Saturday, August 20, 2016
During these Olympic games, Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, who currently is competing for Team USA, told ESPN that Olympic gold medals are "above NBA rings." While it is true that for many athletes an Olympic gold medal is the most prized possession in their sport, NBA players are judged on how many NBA championship rings they win as opposed to how many Olympic gold medals they win.
A big reason for this is the fact that over the years, USA Basketball has dominated the rest of the world to the point that it is a foregone conclusion that they will win the gold medal. The United States is home to the most NBA players of any country and as a result the best basketball players in the world. This isn't to say that other countries don't have amazing basketball players as well. The world is certainly catching up, especially when we see how many close games USA Basketball has had in the 2016 Olympic games. Even with that being the case, USA Basketball is still heavily favored to win the gold medal every time. When they win a gold medal, we yawn and when they don't, we freak out and are absolutely shocked.
So, with that being the case, how important is an Olympic gold medal in basketball? The answer is it that it is important for USA Basketball players and career defining for players outside of the United States. For a guy like DeAndre Jordan, who has played very well in these Olympic games, a gold medal would be a very nice addition to his trophy case. Especially when he himself doesn't have an NBA championship ring.
Even for USA Basketball players with NBA championship rings, an Olympic gold medal is still valuable because of what the Olympics represent for all of sports. When you win an Olympic gold medal for USA Basketball, that means you are one of the very best players in the world and that in and of itself is a huge achievement. The accomplishment doesn't so much lie in the basketball games that are won but rather in playing on the most elite basketball team in the world.
For guys competing for countries outside of the United States, take Serbia for instance, who is playing USA Basketball for the gold medal, winning a gold medal could very well be bigger than winning an NBA championship or at least on par with it. To lead your team to victory against a team composed of 12 NBA all-stars is nothing short of incredible and truly a feat for the ages.
Leading your country to a gold medal in basketball with the United States standing in the way would make any player a hero in their country and perhaps even a basketball hall of fame player. It's that incredible of a feat. If Serbia defeats the United States tomorrow, Nikola Jokic and Milos Tedosic will become national heroes and true legends of the game. It would be basketball's version of "Miracle on Ice."
So, in summation, winning an Olympic gold medal is a big deal in basketball. It's just that it matters differently depending on whether or not you are playing for USA Basketball. It's that simple.
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Like always, the San Antonio Spurs continue to make really good moves while not getting enough attention. While the departure of Tim Duncan created a lot of headlines, the additions of Pau Gasol and David Lee have not gotten enough attention. Pau Gasol averaged 16.5 points and 11.0 rebounds per game last season with the Bulls, which is a significant upgrade over Tim Duncan's 8.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. As for David Lee, his 8.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game were nothing to write home about, but they essentially replace Tim Duncan's production. If Lee is able to play better than he did last season, he too could be a significant addition to the squad.
The Spurs won 67 games last season and essentially are bringing back the same squad they had last season plus Pau Gasol. If that isn't reason to take the Spurs seriously, I don't know what is. They still have Tony Parker running the point with Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge continuing to gel as the franchise players for the present and future.
While the Golden State Warriors have understandably grabbed all the headlines by landing Kevin Durant, they are no slam-dunk to win the NBA championship next season. One of the main reasons is the San Antonio Spurs and all the good moves that they are making on their end. While I do agree that the Golden State Warriors are the favorites to come out of the Western Conference in 2017, the San Antonio Spurs will be right there putting the pressure on them. I guarantee it.
Sunday, August 7, 2016
Given that the Olympics began this weekend, I thought it would be good to preview the Olympic basketball tournament. Especially since 46 NBA players will be competing, which is the most in Olympic history. What I will do is give you a quick preview of each of the 12 teams competing in this event.
United States: Jimmy Butler (Bulls), Kevin Durant (Warriors), DeAndre Jordan (Clippers), Kyle Lowry (Raptors), Harrison Barnes (Mavericks), DeMar DeRozan (Raptors), Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), Klay Thompson (Warriors), DeMarcus Cousins (Kings), Paul George (Pacers), Draymond Green (Warriors), and Carmelo Anthony (Knicks) is the USA roster and while it does lack some big names like Stephen Curry, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook, it is still a LOADED roster.
The bottom line is that so long as these guys don't let their egos get in the way, which I don't think they will, the United States should have no problem bringing home the gold. They have a fantastic combination of athleticism and skill. Kyrie Irving for example might be the most skilled player in this whole tournament while DeAndre Jordan is certainly the most athletic. I would be shocked if the United States had any games that were decided by less than 10 points.
