NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Wednesday Windmill: The New York Knicks are a total joke

After making the decision to fire head coach David Fizdale, the New York Knicks once again confirmed that they are a total joke. At 4-20, they sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, acting like coaching and not their lame roster, is the problem. The Knicks have four players who I think are actually worth anything: RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Marcus Morris, and Julius Randle. That's it. The rest of the roster is trash and can be done away with. Even those four guys, while solid, aren't nearly enough to field a competitive team.

By firing Fizdale, the Knicks are neglecting to acknowledge what's really going on here. They keep making dumb decisions in free agency and in the draft. They don't know how to build a cohesive roster and instead throw darts at a wall, hoping something sticks. It's pathetic and an embarrassment.

What's sad is that the Knicks are such an iconic NBA franchise playing in the most iconic basketball arena in the world: Madison Square Garden. If the New Orleans Pelicans toiled in obscurity for 10+ years, nobody would give a damn. But the Knicks? They're a team a lot of people care about. Both fans of the team and the NBA as a whole. If the Knicks are competitive, even remotely competitive, there's an added buzz to the league that makes it all the more fun.

That isn't to stay the NBA should give the Knicks any extra breaks. The Knicks need to figure this out on their own and get their act together. Ultimately, this comes down to ownership. James Dolan is a clown of an owner and might as well have bubbles coming out of his fanny. He's a complete embarrassment to the league and should resign from his position. So long as he remains at the helm, the Knicks will continue to be a laughingstock. There really isn't anything more that needs to be said.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Tomahawk Tuesday: Luka Doncic isn't Michael Jordan, but he's damn good

                                         (Credit: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) 

On Sunday, Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic finished with 27 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists in his team's 110-106 loss to the Sacramento Kings. While his team lost the game, he did surpass Michael Jordan for most consecutive games with at least 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists since the NBA/ABA merger. Jordan's record was 18 games and Doncic now has 19 games achieving the feat. For your reference, Oscar Robertson had 29 games of 20/5/5, but it was before the merger.

Scottie Pippen, who has turned into an apologist of sorts for his 90s Bulls teams, made a statement to TMZ about how Doncic can't be compared to Jordan because he doesn't have six rings: "He got six titles yet?!" The question Pippen was asked was whether or not he sees any of MJ's game in Doncic. It's actually a pretty fair question. Instead of giving a good response, Pippen gave one of his pompous "I'm not the GOAT, but I played with the GOAT, so that makes me more important than you and your silly question" answers. It's annoying. I understand MJ is the greatest basketball player of all-time, but that doesn't mean he can't ever be compared to anybody.

Look, it's highly unlikely that anyone will come along who matches MJ's overall impact on the sport. A major reason for that is timing. MJ came along in an era in which the NBA had most of its fan base in the United States. Thanks to him, the NBA became much more popular worldwide. No matter how good someone else is, they'll never be able to replicate that same impact. On top of that, it's highly unlikely, though not impossible, that someone else will lead a team to six NBA championships in the same decade without losing in the finals. Maybe someone will come along and win seven, but the odds of that are really low.

That isn't to say Doncic can't put his own stamp on basketball. We need to stop looking for the next Michael Jordan because there's only one Michael Jordan. We need to instead appreciate what other great players bring to the table and cherish what they're accomplishing.

While he isn't Michael Jordan, Luka Doncic is damn good. He's one of the most versatile players we've seen and he's only in his second season. So long as he keeps playing like he is, he'll make the Basketball Hall of Fame and go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest player of his generation. As tempting as it is to compare him to those that came before him, we need to do our best to live in the present and admire what he's doing for its own sake.

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Monday, December 9, 2019

Mock Draft Monday: Cavaliers players are frustrated by John Beilein's college style

                                          (Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports) 

This blog post may not seem related to the NBA draft or rookies, but it does involve a rookie head coach who is coming from the college ranks. In case you haven't heard the news, Cleveland Cavaliers head coach John Beilein is reportedly receiving backlash from his players. Shams Charania and Joe Vardon of The Athletic have the details (Click here to check out the full article):

"Cavaliers players are bristling at new coach John Beilein because he’s treating this season like they, and he, are still in college, numerous sources told The Athletic.
It’s already gotten to the point where players are looking past Beilein to his lead assistant, J.B. Bickerstaff, for guidance, those sources said.
Grievances include his nitpicking over basic fundamentals, too much harping in lengthy film sessions, not enough versatility on offense, and a broader lack of understanding of the NBA game and opposing players."

The article includes quotes from multiple players, one of which says: "Our assistants are definitely more prepared for the NBA." That's a pretty scathing quote.

