Making A List, Checking It Twice …

We’re making a list, checking it twice. On Christmas Eve, it’s time to remember who’s been naughty or nice in the first two months of the 2013-14 season:

Naughty — Nets — There isn’t enough coal in Newcastle to fill up the deservingly drooping stocking that hangs over a forlorn and underachieving mantle in Brooklyn. Why would anyone think it would make sense to trade for 37-year-old Kevin Garnett, 36-year-old Paul Pierce, 36-year-old Jason Terry as part of $102 million-payroll and put the whole thing in the hands of a guy who had never coached a game in his life? Then Jason Kidd gets extra naughty by intentionally spilling a drink when he doesn’t have a timeout against the Lakers. They have a mediocre offense and the 29th-rated defense. Now they lose Brook Lopez to a broken foot. So it won’t be a Happy New Year either, Billy King.

Nice — LaMarcus Aldridge — From Damian Lillard to Nicolas Batum to Robin Lopez to coach Terry Stotts, there are many contributors to the rousing start to the season by the surprising Trail Blazers with the best record in the league. But no one has done more to elevate his game and his team to the elite level than Aldridge. He labored faithfully through seven seasons with a roster that virtually fell apart around his ears, listened to so much talk of trades and has come back to deliver a magnificent season that has him firmly in the MVP conversation.

Naughty — Knicks — Remember when they used to play basketball in New York? The Manhattan edition of the NBA can’t shoot, doesn’t rebound and Carmelo Anthony is saying the Knicks’ troubles are all in their heads. Would that be the heads of the players and the coach who can’t think to call a timeout in the final seconds to set up a shot? If things don’t turn around fast, Mike Woodson’s going to be the fall guy even though there have been enough injuries to fill an ER and the myth of the Knicks as true playoff contenders entering the season was no more real than a team of flying reindeer pulling a sleigh across the sky.

Nice — Suns — If you went to a Las Vegas sports book during training camp and plopped down a sizable lump of cash on the Suns to beat the over/under prediction of 21.5 wins, you’d probably be only a week or two away from returning to book a penthouse suite with your winnings. First-year coach Jeff Hornacek has his club riding the backcourt pairing of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic with a rotating cast of other contributors to a 17-10 record and a spot right in the thick of the tough Western Conference playoff race. When the Spurs were in town last week, the entire Phoenix roster had played the same number of NBA games in their careers combined as 37-year-old Tim Duncan.

Naughty — Ricky Rubio — Sure, it’s fun to sit in front of the big screen TV and keep hitting the rewind button on the DVR to replay all of those behind-the-back, no-look, over-the-shoulder, through-the-opponent’s-legs, thread-the-needle, oh-my-gosh, how-did-he-do-that, head-on-a-swivel, slicker-than-a-greased eel passes that get his teammates easy layups and dunks. But come on, two years plus into your NBA career, you’ve got to be able to knock down a wide open jump shot when teams give them to you. Which they do and which you don’t. Which is a big part of the reason why your Timberwolves are healthy and still underperforming.

Nice — Kevin Love — After missing 91 games over the past two seasons to injury, Love’s return to good health and a nightly spot in the lineup has been a sight sweeter than sugar plums dancing in the Timberwolves’ heads. How does a guy who is always a threat to score 30 points and pull down 20 rebounds get better? He becomes a better passer, nearly doubling his assists to 4.2 per game. Outside of The King down in South Beach, there’s just nobody in the league you can count on more every night.

Naughty — Grizzlies — There are more excuses than places to hear the blues in Memphis. But the bottom line is that even before Marc Gasol was sidelined with a knee injury, the Grizzlies were going south. They simply haven’t bought into new coach Dave Joerger, still can’t shoot from the perimeter and Zach Randolph seems to have lost his inspiration. The Grind House was a fun place while it lasted.

Nice — LeBron James — Maybe the only thing that stops him from winning MVP No. 5 — and third in a row — is boredom. Not his. Ours. He’ll never completely win over the entire public the way Michael Jordan did simply because of the times in which we live. The age of social media allows critics to throw stones and pick nits. There has simply never been anyone this big and this strong and this fast and this complete with still such a large part of the meat of his career ahead of him.

Naughty — Westbrook critics — Now that Russell Westbrook has recovered from two surgeries, returned to the Thunder lineup and shown not the slightest loss of his swagger, is there anyone who still thinks Kevin Durant and the OKC franchise would be better off without him?