Argentina: Argentina has one of the most competitive rosters in this tournament. They have a couple of current NBA players in Luis Scola (Nets), Manu Ginobili (Spurs), and Nicolas Brussino (Mavericks) while also having a couple of former NBA players in Carlos Delfino and Andres Nocioni. They definitely have skill, but size isn't exactly their forte with nobody bigger than 6'10". The way that Argentina will have to make up for their lack of size is to play really clean and efficient basketball, something that they've been capable of doing in the past. Look for Argentina to make some noise and threaten to win a medal.
Australia: Australia has several active NBA players on their team: Andrew Bogut (Mavericks), Patty Mills (Spurs), Joe Ingles (Jazz), Matthew Dellavedova (Bucks), and Arron Baynes (Pistons). Plus, Cameron Bairstow played in the NBA last season with the Bulls.
While only Andrew Bogut would be considered a "high profile" player, the very fact that they have five active NBA players on their team makes them very dangerous. If Patty Mills and Joe Ingles can stroke it from deep while Andrew Bogut controls the paint, these guys will be tough.
Note: Andrew Bogut did play in their opener against France and scored 18 points, so he appears to be fully healthy.
Brazil: Brazil, like Australia has a lot of NBA players on their team, though not a lot of really big names. Their two best players are Nenê (Rockets) and Leandro Barbosa (Suns), but they have three other NBA players in Raul Neto (Jazz), Cristiano Felicio (Bulls), and Marcelinho Huertas (Lakers).
The advantage that Brazil has is that they have a nice blend of post play and wing play. Barbosa, Huertas, and Neto make for a very nice backcourt while Nene and Felicio make for a quality front court. The balance of this Brazilian team could propel them towards an Olympic medal.
China: China is a very young team that quite honestly isn't very good. They have zero active NBA players on their roster and only one player with NBA experience in Yi Jianlian, who washed out of the league pretty quick. That isn't to say there is no talent on this team. They have two big men, Zhou Qi and Wang Zhelin, who were drafted in the NBA in this most recent draft, but neither of them have much experience playing against NBA level players. Look for China to struggle in this event. Their 62-119 loss to the United States certainly does not give me any reason to think otherwise.
Croatia: Philadelphia 76ers fans should keep an eye on Croatia due to the presence of big man Dario Saric, who is looking to lead his country to a medal. Saric is coming over to the 76ers this year and will get an early taste of NBA level basketball in these Olympics. Croatia has a couple of other NBA players on their roster as well in Mario Hezonja (Magic) and Bojan Bogdanovic (Nets).
Mario Hezonja will be really interesting to watch since he was drafted #5 overall in 2015 and spent the year overseas with FC Barcelona. Hezonja is a freak athlete at 6'8", 218 pounds and he can shoot the ball well, so Magic fans too should get excited to see how he does. The Croatian team doesn't have very many NBA players, but the ones they do have could make an impact. Croatia is a dark horse to get a medal at these games. The could definitely surprise people.
France: The NBA players representing France are Nicolas Batum (Hornets), Joffrey Lauvergne (Nuggets), Tony Parker (Spurs), Boris Diaw (Jazz), and Rudy Gobert (Jazz). Plus, Nando De Colo could probably still be in the NBA, but he opted for more money with CSKA Moscow. France has some serious talent with Tony Parker running the point and Rudy Gobert down on the block doing what he does best, which is disrupting shots and catching lobs for easy dunks.
The Parker, Batum, and Gobert trio alone makes France very scary and then when you add a nice supporting cast in Diaw, Lauvergne, and De Colo, you suddenly have a quasi NBA team on your hands. Rudy Gobert is a game-changer and Tony Parker is still one of the best point guards in the league. I would be shocked if France did not get a medal at these games.
Lithuania: Lithuanians are known to be large people and their basketball team is no exception with nobody under 6'4" and four players that are at least 6'10". Jonas Valanciunas, the center for the Toronto Raptors is the star of this Lithuanian team, but there are two other NBA players on this team in Domantas Sabonis (Magic) and Mindaugas Kuzminskas (Knicks), both of whom play forward. The key for this Lithuanian team will be to take advantage of their size and really control the glass. If they do a good job at this, they won't be an easy out for any team. Look for Lithuania to make some noise and threaten to win a medal.