We've seen this movie before: Successful college coach seeks new challenge in the NBA. Gets fired. Ends up back in college, coaching at a lesser school. Anyone remember what happened to Rick Pitino?

I'm not saying John Beilein's decision to leave Michigan for the Cleveland Cavaliers will result in him getting fired and ending on the bench at say Winthrop, but what I am saying is there is a history of college coaches not able to find success in the NBA. What I want to unpack in this post is why is this such a common trend? I mean, basketball is basketball, right?

I think that line of thinking is actually the first problem that college coaches encounter. They think basketball is basketball and that when they get to the NBA, they can approach things the same way they did in college. What makes this line of thinking dangerous for college coaches is that while basketball is basketball, the NBA is a whole different brand of basketball. NBA players are the very best in the world and they demand to be treated as such.

In college, if your players start to act up, you can demand respect by reminding them that they're not in the NBA. You can play the whole "You're in college to get an education and prepare for the NBA" card.  In the NBA, there's no higher level that you can tell these players to strive towards. They've made it and as such feel entitled to being treated like multimillionaire superstars. Even if they're on a rookie contract.

Beilein seems naïve to this reality and is getting chewed up as a result. In college, your players have to respect you because you're their coach. In the NBA, it's the other way around. You have to respect the players because you've been given this amazing opportunity to coach them. They don't have to listen to you and quite honestly, they have better job security than you do. Especially if they're really good.

The bottom line, assuming these reports are correct, is that Beilein needs to wake up and realize that he's not in Kansas anymore. Coaching NBA players is possible, but you have to do so through the lens of letting them know that you know just how freaking gifted they are at basketball. I don't mean that in a sarcastic way. NBA players legitimately are ridiculously gifted. There's a reason they are where they are and other basketball players are not. If Beilein can start to make his players feel more valued and respected because of where they are, then he might start to find success. If instead he continues to harp on them and make them feel like they're in college, his NBA coaching days will end real quick.

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Saturday, December 7, 2019

Saturday Slam: Can anyone stop the Los Angeles Lakers?

                                         (Credit: Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports) 

It didn't take long for LeBron James and Anthony Davis to find synergy on the basketball court. The newly formed Los Angeles Lakers are 20-3, having won 9 of their last 10 games. I got a chance to watch the Lakers a bit this week as they defeated the Utah Jazz 121-96 in Salt Lake City on Wednesday and the Portland Trail Blazers 136-113 in Portland on Friday.

What really stood out to me is how effortlessly they dominated. James and Davis looked like they were out there on the playground having fun while Dwight Howard was prancing around like a happy little kid as he blocked shots, grabbed rebounds, and even made a 3-pointer. Watching James and Davis execute a pick and roll is a thing of beauty and also very frightening for opposing teams. When they get it going, it's hard to see anyone stopping them.

In addition to having a superstar duo in James and Davis, the Lakers have a really good supporting cast around them in Howard, Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Avery Bradley, and JaVale McGee. Aside from Kuzma, that's a pretty veteran group and it shows in how well they play.

While the Lakers have a lot of depth, it really is James and Davis that are making them go. James is averaging 25.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 10.7 assists per game, and 1.3 steals per game while Davis is averaging 26.6 points per game, 9.1 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and 2.7 blocks. Both are putting themselves in the MVP conversation and playing some of the best basketball of their careers. Especially Davis.

At this point, the only thing I can see slowing down the Lakers is the grind of the NBA season. If Davis catches the injury bug and others get banged up, there is a real chance some other team comes out of the West. Otherwise, this is the Lakers' to lose. They have two of the top five players in the NBA and are already playing like a cohesive team. If you are the rest of the NBA, you should be very afraid.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Wednesday Windmill: The Milwaukee Bucks are lighting up the East

                                         (Quinn Harris/Getty Images) 

The Milwaukee Bucks currently sit atop the Eastern Conference standings with an 18-3 record, having won 12 straight games. That's their best winning streak since the 1981-82 season. Giannis Antetokounmpo leads this Bucks team with 30.8 points, 13.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game, truly living up to his nickname: "The Greek Freak."

In an Eastern Conference that has appeared to be wide open, the Bucks are coming out and reminding everyone that they are the team to beat. They had home court advantage last year and are eager to reclaim it once again. Even though it's only December, the Bucks are making a definitive statement with this winning streak. I don't care what month it is. Having a double digit winning streak is mighty impressive.

