Posts Tagged ‘John Schuhmann’

Blogtable: The Clips Without CP3

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Week 14: Has it clicked for the Lakers? | A healthy star who’s struggling | Clips without CP3

What’s the prognosis for the Clips without a fully healthy Chris Paul?

Steve Aschburner: Prognosis for the second half? Maybe the Clippers can hang onto their Pacific Division crown to secure a top seed. But if Paul still were bothered by his knee come the playoffs, I think they’d be in trouble. Eric Bledsoe is solid, but Paul’s too important — distributing, defending, closing — to think the Clippers could play at or near their potential through even a first-round series. You know the saying about playoff defenses taking away your first and second options? L.A.’s foes would be able to focus on its second and third options without Paul as a full factor.

Fran Blinebury: About the same as the prognosis for the pole business without firemen and strippers.

Chris Paul, by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Chris Paul, by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Jeff Caplan: Prognosis Negative. The Clippers won’t go very far without a full strength CP3. Just like last season when they were swept out of in the West semis by the Spurs when Paul and Blake Griffin were banged up. The Clips are extraordinarily deep and talented, but without Paul to handle the ball, to exert control over the offense when the game slows down and execution is key, L.A. won’t go far.

Scott Howard-Cooper: The championship hopes are over. The aspirations for a Western Conference title are over. Yes, the Clippers are deep, and, yes, they would have Chauncey Billups (eventually) and Eric Bledsoe to take over at point guard. But Paul is one of the special talents in the league, a threat as a passer or shooter, a defender, a leader. There is still a long time before the question becomes real. But for the sake of conversation, the Clippers would not be able to overcome CP3 laboring in the playoffs.

John Schuhmann: If he’s playing and not 100 percent, then they’re still a pretty good team, because that, at least, keeps their great second unit intact. Their depth is most effective when their starters are playing and their defense is at its best when Eric Bledsoe is out there with Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf. But they’re obviously not nearly on the same level as the Spurs or Thunder if Paul’s not at his best. He’s the engine of their top-five offense.

Sekou Smith: Well, if they don’t have him at full strength for the remainder of the season, that’s a game changer. As deep as they are, Paul is the heart and soul of that team. Eric Bledsoe is a fantastic young talent and great things could be on his horizon in the coming years. But the Clippers need an experienced and steady hand at the controls down the stretch and into the playoffs. Take a look at Boston and see how quickly a team’s fortunes change when they don’t have their All-Star point guard in the mix. Better yet, just go back and look at the difference in the Bulls without Derrick Rose. The Clippers would be in a similar situation without Paul healthy for the duration of this season. With CP3 they have a chance to compete for a spot in the Western Conference finals and ultimately a championship. Without him … they’ll be fishing long before then.

Blogtable: The Lakers’ Answer

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Week 14: Has it clicked for the Lakers? | A healthy star who’s struggling | Clips without CP3

Have the Lakers found the answer? What will convince you?

Steve Aschburner: Oh sure. The answer was right in front of everyone’s nose, too — Kobe Bryant the playmaker setting up Steve Nash the shooter. Can this new normal possibly continue? Can Bryant radically transform himself as a player at age 34 — and be happy in the role? Can he average 13 assists a game the rest of the way, while Nash totals 12 every three games and still justifies his price tag and defense? Winning cures all, but I’m staying skeptical until they wrap up this seven-game road stretch they’re facing. If they take five of ‘em, then I’m impressed.

Fran Blinebury: The temptation is to say yes, because it’s what we’ve expected of the Lakers all along. But can Kobe Bryant keep averaging a triple-double the rest of the way? Can Dwight Howard keep his childish emotions in check and continue to play like the foundational center they need? The answers will likely come very soon. The calendar is working heavily against the Lakers now and anything less than a 5-2 record on the seven-game road trip that starts tonight in Phoenix will mean time is running out.

Jeff Caplan: I don’t know if the Lakers have found the answer, but they have found something and it’s quite remarkable. On a dime, Kobe Bryant has changed who he is. He’s a master facilitator now with 39 assists in his last three games. He’s working defenses and finding the open man, who then often finds another open man for an open shot. Whatever is going on here, at least it’s something positive and you can see it in the Lakers’ play. Kobe’s teammates actually look excited. Can it last with Kobe essentially becoming Steve Nash and Nash becoming a spot-up shooter and Pau Gasol unhappy coming off the bench and D’Antoni apparently swallowing whole large chunks of his offensive system? Who knows, but it sure is another delicious layer to this ridiculous drama.

Scott Howard-Cooper: A longer streak than three games would convince me, especially when the last of the three is letting New Orleans off the mat in the fourth quarter in Los Angeles. Winning on the road would convince me, which is especially relevant since the Lakers begin a seven-game trip Wednesday. Any roster with that much talent and experience gets a certain benefit of the doubt that they are very capable of finding a rhythm. But after this much bad, it will take time to convince a lot of skeptics they are suddenly surrounded by good.

John Schuhmann: They’ve looked good at home and they’ve looked good offensively in the last three games. Now let’s see what they can do on the road and if they can get their act together defensively. Starting with this seven-game trip that tips off in Phoenix on Wednesday, they have five more road games than home games remaining. And it’s the defensive end of the floor that will really determine if they can make the run needed to get into the playoffs. So I’ll be convinced (that they can get the seventh or eight seed and lose in five games to the Spurs or Thunder) if they go at least 5-2 on this trip and if they can play top-10 defense over a 10-game stretch.