Nigeria: Nigeria has 1.5 NBA players. Michael Gbinije plays for the Pistons and Ben Uzoh plays in the D-League with the Canton Charge. The only guy with any serious NBA experience is Ike Diogu. Josh Akognon spent a year with the Dallas Mavericks, but that's it. All in all, look for Nigeria to get waxed at this event, but props to them for being the top team coming out of Africa. That's not nothing.
Serbia: The only current NBA player on the Serbian team is Nikola Jokic, a big man for the Denver Nuggets. Miroslav Raduljica played briefly in the NBA and Bogdan Bogdanovic was drafted in the 1st round by the Phoenix Suns in 2014. The best player outside of Jokic is probably Milos Tedosic, who has been a really solid player overseas, playing with CSKA Moscow during the last few seasons. Tedosic is a combo guard, so Serbia definitely has weapons on the perimeter as well as in the paint. Serbia should win at least a couple of games, but I don't see them winning a medal when it's all said and done.
Spain: Spain has a ton of NBA talent on their team with Pau Gasol (Bulls), Ricky Rubio (Timberwolves), Nikola Mitotic (Bulls), and Rudy Fernandez, who plays for Real Madrid but is a guy who'd be averaging double digit points per game in the NBA if he wanted to be. Plus, they have Sergio Rodriguez (76ers), Jose Calderon (Lakers), Willy Hernangomez (Knicks), and Alex Abrines (Thunder).
The amount of NBA talent for a non-USA team is really impressive and the non-NBA players are also some of the best players not playing in the NBA. France might be the team to give the USA the most trouble, but many think it will be Spain due to all the talent that they have. Look for Spain to make a lot of noise and put themselves in a position to compete against the United States in the gold medal game.
Venezuela: I'm gonna be totally honest with you. I haven't heard of any of the Venezuelan players and they have nobody that is bigger than 6'9". They do have one Division 1 player in Anthony Perez of Ole Miss, who just finished his senior year averaging 7.0 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. So, they definitely have quality basketball players, it's just that relative to the rest of the competition, they aren't very good.
Prediction: United States takes the gold, France takes the silver, and Spain takes the bronze.
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
The New York Knicks will have a different look in the 2016-17 season with the additions of Courtney Lee, Brandon Jennings, Joakim Noah, and most notably Derrick Rose. They already appeared to be turning the corner with the selection of Kristaps Porzingis in the 2015 NBA Draft, but with these additional moves over the summer, the future in New York suddenly appears to be getting brighter.
For the first time in his New York Knicks career, Carmelo Anthony actually has a supporting cast to be excited about, which in and of itself is a big deal. But considering that the Knicks went 32-50 last season, are these moves enough to actually make them a serious force in the Eastern Conference? How good will these Knicks be?
The short and simple answer is that how good the Knicks will be directly correlates to how healthy they will be. Joakim Noah (29 games) and Derrick Rose (66 games) both struggled to stay healthy last season, which is reason for Knicks fans to treat the addition of both players with a fair amount of skepticism. If those guys don't stay healthy and on the floor, the Knicks will still be hard pressed to crack 41 wins, let alone make a serious dent in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Plus, it isn't like it's only Noah and Rose who've been injured. Brandon Jennings played only 48 games last season and 41 games the season before due to rupturing his left Achilles.
The amount of injuries that these new additions to the Knicks have suffered is certainly a serious concern and it also makes you wonder why the Knicks were willing to roll the dice on Noah, Rose, and Jennings as opposed to one of them. Maybe the idea is that one of them will have to stay healthy, but even so, it's very risky to have your season riding on the health of fragile players who aren't what they used to be.
Joakim Noah's injury was a shoulder injury, which shouldn't be taken lightly, but I'm much more optimistic that he'll be able to return to form as one of the league's best rebounders and shot blockers. But Brandon Jennings (Achilles) and Derrick Rose (multiple ACLs) have had much more worrisome injuries that are very hard to bounce back from. Derrick Rose is a former league MVP who at his peak was perhaps the best player in the world. But now, he's at best a B-grade player who is only capable of showing flashes of the brilliance he once had. As for Brandon Jennings, he hasn't been able to have a scoring average in double figures since the Achilles injury, so in his case I'm even more skeptical of his ability to become a productive player again.
The only other noteworthy addition that I haven't mentioned is Courtney Lee, who has been more of a role player over the course of his career, playing good defense and knocking down some threes. Lee can't be expected to be anything better than what he's already been, which is to score around 10 points and shoot close to 40% from 3-point range. That's solid, but nothing to get super jazzed about.
