The fix, I mean pick, is in! David Stern’s NBA draft lottery was won by the team he used to own and whose team was screwed by the Chris Paul deal, the New Orleans Hornets.
Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Bobcats pick second and the Washington Wizards will select third. The Brooklyn Nets needed a top three pick to keep their first round selection, but they drew sixth and their pick will go to Portland. Here is the incredibly early mock lottery draft. The first 14 selections:
1- New Orleans Hornets- Anthony Davis, C, Kentucky- A strong centerpiece for a rebuilding team.
2- Charlotte Bobcats- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, G/F, Kentucky- A tremendously versatile player the Cats need.
3- Washington Wizards- Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas- Washington gets some solid interior muscle to pair with Nene.
4- Cleveland Cavaliers- Bradley Beal, SG, Florida- A deadly shooter who should go extremely well for Kyrie Irving.
5- Sacramento Kings- Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State- It doesn’t make sense for a team that already has DeMarcus Cousins to take Andre Drummond. Sullinger fits the bill.
6- Portland TrailBlazers- Andre Drummond, C, Connecticut- A talent going this late is an absolute steal for Portland, who will move on from Greg Oden.
7- Golden State Warriors- Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina- A skilled frontcourt player this team hasn’t seen since Antawn Jamison.
8- Toronto Raptors- Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State- A slashing PG who can score, the Raps have found the successor to Jose Calderon.
9- Detroit Pistons- John Henson, PF, North Carolina- A good pairing with Greg Monroe, will help the Detroit cause immensely.
10- New Orleans Hornets- Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina- The successor to Chris Paul in New Orleans.
11- Portland TrailBlazers- Jeremy Lamb, SG, Connecticut- The Blazers grab two Huskies and send them west.
12- Milwaukee Bucks- Perry Jones, PF, Baylor- Talented with some maturity issues, Jones will complement Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis.
13- Phoenix Suns- Austin Rivers, SG, Duke- You know what’s a good way to keep Steve Nash? Tempt him with a shooter like Rivers.
14- Houston Rockets- Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois- Houston has been looking for a big man for a year and Leonard brings the muscle.
Over the last two months, everything the San Antonio Spurs have touched has turned into gold.
They took a 10-game winning streak into the postseason and followed that up with another 10-game roll to take an emphatic 2-0 series lead on the Oklahoma City Thunder. They made it look easy on Tuesday night in a 120-111 win that was not even that close, highlighted by a dazzling shooting night you’d only see on NBA2K on easy mode.
San Antonio shot 55.1 percent from the field against a team whose average field goal percentage defense in the playoffs is 41.7 percent. A percentage improvement of that size does not occur, especially against such a sound defensive team like the Thunder, unless something extraordinary was going on. The ESPN hype machine is already touting a perfect postseason, but I won’t get that over-the-top giddy just yet. That being said, the evolution and progression of this Spurs team has been simply astounding.
To shoot over 55 percent and have Tim Duncan shoot 2-11 would have been deemed impossible just several months ago. During the third quarter, they were at 63 percent from the field and 64 percent from three! The ascension of Tony Parker and the development of role players has made this the most formidable offensive team in the Duncan era. Yes, I know that Duncan has won four championships but those teams were primarily based on defense. This team is more well rounded.
“Tony’s been great all year,” Gregg Popovich said. “He’s been really focused the entire season.”
Parker shot an unheard of 16-21 from the field, scoring 34 points and dishing out eight assists to just two turnovers. Most thought that Kawhi Leonard would be a nice role player when the Spurs sent George Hill to Indiana to move up in last year’s draft. Not only did Leonard score 18 points and grab 10 rebounds on 7-12 shooting, he also hit three of San Antonio’s 11 three-pointers on Tuesday evening.
The Spurs have also been extremely strong defensively. Tuesday’s game was the first in the postseason that an opponent reached 100 points, and the Thunder reached the century mark when the game was well out of reach. What is within reach is the Rockets’ 22-game win streak in 2008, the last time a team won 20 consecutive games until now. Also within reach? An incredible championship run and the fifth ring for Duncan, the greatest power forward who ever lived.
I’m not a huge believer in coincidences, but since it gets people to read articles here’s a crazy one. The Chicago White Sox were struggling through April with a pitching staff lacking identity, a stable of aging sluggers and a rookie manager trying to find his tactical identity. Then Bulls star Derrick Rose tore his ACL on April 28. Since then, White Sox are 17-11 including six straight wins and nine wins in 10 contests to threaten Cleveland for the AL Central lead.
Coincidence? Of course. A stretch? Most likely. Are you still reading? Yep.
Rookie skipper Robin Ventura has gotten incredibly strong seasons from veterans Adam Dunn, back from the dead after one of the worst seasons in recent memory, the ageless Paul Konerko (he’s batting .395), A.J. Pierzynski, Alex Rios and former ace Jake Peavy, who’s having his own end of career renaissance. Ventura has also juggled his bullpen over the first two months, transitioning from Hector Santiago to Matt Thornton to 23-year-old righty Addison Reed, who has stabilized the position (for the most part) over the past two weeks.
Chris Sale’s transition from the bullpen to the rotation has been a major spark for the Pale Hose. He certainly had a Memorial Day to remember, striking out 15 Rays in a 2-1 win, running his record to 6-2 to go with a 2.34 ERA. His 9.52 strikeouts per nine innings ranks sixth in the major leagues.
It also proves that ownership made the right decision in choosing to keep general manager Kenny Williams over manager Ozzie Guillen, whose live wire act ran its course in Chicago. Williams chose Ventura, who never had any managerial experience, and so far it’s worked out pretty well. The White Sox have now filled the void as Chicago’s “it team” and have played strong baseball since that Rose injury. A lot of things have to go right for the White Sox to remain in contention, but Ventura and Williams are currently just enjoying the ride.
