouncing of Angola and they finished with 117-85 win over Croatia. They went 8-0, winning by an average of 43.8 points. It is fair to note that the competition Team USA faces now is far superior on the whole. But don’t overlook the Croatian team they beat twice in 1992. It featured more-than-capable players like Toni Kukoc, Drazen Petrovic, and Dino Radja.
Still living up to the Dream Team nickname, this group featured five holdovers from the original: Barkley, Malone, Pippen, Stockton, and David Robinson.

This is a good time to bring up the fact that Barkley is the greatest of all Team USA performers, and not just for bringing home two Olympic gold medals. In the 1992 Olympics, Barkley shot 59-83 (.711) from the field including 7-8 (.875) on three-pointers. In addition, he led the team in scoring (18.0). He followed that up in 1996 by shooting 31-38 (.816) from the field and 2-4 (.500) from beyond the arc. He also led the team in scoring (12.4) and rebounding (6.6).

On paper this team rivals the original Dream Team. Barkley was joined in the post by Malone, Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, and a spry, 24 year-old Shaquille O’Neal.

Reggie Miller replaced Mullin as the designated sharpshooter.

They also rivaled the 1992 squad on the court by easily winning all eight games, culminating in a 95-69 gold medal victory over previously unbeaten Yugoslavia.
Team USA’s most devastating inside-outside duo yet? Try 1994's Shaquille O’Neal and Reggie Miller.

O’Neal
shot 62-87 (.713) from the field, and led the team in scoring (18.0), rebounding (8.5), and blocked shots (1.8). Meanwhile, Miller connected on 30-57 (.526) three-pointers and 19-20 (.950) free-throws.

And this group was tough. Joe Dumars, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, and Alonzo Mourning typified the won’t-back-down grit of this team.

Strong outside shooting also stood out, with Team USA making nearly twice as many (103-55) three-pointers as its opponents, led by Miller, Majerle, Dumars, and Mark Price. Steve Smith, Derrick Coleman, and Dominique Wilkens added to the onslaught for this offensive machine. They averaged over 120 points per game and annihilated Russia 137-91 to win the gold medal.
This is a glimpse of what could have been in the disappointing 2004 Olympics. Unfortunately, the most dominant modern (post-2000) Team USA did not stick together long enough to win anything of great importance.

Key pieces of this team like Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Ray Allen, Jermaine O’Neal and Mike Bibby were not a part of the Olympic team a year later.

Playing in the FIBA Americas, competition was limited, but strong nonetheless. They started off by dominating a strong Brazil team 110-76. And finished with a gold medal, the prize for a thirty-three point crushing of rival Argentina, whom they had also beaten earlier in the tournament.

Considering this tournament occurred only four years ago, it’s difficult to understand how the stereotype that Americans can't shoot persists. This team was much more selective than its opponents shooting from the outside (158 to 215 attempts), and much more effective (.468 to.363).
Marking Team USA’s final unblemished run to gold medal before the ugly 2002 World Championships, Team 2000 faced the new era of upgraded international competition and still prevailed.

Vince Carter starred, leading the team in scoring (14.8). At some point, as people recognize the increasing relevance of international basketball, performances like Carter’s in the 2000 Olympics (YouTube evidence here) will be properly appreciated. As it stands, players are judged by performances in the NBA playoffs first, NBA regular season second, and college third. With basketball becoming more global every day, performances for national teams must now enter into discussions with great prominence.

In soccer, club play is valued religiously, never overlooked. However, leading one’s nation to glory is unmatched. Basketball is heading in the same direction. Kobe Bryant knows it. LeBron James know it. Jason Kidd knows it. International basketball is already supremely relevant. It’s only a matter of time before we all realize it.

Back to Team 2000. This group jived. Carter, with his explosiveness, outside shooting, and ability to defer, was a perfect fit for Team USA. As was Kevin Garnett. Don’t let anyone tell you those two guys aren’t winners. Throw in the ultimate pass-first point guard (Kidd), a dominant defensive center (Mourning), a deadly outside shooter or two (Ray Allen and Allan Houston), and you have Team USA gold. It’s not really that simple, but it’s not just by chance that this was the last time our basketball heroes made us proud.
Characterized by its defense, something people inexplicably and incorrectly think Americans cannot effectively play, the 1999 team ran the table. The roster was built around defensive stalwarts Garnett, Kidd, Tim Duncan, and Gary Payton. each of whom started all ten games. They were joined in the consistent starting lineup by Houston.

Team USA was never threatened, winning by an average of 31.6 points while defensively dominating, holding opponents to just 66.2 points.
After failing in previous international competitions, Team USA got serious in 2006. And they mostly dominated before coming up a little short against the Greek pick-and-roll.

In a tournament that Team USA came out on top against stars from around the world such as Carlos Arroyo, Yao Ming, Marco Bellinelli, Andrew Bogut, Dirk Nowitzki, and Manu Ginobili, their undoing was their inability to defend the simplest of offensive plays against a team (Greece) with a big player (Sofoklis Schortsanitis), a lot of big sounding names (Panayotis Vassilopoulos), but no real big names (LeBron James).