The main question surrounding this Bucks team is whether or not Giannis can keep up at this frenetic pace for the entire season. If he can, the Bucks will be playing in June. If not, their lack of depth could hurt them. They lost a really good shooting guard in Malcolm Brogdon to the Indiana Pacers and it's unclear if they will be able to make up the difference in the long run. So far, it appears to be working out, but the season is still young.

The other question is whether or not they'll be able to handle the pressure come playoff time if they do get home court advantage. Regular season success is one thing while playoff success is another. Right now, the Bucks are showing that they are a great regular season team, but as we've seen in NBA history, being great in the regular season doesn't always translate to playoff success. Just ask the 2006-07 Dallas Mavericks and 2001-02 Sacramento Kings.

Regardless, what the Bucks are doing deserves recognition. They have the best winning streak in the NBA and are on track to rack up at least a few more wins before it ends. While it may seem like a cute little mantra, "Fear the Deer" carries real meaning in today's NBA.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Tomahawk Tuesday: Carmelo Anthony is having a renaissance in Portland

                                         (Alika Jenner/Getty Images) 

The big news in the NBA this week is Carmelo Anthony picking up Western Conference Player of the Week honors. After looking like his career was dead in the water, Melo has risen out of the ashes of basketball obscurity like a phoenix, averaging 17.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game during his first six games with the Portland Trail Blazers. As you can tell by his expression in the above photo, he is genuinely out there having fun.

For all the criticisms he has gotten for being a ball hog and not a team player, Melo has actually been a pretty stand up dude for his entire career. He's stayed out of trouble and has been a class act. He's been supportive of LeBron James who he came into the league with and genuinely doesn't seem to be comparing himself to other people. That is quite refreshing.

If there's anything we've learned from Melo's comeback, it's that the basketball world missed his presence. He's been one of the best and brightest stars in the NBA for the last 15 years and has done a lot more for the game than he gets credit for. That's why we're all so happy to have him back!

As for whether or not he'll continue to have this renaissance, I don't see why not. Getting buckets is what he does best and Portland seems to have created a perfect environment for him to do so. He just needed to find the right fit.

Lastly, Melo definitely didn't deserve to go out on a sour note, so in that vein it's great to see him having success again. At this point, he's made all of his money and honestly doesn't have anything left to prove. He's just playing for the love of the game and out there having a good time. I think that's something we can all get behind.

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Monday, December 2, 2019

Mock Draft Monday: Could Zion Williamson still win Rookie of the Year?

                                          (AP Photo/Steve Marcus) 

When Zion Williamson was drafted #1 overall by the New Orleans Pelicans in June's draft, he was the heavy favorite to win Rookie of the Year honors. 20 games into his rookie year, Williamson is yet to play in a regular season game as he is recovering from right knee (meniscus) surgery. It's also unclear when he'll make his regular season debut, though the vibe seems to be sometime this month.

Even if he does return by the end of the month, he will have missed over 25% of the regular season, which could ruin his chances of winning Rookie of the Year. Especially when rookies like Ja Morant (Memphis Grizzlies), Rui Hachimura (Washington Wizards), R.J. Barrett (New York Knicks), and others have been playing really well. At this point, odds of Zion winning Rookie of the Year honors seem slim. Especially since his return date is still up-in-the-air.

That said, it's not impossible, at least in my view, for him to still win the award. For starters, Morant just went down with back spasms and is listed as week-to-week. It is possible that other rookies get hurt and miss some time as well. If Williamson can play at least 50 games this year and really ball out, it's conceivable that he puts himself back in the conversation.

Secondly, NBA awards have had a history of not making sense. The fact that Steve Nash has two MVPs while Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal each have one is a perfect example. We also have had weird debates about whether or not a guy who misses his rookie year is eligible to win the award in his sophomore year. Ben Simmons vs. Donovan Mitchell was the most recent example of that. Even with more deserving candidates, it is possible that members of the media defy all common sense and still give him the award even if he plays only like half the season. They've done it before, so what's stopping them from doing it again?

Lastly, it's possible no other rookie makes a really strong case to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. We could find ourselves in a situation come April where Zion has played the best out of every rookie when looking at the per game stats while no individual rookie has made a strong enough case for them to win the award over everyone else. In other words, it could be a Zion versus the field kind of deal. If we find ourselves in that kind of situation, where the ONLY thing holding Zion back is his lack of games played, he might still sneak out with the award.

While I do think the odds are stacked against Zion and that he probably won't win Rookie of the Year, don't totally count out the possibility. There's still plenty of basketball left and thus opportunities for him to work himself back into the conversation. If he does come back in a reasonable time frame and plays really well, we could be in for some really interesting debates in the second half of the season.

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