Nice —Kendrick the Bouncer — It had to bring a smile to the face — if not a tear to the eye — of every old school scrapper who’s ever laced up a pair of sneakers and just gone after it when Kendrick Perkins unceremoniously ran Joakim Noah out of the Thunder locker room. That’s enough of the 21st century touchy-feely, we’re-all-buddies atmosphere that persists these days. Not enough get-outta-my-face growling between rivals. A team’s locker room is its castle and the only thing that could have made it better is if Perk dumped him into a moat.

Naughty — Omer Asik — Let’s see. For two seasons in Chicago you were averaging just 13 minutes per game and getting relative peanuts. The Rockets signed you to a free agent contract that pays $25 million over three years and last season you started all 82 games and averaged a double-double. That’s nice. But then they signed All-Star Dwight Howard in July. He’s much, much better. You’re still getting your $25 million. Didn’t you read the line about you better not pout? So we’re making our list, checking it twice and — ho-ho-ho — you’re definitely on it.


  1. kyle says:

    Voter fatigue, LeBron is the MVP for the next 5 years realistically, see if it happens. Can’t believe this Knicks though. Melo will never win a ring as the no.1 option on a team.

    I don’t know if anyone can beat the heat in 7 games. They are bored and waiting for playoffs, you can see it in their play.

    LeBron is not GOAT, not yet atleast. He may go down as best of all time by the end of his career, potential is endless and time will tell. He has changed the league on a level that only MJ ever accomplished. And if dude hits 30,000/10,000/10,000 for his career, that’ll be something. He is following up Kobe with youngest to do everything.

    I feel bad of Osik though. He was playing well, I can’t believe the Rockets are unable to attract a decent piece for him. Another shooting PF would be ideal.

    Hope Portland stay healthy, Aldridge has been the most under rated player in the league for a minute now. Only PF i’d put above him is Love, he is better then Blake, just not as flashy. Lillard is real too.

    I knew the nets wouldn’t work, like the 04 Lakers…. injury was gonna plague them, always one team.

  2. Houdini says:

    Lechoke cannot play baseball like mj did

  3. perk says:

    asik ain’t naughty, the rockets are naughty

  4. vencedor says:

    before the season, everybody was sure that the NETS are contenders, now Mr. Fran questions the NETS actions. If I am going to pick an MVP this season, its gonna be LBJ, his performance is much better than the rest. I am not counting out that Aldridge and George may catch him up, but I do not believe in KD as an individual MVP, after observing that his effectiveness is limited without his sidekick. OKC has the best duo.

  5. Baller says:

    I agree with both of you guys.

  6. knicks says:

    the net big thing is SEVENTH WOODS in 5 years he will be a phenommm….chek him out…

  7. mezstah says:

    Because Jorda was also the victim of boredom otherwise he had 10 MVPs

  8. tfdp22 says:

    I disagree about the Grizzlies. They were just starting to gain their swagger before Marc went down with an injury. They had just swept a west coast road trip (that includes the Warriors and the Clippers) and were returning to the ground and pound, post-oriented style that Hollins preferred.

  9. dustydreamnz says:

    Way too early to call MVP yet, injuries come into play. Can the Heat win if LBJ goes down? I doubt it. When Russell Westbrook got injured last year OKC were no chance, even their fans knew it.

  10. Tim says:

    how can you say the only way lebron doesn’t in is boredom? you guys are comepletely discrediting the other great players who have a legitimate shot at winning mvp. you are doing the league a huge disservice trying to brainwash the fans of the NBA into thinking lebron can’t be touched. you should be ashamed of yourself Fran Blinebury.

  11. Heat #1 Fan says:

    How can you guys get bored of Lebron? He is a physical specimen and got more skills then any other player in the league. We won’t see this amount of talent and greatness probably in a long time so we should give to the king what he deserves and that is being MVP. The only guy close to him is Durant but still even he can’t get the numbers Lebron gets and Westbrook gives him a hand. Simply put the king is the GOAT.

    • Mud says:

      I agree but not with the GOAT comment. MJ is simply it and no one will ever capture awesomeness in the nba like he did. Lebron is an amazing player and a lot more too. We see what he can do at will and I dunno about the rest of you, but I see so much more potential in him. What he does now seems so simple so why not crank it up a bit more? I think he can.

      Sorry for my pisspoor english. Scotch on the rocks to the blame!

    • tfdp22 says:

      I don’t think he is saying that we are getting bored of LeBron’s play, but rather that the NBA and the fans are getting bored of LeBron winning the MVP every year now…..because I sure am.