At the end of the day, the additions to this New York Knicks team look a lot better on paper than they actually are. Carmelo Anthony will still need to carry the load and Kristaps Porzingis will have to continue to be the Great White Hope of the franchise and build upon his stellar rookie season. If Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Brandon Jennings all stay healthy and play better than they did last season, the Knicks will actually be pretty good and threaten to win a playoff series. The problem is that the odds of that happening are about as high as the odds of Cookie Monster switching to brownies. It could theoretically happen, but we all know it's not. In terms of a win total projection for this Knicks team, I'll say they improve by 10 wins, finishing with a 42-40 record, which might be good enough to make the playoffs.
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
A week or so ago, Marc Stein of ESPN reported that the Los Angeles Clippers were exploring the possibility of having an arena all to themselves. Since 1999, the Los Angeles Clippers have shared the Staples Center with the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Kings (NHL). During this entire time, the Clippers have been viewed as somewhat of a third wheel and a second-rate act when compared to the Lakers and Kings. But now that they are starting to pick up steam and gain their own notoriety as one of the more exciting teams in the Western Conference, the Clippers are viewed less and less as the B-grade team of Los Angeles and more and more as the premier show in town.
With this sudden shift in how they are perceived, it makes sense for them to desire to permanently move out of the Lakers' shadow and get an arena all to themselves. By doing this, they would be able to better market themselves and truly create their own brand without the Lakers overshadowing them. Instead of having to put black drapes over the Lakers' banners during their home games, the Clippers wouldn't even have those banners hanging over their heads at all, which I think would be really refreshing for them.
From a logistics perspective and branding perspective, the Clippers have three options in terms of getting a new arena. The first option is to build a new arena in Los Angeles all to themselves. The second option is to move into the Honda Center in Anaheim, which is the home of the NHL's Anaheim Ducks. The third option is to move back to San Diego and build a new arena down there. All three options have their pros and cons, which I will further explain.
The first option, to build a new arena in downtown Los Angeles all to themselves, is very attractive since such an arena would give them full creative control over fan experience and also give them their own identity in Los Angeles that is separate from the Lakers. By having their own arena in Los Angeles all to themselves, the Clippers would be out of the Lakers' shadow and truly emerge as an alternative to the Lakers at the Staples Center. They would still be in downtown Los Angeles and be able to take full advantage of the Los Angeles market without the cons of sharing an arena with the Lakers.
here for source)
The Clippers have never felt at home at the Staples Center and never really felt like Los Angeles' team. By getting their own arena in Los Angeles, the Clippers could finally become Los Angeles' team in time, provided they continue to contend and the Lakers continue to struggle. The only downside to this route is cost and also the fact that staying in downtown Los Angeles still means they are somewhat in the Lakers' shadow, but still not nearly as much as they have been in the Staples Center.
The second option is very similar, which is to move into the Honda Center. The advantage of this is that they would no longer have to share an arena with the Lakers and it would also save them some money. Plus, they would be in Anaheim, which in and of itself is a separate market from downtown Los Angeles (30 miles away). They could market themselves as the NBA team of Anaheim and build a collective brand with the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Angels.
here for source)
From a cost-efficiency standpoint, this route makes the most sense. An arena is already in place in Anaheim that is far enough from downtown Los Angeles to allow the Clippers to have an identity that is separate from the Lakers. The only downside to this route is not having the perks of having an arena all to themselves. Outside of that, this is an excellent option.
The third option, moving back to San Diego and building an arena there, is a very interesting option since the Clippers themselves hail from San Diego (unless you count their days in Buffalo as the Buffalo Braves). In San Diego, the Clippers would truly have their own identity that is separate from the Lakers since they would be over 2 hours away in a totally different city with a totally different vibe. The return of the San Diego Clippers would be fun for NBA fans and the city of San Diego.
here for source)
The Clippers would totally free themselves from the Lakers' shadow by doing this. The only drawback is that Los Angeles is a bigger market and to some extent, the Clippers have to love being the best NBA team in Los Angeles. But, outside of that, moving to San Diego is a great option for the Clippers. They'd truly have their own identity and also still be located in a very attractive place for free agents to come to.
Overall, all three of these options are really good for the Clippers because they all involve getting a new arena. The bottom line is that the Clippers would best be served to play in an arena that is separate from the Staples Center. By doing this, they'll be able to better market themselves and create their own distinct brand that is separate from the Lakers. As far as how they go about doing it, they'll have to decide between one of the three options I listed above. Unless they pack up for Seattle and become the SuperSonics, but that's a story for a different day.