NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wednesday Windmill: The Phoenix Suns are exploding

     The Phoenix Suns have gone from being one of the up and coming teams in the NBA to a team that is on the verge of exploding. They are 12th in the Western Conference with a 12-21 record and are currently dealing with injury, coaching woes, and drama in the locker room. Any of those three things can hurt an NBA team's season, but when all three are happening to a team, it's a sign that things are going really bad.

     On the injury front, the Suns have lost their star combo guard Eric Bledsoe for the season due to a torn meniscus in his left knee. Bledsoe was having his best season in the NBA, averaging 20.4 points per game, 6.1 assists, and 2.0 steals per game. With Bledsoe now done of the season, it'll be up to their other star guard Brandon Knight to keep the already sinking ship afloat.

     But, remember what I said in the opening paragraph. The Suns have coaching and locker room issues in addition to Eric Bledsoe's season-ending injury. The coaching issues came to our knowledge when the team fired assistant coaches Mike Longabardi and Jerry Sichting earlier in the week. Earl Watson and Nate Bjorkgren were promoted to fill their roles, indicating that Jeff Hornacek's job as head coach is safe for the time being.

     As for drama in the locker room, Markieff Morris was suspended two games for throwing a towel at head coach Jeff Hornacek after the team's loss to the Denver Nuggets. Morris' blowup on the bench indicates that things internally are not going well for the team, either. While it's possible that Morris' act was rogue, it certainly seems to indicate that inside the locker room, things aren't going well for the Suns in addition to their struggles on the court.

     The only good news for the Phoenix Suns right now is that despite their struggles, they are still just 3 games back of the Utah Jazz for the 8th seed in the Western Conference playoffs. It's certainly possible that they right the ship and find a way to sneak into the playoffs. But even if they do, without Eric Bledsoe, there is little to no hope of them getting out of the first round of the playoffs. With him gone, they have virtually no chance at making noise in the playoffs.

     This doesn't mean that they should pack it up and tank like the Philadelphia 76ers. They still have lots to play for in terms of building momentum for next season and ending their season on somewhat of a high note. If they were to make the playoffs, that would serve as such a high note and give them optimism that at full strength, they could be a team to make some noise in the 2016-17 season.

     Still, even with all of that as something to shoot for, it's very alarming that they have fired a couple of assistants and had one of their players have a temper tantrum on the bench. These are usually the signs of a team that is going to get a lot worse before they get better.

     What alarms me the most is that there were no signs of this kind of thing happening two months ago. I thought of the Suns as a well-managed team that was on the rise with a quality head coach. For Jeff Hornacek to suddenly be on the hot seat and for things to be on the verge of exploding just goes to show how fragile things can be in the NBA.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Saturday Slam: Mark Jackson's comments about Stephen Curry are idiotic

     Rather than complimenting the Golden State Warriors for their success and finding good things to say about their star player Stephen Curry, former Warriors coach Mark Jackson continues to find negative things to say. When talking about Stephen Curry while calling the Warriors-Cavaliers game, Jackson said:
     "Steph Curry's great. Steph Curry's the MVP. He's a champion. Understand what I'm saying when I say this. To a degree, he's hurting the game. And what I mean by that is that I go into these high school gyms, I watch these kids, and the first thing they do is they run to the 3-point line. You are not Steph Curry. Work on the other aspects of the game. People think that he's just a knock-down shooter." 

     While there may be a grain of truth in what Mark Jackson is saying, as a whole, what he's saying is idiotic. What makes it idiotic is that he is acting as if Stephen Curry is the first NBA player young kids have tried to emulate. In addition, he is also absolving coaches of any responsibility when it comes to coaching their players. 

     I grew up playing basketball as a kid. I played throughout my youth and even when I kept getting cut from my high school basketball team, I still kept finding ways to play. I know what it's like to be a kid learning the game of a basketball while simultaneously idolizing those who play in the NBA. As a kid, you try to play like the pros. You see an amazing shot on Sports Center and then you go into your backyard and try to replicate that same shot. All kids learning the game of basketball do it and they've been doing it since they've been able to watch the NBA on television in the early 1980s. 

     I grew up as a kid in the 1990s, so the guys who I tried to emulate were Michael Jordan, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Latrell Sprewell, Shawn Kemp, etc.  I remember playing one-on-one with my next-door neighbor when I was 8 years old. I was the Utah Jazz and he was the Chicago Bulls. We would play the Space Jam soundtrack as we played and we thought we were so cool. Hell, I remember trying to replicate Rex Chapman's falling-out-of-bounds shot to force overtime against the Sonics in the first round of the 1997 NBA playoffs! 