Aside from that game, Team USA mostly shined, including a forty-point drubbing of Australia and an impressive, face-saving win over Argentina.
The Olympic failure in 2004 was an extension of the 2002 World Championships disaster, in that highly questionable personnel decisions deserve blame, rather than failing basketball talent in the United States.

Gunning guards Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury shot Team USA mostly into the ground.

Youngsters Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Emeka Okafor weren’t ready. In fact, next time someone insists that Anthony be a part of the 2008 team because of his exceptional performance in 2006, ask how Anthony was invited back in 2006 after his dreadful showing in 2004, when he shot 7-28 (.250) from the field.
The low point in USA Basketball, without a doubt. After opening 5-0, the United States lost to Argentina 87-80, ending the 58-game winning streak. To compound the misery, they lost twice more. Team USA ended up finishing sixth out of the sixteen teams, two spots behind a New Zealand team they beat by 48 points earlier in the tournament.

And all this happened at home, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

A lot went wrong in 2002. Mostly before anyone played. The lack of focus and preparation was apparent. And there were some nice players on the team: Elton Brand, Ben Wallace, and Paul Pierce. Then there were some, that in modern international basketball, didn’t belong on: Raef LaFrentz and Jay Williams.

Unfortunately, it took such a drastic and devastating blow to USA Basketball for the whole system to be overhauled. Thankfully, the present direction of Team USA leads me to believe a disaster of 2002's proportions is the remotest possibility heading into the FIBA Americas and 2008 Olympics.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

NBA's Top 2007-08 Games

With the recent announcement of the 2007-08 NBA schedule, writers across the web have profiled some of the most intriguing games of the upcoming season.

I already highlighted five Milwaukee Bucks games. Not that any of us would be missing those.

Marty Burns picked ten compelling games for SportsIllustrated.com

The wild playoffs and busy offseason made for some easy choices. One juicy pick was the Dallas Mavericks at Golden St. Warriors playoff rematch on November 8. He also pinpointed Kevin Garnett’s return to Minnesota on February 8.

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein went further, circling seemingly every date on the NBA calendar. Well, forty-two days by my count.

He even picked a Bucks game:

"Feb. 2: Houston at Milwaukee (NBA TV)

Yao Ming -- and the Chinese media armada -- goes to Brewtown to square off with The Big Yi . . . assuming Yi Jianlian is a Buck by then. (On Nov. 9 the Bucks are in Houston, incidentally, if Yi makes it to Milwaukee for the start of the season.)"

Still, a handful of games with interesting, perhaps more subtle story lines, went unmentioned. To avoid overlap, I’ve compiled a list of five games chosen by neither Burns nor Stein:

  • Wednesday, November 21 – Toronto Raptors at Memphis Grizzlies

These two franchises, born in 1995-96, are natural, mutual measuring sticks.

The Raptors got a quicker jump out of the gate, winning five more games behind Rookie of the Year point guard Damon Stoudamire.

The trend continues today, with the Raptors coming off a division title and the Grizzlies now the longest of shots for postseason play.

Nevertheless, there are intriguing parallels entering 2007-08. Both clubs are led by star, often overshadowed, power forwards in Chris Bosh and Pau Gasol. In addition, this game should offer us the first NBA game pitting two of Spain’s finest guards. Juan Carlos Navarro is headed to Memphis and Jose Calderon is already a valuable component of the Raptors.

  • Tuesday, January 8 – New York Knicks at Chicago Bulls

The Knicks have remodeled yet again, but repeated recent failures haven’t lent much optimism that the latest mixture of talent, now starring Zach Randolph, will suddenly mesh. Talent resides in The Big Apple, but this game, the team’s third consecutive road game following daunting stops in San Antonio and Houston, could be the tipping point of the team’s yearling unraveling.

On the flipside, if the Knicks are rolling a couple months into the season, this classic big-city rivalry could be reborn on this night.

  • Sunday, March 30 – Washington Wizards at Los Angeles Lakers

In last year’s Staples Center showdown between two of the most entertaining players in the NBA, Gilbert Arenas out-Kobe’d Kobe Bryant 60-45 and a came away with a win.

Bryant partially returned the favor by winning both the individual competition 39-37 and the team game in the nation's capital a month and a half later.

Still, Bryant isn’t one to be outdone and Arenas got the better of him last year. Combine the personal rivalry with the fact both stars are coming off frustrating ends to their seasons and you can expect more scintillation.

  • Tuesday, April 8 – Utah Jazz at New Orleans Hornets

The Jazz visit New Orleans, where they called home from 1974-78.

Pete Maravich typified the virtuosity of Duke Ellington's jazz in his five magical years when the Jazz more naturally played in New Orleans.

This present-day game will showcase a couple of wondrous court wizards that would make Pistol Pete proud. Picked third and fourth in the 2005 NBA Draft respectively, Deron Williams and Chris Paul make this a must-see.

  • Wednesday, April 16 – New Jersey Nets at Boston Celtics

It’s difficult to forecast which final regular season games will matter, but something tells me that in the suddenly crowded Eastern Conference playoff picture these two teams could be playing for important seeding down to the wire.