The NBA announced its all-pro teams today, and a vast majority of the selections were appropriate. It’s hard to argue with a first team of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul. Andrew Bynum and Tony Parker were members of the second team that came closest to statistically edging out Howard and Paul, respectvely, but were not quite up to the task this season, though Bynum had more win shares than Howard.
Since the NBA is an entertainment and market driven league, they would never have left Bryant off the first team in favor of Kevin Love, but a case could be made for the Minnesota TimberWolves’ standout forward. Love averaged just 1.9 fewer points, had a higher field goal percentage, far more rebounds and had a whopping 10-6.2 edge in win shares. There would have been an enormous uproar if Love made it over Bryant, but it makes a lot of sense if you look at the numbers.
Joining Love, Bynum and Parker on the second team are Blake Griffin and Russell Westbrook. Both players had sensational seasons and Westbrook barely edged out Dwyane Wade statistically and in the ballot box (Westbrook made the second team by four points). Wade is joined on the third team by Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler and Rajon Rondo.
The five players who got the most votes but were left off the team featured (in order) LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol, Derrick Rose, Josh Smith and Paul Pierce. My friend Josh from Memphis, and a Grizzlies season ticket holder, made his case for Gasol over Chandler and I initially agreed with him. Then I checked the stats.
Though Gasol had the better per game average in points, assists and blocks, Chandler had the highest field goal percentage in the league (besting Gasol by nearly 20 percent), beat Gasol in win shares 9.5-8.2 and was the best defensive player in the league. Gasol deserved more votes than Aldridge, but not more than Chandler. A case could be made for Pierce over Anthony, but I’ll let New York and Boston fans fight that one out themselves. Feel free to comment!
After a disastrous game three without big man Chris Bosh in the lineup, out with a rib injury, Miami has hit its stride in its second round Eastern Conference playoff series against the formidable and determined Indiana Pacers. The Heat controlled the tempo in Sunday’s game four, with LeBron James and Dwayne Wade dominating and Udonis Haslem stepping up and playing extremely well in the interior.
Tuesday’s game five saw more of the same, as James scored 30, Haslem shot 5-6 from the field and Miami corralled 14 more rebounds than Indiana in a 22-point win at home. That does beg the question: Would the Miami Heat be better off the rest of the season without Chris Bosh in the lineup? For old time’s sake, I promise it’s still timely, here’s an article I wrote about Bosh one year ago today. How much has changed? You’ll be the judge…
Bosh’s Bullish Performance Highlights An Inconsistent Season
In a season that seems like it’s lasted an eternity for the Miami Heat and its fans, both the high and low points of Chris Bosh’s seasons have both been against the Chicago Bulls. On Sunday, Bosh improbably gave Miami a 2-1 series lead with a 96-85 win after playing some of his worst ball this season against the same Chicago team.
In three games against Chicago during the regular season, Bosh averaged 15.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, well below his 18.7 and 8.3 averages. He was certainly not living up to the expectations placed on him when Miami acquired him and pundits began calling the team “The Big 2 1/2″ well before Charlie Sheen jokes were en vogue.
The Heat and the Bulls were both big winners in the free agency sweepstakes Decision bonanza of last summer and were considered the favorites, along with Eastern Conference mainstays Boston and Orlando, to reach the NBA Finals. After a couple of bumpy losing streaks along the way, Miami was 42-15 just after the All-Star break, battling Boston for the top spot in the conference. Their only problem was that they could not beat elite teams like the Celtics, Lakers or Bulls.
On February 24, a Thursday night right after the most eventful trading deadline in at least several years, Chicago handed Miami a frustrating 93-89 loss. Blame for that loss fell squarely on Bosh’s large shoulders. Bosh was a distant third in the Heat’s version of the Big Three, the LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Bosh triumphant troika. His demeanor often seemed awkward and passive and he had games where he would make little impact and vanish in the box scores. Miami wished the latter had happened on that Thursday.
Bosh shot a historically bad 1-18 from the field in that four-point defeat, the worst shooting night for a player with at least 18 shots since the 1972-1973 season. The next day, Chicago Sum-Times writer Dan Cahill astutely pointed out that “you have to be a pretty good player because your coach has to have confidence in you to stay in the game, and your teammates have to have faith in you to keep feeding you the ball.”
Miami never lacked confidence in Bosh despite his occasional sub par performances. That confidence paid off nearly three months to the day of the worst performance in Bosh’s NBA career. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, Miami had to get past the same Chicago team that had given them the most problems during the regular season to reach the NBA Finals, where the Heat had to go to reach their extraordinarily lofty expectations.
Coincidentally, or perhaps not, Bosh’s best game of the season came against the Bulls in a crucial game three that Miami would probably have lost during the regular season. Mainstays James and Wade were off their games, shooting a combined 12-30 for 39 points. When two of the best players in the league don’t even combined for 40, the opposition usually has at least a decent chance to win. But this was the night the oft-passive Bosh chose to assert himself, prove his value and carry his team to an important playoff win.
Bosh showed incredible range on his shot, going 13-15 for 34 points after missing his first three shots from the field in Miami’s 96-85 game three win that kept the Heat undefeated at home in this postseason. In an interesting twist of fate, something that seemed nearly impossible three months ago, Bosh is the scoring leader in the Eastern Conference Finals.
“C-B had it going,” James said after Sunday’s win. “When we have someone going on our team, we continue to go to him.”
Against the team Bosh had his worst game against, he is now playing his best basketball. After dismal averages against Chicago in three regular season games, Bosh is averaging 24.7 points per game in the postseason. Perhaps Bosh and the Heat will live up to those expectations after all.