     When I was a kid, the NBA already existed as a great source for bad habits and ill-advised play. Stephen Curry is just another great basketball player who kids try to emulate without success. If Mark Jackson wants to blame the NBA for teaching kids bad fundamentals, I'm totally on board with that. They let guys get away with traveling; they don't always exhibit classic fundamentals, etc. But, to single out Stephen Curry and make it sound like he single-handedly is responsible for all the bad habits that kids are developing on a basketball court is absurd. To say that he is "hurting the game" is even more absurd. 

     Stephen Curry is one of the best things to ever happen to the game of basketball. He's revolutionized the game and in all reality sets a good example for kids as opposed to a bad example. The guys who set a bad example for kids are the guys who can't hit their free throws and only score by throwing down dunks (E.g. DeAndre Jordan). 

     Stephen Curry scores in so many ways, hits his foul shots, and is one of the most fundamentally sound players the game has ever seen. Provided you tell kids that they can't get away with chucking up ridiculous shots, Stephen Curry can actually serve as a good player for kids to try to model their games after. Curry highlights the value of having good technique and that is what every kid should strive to have. 


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wednesday Windmill: Looking back on Kobe Bryant

     I know we still have more than half of the season to go, but with Kobe Bryant officially announcing that this will be his last season in the NBA, I figured now would be a good time for me to reflect on his amazing career while we still have half of a season to enjoy him. Let me first say that I am not a Lakers fan. As a matter of fact, I grew up hating the Los Angeles Lakers and every Lakers team that Kobe Bryant ever played on. That largely has to do with the fact that I have always pulled for the underdog and have always rooted against big market teams.
     The Utah Jazz is the team of my youth and still is my favorite NBA team. Whenever the Jazz went against a team with more glamor, flash, and popularity, I always wanted the Jazz to win even more. The Lakers were atop the list of teams I loved seeing the Jazz defeat and Kobe Bryant was the face of their team during my childhood and early adulthood.
     Even though I’ll always dislike the Lakers, I have to admit that I’m going to miss Kobe Bryant. In addition, I am not shy about praising Kobe Bryant for having one of the greatest careers in NBA history. Kobe Bryant was named to 17 All-Star teams; he won 5 NBA championships, 4 NBA All-Star Game MVP awards, 2 NBA Finals MVP awards, and 1 NBA MVP award. In addition, he was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team 9 times and is a 2 time NBA scoring champion.
Kobe Bryant’s résumé speaks for itself.

     He is one the NBA’s greatest players and also one of its fiercest competitors. Unlike some NBA players we have seen, Kobe Bryant never took a night off. He was like my childhood idols John Stockton and Karl Malone in that way. Kobe Bryant showed up every night and gave it his all. If he was unable to play in a game, you knew he had to be hurting really bad because if there were any way possible for him to play, he would be out there.

     As a matter of fact, Kobe Bryant probably should have retired a couple of seasons ago, but his passion for the game and desire to continue to compete fueled his return from an Achilles tendon tear that would end most careers and a left knee fracture that would have made most players hang up their sneakers.

     Kobe Bryant’s intense desire to win and play the game of basketball is what sets him apart from the mere mortals of the game. Kobe Bryant’s relentless and tenacious work ethic is phenomenal and can only be rivaled by Michael Jordan, the greatest player in the history of basketball.
When we look back on Kobe Bryant’s career, what will stand out to all of us is his passion for the game and his constant striving to be better.

     Kobe Bryant was never satisfied with where he was at. He always got better and strived for greatness. If there was a way for Kobe Bryant to accomplish something, succeed or fail, he gave it his all. He put it all on the line and played until it was probably unsafe for him to play.

That kind of dedication to the game is what we must always remember him for.

     When you see him play again this season, don’t view him as an aging superstar past his prime. See him as a living basketball hall of fame exhibit. Every game he plays needs to be treasured and we must appreciate all the amazing moments he has given us. Even if you were on the losing end of a Kobe Bryant buzzer beater and wanted to scream in frustration, there was no denying that your team just got beat by a true legend of the game. Kobe Bryant, you will be missed.  