Just in case, check out the first three times they meet, starting Saturday, November 10. Both teams are well-known for their star trios, and lack of depth. But while the Celtics are the chic pick in the East, the return of Nenad Krstic and addition of Jamaal Magloire indicates the Nets might have the more support to surround their Big Three.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Bucks Schedule Announced

The Milwaukee Bucks 2007-08 schedule is now set.

Here’s a short breakdown of five noteworthy games:
  • Wednesday, October 31 at Orlando Magic
The season starts on Halloween in Florida for the Bucks. The Magic are improved thanks to the acquisition of Rashard Lewis and the inevitable development of young star Dwight Howard. These two teams are possible challengers for the final couple playoff spots in the East.
  • Saturday, November 3 vs Chicago Bulls
This is the first game at the Bradley Center for the Bucks. They have won their past four home openers but extending the streak won’t be easy against this Eastern Conference favorite.
  • Friday, January 11 at Los Angeles Lakers
The Bucks head west for their only appearance of the season on ESPN.
  • Wednesday, March 12 vs Utah Jazz
Last time the Jazz came to Milwaukee they saw Michael Redd drop 57 points on them... and still escaped with a win.
  • Saturday, March 15 vs Boston Celtics
By this time we’ll know plenty about the new-look Celtics, but it’s the first time they come to the Bradley Center.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Gauging Charlie Bell

As a restricted free agent, the Milwaukee Bucks have a chance to match any offer to guard Charlie Bell. And all indications are they will do just that. Still, it’s being reported that teams are showing interest, putting the onus on the Bucks.
"He had a great year," Agent Mark Bartelstein said. "He happens to be restricted. We are determining what will be our best options for his long-term interests.”
The Boston Celtics were said to be one possible suitor for Bell, but not after they signed guards Eddie House and Jackie Manuel.

Retaining Bell is a key for the Bucks because as encouraging as the offseason retooling has been, they need Bell’s valuable minutes at both guard positions coming off the bench. Management knows this, and I’m confident Bell will remain in Milwaukee as a result.

Another quote from Bartelstein:
"He's proven he's a terrific player in this league. Worst case, he's one of the best third guards in the NBA. And he certainly has not shown he can't be a starter."
Naturally, agents have more than a little bias when it comes to the players they represent. But is there some truth to Bartelstein’s remarks? While Bell only really arrived last season, he has played admirably the last two years and is still on the way up. Without getting into the starter-material part of the comment, and limiting it to Eastern Conference third guards, let’s briefly consider a few other intriguing backup guards heading into the 2007-08 campaign.

Last year with the Toronto Raptors, Jose Calderon truly stepped up, teaming with T.J. Ford to form an excellent two-headed point guard attack that the team rode to a division title. Just 25 years old and still improving, Calderon is easily one of the top third guards in the league, and one of the few in the conference I’d clearly pick over Bell.

Veteran Washington Wizards guard Antonio Daniels hasn’t quite lived up to his fourth overall selection in the 1997 draft but is a heady performer who routinely ranks among the league leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio. In fact, he had the best ratio in the NBA last season. Also, watch for rookie teammate Nick Young to earn minutes and contribute sooner rather than later.

The Indiana Pacers have a couple of able backups in Marquis Daniels and Fond du Lac native Travis Diener, but Bell is superior to both as things stand.

The Miami Heat recently signed guard Smush Parker, a comparable player to Bell. I’d give Bell the edge.

Others up-and-coming types worth keeping an eye on this year include New York Knicks guard Nate Robinson, Philadelphia 76ers guard Louis Williams, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Daniel Gibson, Chicago Bulls guard Thabo Sefolosha, and New Jersey Nets guard Marcus Williams.

I’m not going to tackle the entire league in this discussion, as my player rankings will give more light to this debate. And it didn’t take this little roster-crunching exercise to know that Bell is a real piece of the Bucks’ puzzle. But it does show that even agents possess, at least occassionally, the ability to refrain from complete hyperbole when describing their clients. More importantly it reaffirms the importance of Bell staying in Milwaukee.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Celtics Nearing Trade For Garnett

The Boston Celtics are close to acquiring Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves according to SportsIllustrated.com.

Apparent centerpieces of the trade are Garnett, Al Jefferson, and Gerald Green.

Boston and the Minnesota Timberwolves are still haggling over the pieces that will accompany Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff and Gerald Green to Minnesota, with the Celtics trying to hold onto second-year point guard Rajon Rondo and keep him out of the trade.”

If this trade occurs the Celtics become instant and serious contenders in the Eastern Conference behind the trio of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Garnett.

This could also mean a hit to the Milwaukee Bucks' playoff chances. One must consider the Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, and New Jersey Nets as pretty steady playoff choices right now. If you add the Garnett-Celtics to the list that makes six out of eight possible spots difficult to break into. And that's without mentioning strong contenders like the Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors, and Orlando Magic.

The Bucks have legitimate postseason aspirations, but they'll need to tread what appears to be an increasingly crowded East playoff path.