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Saturday Slam: The Rise of Buzz City

One of the more exciting things for me to see in today’s NBA is the rise of the Charlotte Hornets. With a 15-11 record, the Charlotte Hornets are on the upswing and promise to be one of the league’s more exciting teams in the coming seasons. Led by Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum, and Al Jefferson, the Hornets have a nice combination of guard-play and post-play.
Kemba Walker, who is averaging 18.2 points, 5.0 assists, and 1.7 steals per game is one the league’s brightest young point guards. He has a knack for hitting big shots and is willing to make the necessary plays to win games. Nicolas Batum is a fantastic player who does a little bit of everything both in the post and out on the wing. As for Al Jefferson, he is one the league’s most talented big men. Especially when it comes to scoring the basketball down on the block.  
While still not quite ready to win a championship, the Charlotte Hornets are proving that they deserve to be mentioned with the other up and coming teams in the NBA like the Jazz, Raptors, and Knicks (Yes, I said the Knicks). They have a fun group of guys that are young and eager to make their mark in the NBA.
What makes this all the more fun for me is I remember watching the Charlotte Hornets of old in the 90s with Alonzo Mourning, Muggsy Bogues, and Larry Johnson. I have fond memories of watching those teams play and I was sad to see the team leave to New Orleans. The Charlotte Hornets in a way are an important part of my childhood and to see them relevant and alive is really fun for me to see.
The NBA is a better league with “Buzz City” back. I felt an emptiness and a void with the Charlotte Hornets extinct. With them now resurrected, I no longer feel that emptiness.  I feel like a part of my childhood is still with me and what’s better is that they are operated by Michael Jordan, another part of my childhood that I treasure.
But before I delve more into 1990s nostalgia and start talking about 90s hip-hop, let me close by addressing the present. The Charlotte Hornets are building a team with a very bright future that we can expect to be competitive for a long time. The foundation is there and now all that needs to happen is for them to figure out who the rest of the pieces of their team will be. Jeremy Lin is a nice addition as is Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky.

If the Charlotte Hornets emerge into a legitimate contender within the next five years, don’t be surprised. At some point, LeBron James’ Cavaliers will run out of gas and there will have to be a new front-runner in the Eastern Conference. At this point, I see no reason for that new front-runner to not be the Charlotte Hornets. Especially if they are able to sign a certain “Splash Brother” with Charlotte roots, but that’s a story for another day. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Wednesday Windmill: The Golden State Warriors Are RIDICULOUS

     The Golden State Warriors just thumped the Charlotte Hornets 116-99 to extend their unbeaten record to 20-0. That's right, 20-0. It's the best start in NBA history and the Warriors are showing no signs of letting up. Stephen Curry is leading the charge by averaging a ridiculous 31.6 points per game on 51.2% shooting from the field, 44.5% shooting from three-point range, and 94.1% from the foul line.
     In addition to Stephen Curry's lights out shooting and stellar defense (2.5 steals per game), the Warriors are getting very good production from Draymond Green (13.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.4 blocks), Klay Thompson (16.3 points on 41.3% shooting from three-point range), and Harrison Barnes (13.4 points and 5.0 rebounds).
     The Warriors have a lot of weapons and what's scary is that they play very unselfishly, leading the league in assists at 29.5 per game. In addition to their offensive potency, they are holding opponents to 42.4% shooting from the field, forcing 15.5 turnovers per game, blocking 6.5 shots per game, getting 8.5 steals per game, and grabbing 35.4 defensive rebounds per game.
     In truth, it's the Warriors' defense that is primarily responsible for their historic start. By holding opponents to low shooting percentages while simultaneously cleaning up the glass, the Warriors are able to get out in transition, which is where they really excel. When they have opponents on their heels, the Warriors are deadly because there are so many ways they can attack. They can hit a transition three, connect on alley-oop dunks, or hit floaters in the lane. Plus, they are very good at the foul line, shooting 76.1% as a team.
     When you break it all down, it's no surprise that the Warriors are an elite team. They have all the pieces that any team would want: Great perimeter shooting, great ball movement, and fantastic defense. However, it is still a pleasant surprise to see them start their season with 20 straight wins and counting. What they are doing is truly special and I hope that everybody who is a basketball fan is enjoying the magic that the Golden State Warriors are performing on a basketball court.
     Stephen Curry especially is out of this world. He makes shots that even Michael Jordan would have been hard pressed to do on a regular basis. While Michael Jordan is the league's greatest player, it's hard to find a shooter in the history of the NBA that is better than Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry takes shots that most basketball coaches would consider "bad shots" and he makes them with ease. For Stephen Curry, there is no such thing as a "bad shot". He's that good.
     Now, of as to how this all ends, I think it's safe to say that the Golden State Warriors should be the heavy favorites to win the 2016 NBA championship. They won the title last season and what's scary is that they appear to have gotten a whole lot better. As for whether or not they eclipse the '96 Bulls' 72-10 record, only time will tell, but at the moment, I wouldn't put it past them to finish with the best record in league history.
     A 73-9 season or better certainly seems possible so long as they stay healthy. It may sound far fetched to already put them in the same class as the '96 Bulls, but when they continue to shatter NBA records and extend their unbeaten record into the 20s, why shouldn't we put them in the same class as that Bulls team?