Sekou Smith: They have found what folks in the over-the-counter medicine business refer to as “something that provides temporary relief” for whatever ails them. I’m not prepared to call it the “answer.” They have to climb all the way back from their sub-.500 existence and immerse themselves fully in the Western Conference playoff chase before I upgrade their condition fully. I must admit, this three-game streak has been impressive. But what will convince me that the Lakers have officially found an answer is if you ask this question again after the All-Star break and the Lakers are still playing this way.

Blogtable: A Struggling Star

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Week 14: Has it clicked for the Lakers? | A healthy star who’s struggling | Clips without CP3

Give me a healthy player who has not met your high standards so far?

Steve Aschburner: Rudy Gay has heard his name bandied about enough already via the trade rumors, so I’m going with Indiana’s Roy Hibbert. The big fella remains vital to the Pacers’ defense, but this is his fifth season and he was supposed to continue his onward-and-upward trajectory offensively and overall. His shooting is down (41.4 percent vs. 48.1 through last season) and 9.8 ppg and 8.2 rebounds just doesn’t cut it. Each summer, Hibbert gets a lot of attention for his intense workouts — one year tutored by Bill Walton, the next embracing an MMA regimen. It all needs to translate better to what really counts.

Fran BlineburyErsan Ilyasova has not lived up to his payday. Kawhi Leonard has not stepped up to the next level. But it’s still Deron Williams who has yet to fulfill the expectations the Nets want and need. Though he has kicked his game up in recent weeks under P.J. Carlesimo, his horrid shooting and an assist average that is his lowest since his rookie season were major factors in getting Avery Johnson fired. After complaining his way out of Utah, Williams has not shown the the maturity to be handed the keys to a playoff-contending offense and, for all intents and purposes, the Nets franchise. That’s evidenced by his being left off the Eastern Conference All-Star team when a spot on the roster practically had his named engraved on it in October.

Jeff CaplanPau Gasol‘s the easy answer here or even the continuing underachieving ways of Michael Beasley. But, I’m going to go with a guy that I thought would have a pretty good year in Dallas and that’s center Chris Kaman. He signed a one-year, $8 million deal to play next to Dirk Nowitzki — they were teammates on the German National team in the 2008 Olympics — and although his stats aren’t terrible (12.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg), he’s averaging just 23.7 mpg (fewer than only his rookie season) and has been in and out of coach Rick Carlisle‘s doghouse. Most recently Kaman was removed from the starting lineup in favor of little-used rookie center Bernard James. In a season in which Kaman, seemingly perpetually injured, missed just his third game of the season on Tuesday after sustaining a concussion during Monday’s practice, he’s finding it hard to stay on the floor due to production. Defense has been at the root of the issue for Carlisle. Kaman’s been a sieve and next to Nowitzki it doesn’t make for a sturdy combination.

Jeff Green, by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Jeff Green, by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Scott Howard-CooperDeron Williams. He has been much better the last few weeks, but after two underachieving months. D-Will has not shot the ball well most of the season, an obvious problem. His assists were way down for a while as well. But the biggest problem is that he hasn’t looked like a star point guard who wants the responsibility of being a franchise player. Williams has too often played like someone who didn’t want the burden of expectations.

John Schuhmann: When Jeff Green defends LeBron James as well as he did on Sunday, it just makes me wonder why he can’t make an impact like that every night. Green has all the tools — length, athleticism, a decent shooting stroke — to be a very good player on both ends of the floor. He’s shown flashes of being the player the Celtics need him to be, both offensively and defensively. And the opportunity is certainly there for him to be one of the most important bench players in the league. But there hasn’t been any consistency from game to game, quarter to quarter, or possession to possession, whether he’s playing in OKC or Boston. Maybe I’m overestimating his potential or maybe he just doesn’t have the drive to maximize it.

Sekou SmithAndre Iguodala in Denver. And he might just be a victim of my own overblown expectation of what he would do with the Nuggets. After an All-Star season and a gold medal-winning summer at the Olympics, the news of Iguodala going to the Denver in that Dwight Howard mega-deal had me thinking he’d show up there and continue his All-Star-caliber play. But he joined a team with catalysts (Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari) already in place. Iguodala isn’t playing poorly by any stretch. The Nuggets are rolling, too, with him playing his role. Still, he hasn’t had nearly the impact I (and plenty of other people who picked the Nuggets in the preseason as the No. 2 team in the Western Conference) expected him to have on this team.

Underachieving Lakers Join List Of Recent Disappointments


HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Los Angeles Lakers have won two straight games in impressive fashion and host the New Orleans Hornets tonight (10:30 ET, NBA TV). They’re still six games under .500 and they still look like a real long shot to win a playoff series.

That would make these Lakers one of the biggest disappointments in NBA history. They brought together one of the best players of his generation, one of the best point guards in recent memory, one of the best international players in NBA history and the most impactful defender of the last several seasons. Yet here they are at 19-25, standing in 10th place in the Western Conference.

Injuries have played a role, and so has a coaching change. But there’s just too much top-line talent on the Lakers’ roster for them to have the record that they are. And it isn’t hard to see examples — mostly on the defensive end of the floor — of where they aren’t playing up to their ability on a nightly basis.

If the Lakers don’t make the playoffs, it will be difficult to find a more disappointing team in NBA history. But here are a few examples of recent teams to haven’t lived up to expectations. The list features current Lakers Steve Nash, Antawn Jamison and Pau Gasol, as well as head coach Mike D’Antoni

2010-11 Utah Jazz (39-43)
A case of a perennial playoff team falling apart in less than two weeks.

The Jazz were coming off a trip to the Western Conference semifinals. They lost Carlos Boozer, Wesley Matthews and Ronnie Brewer in free agency, but added Al Jefferson via trade. And they still had Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko and Paul Millsap, though Mehmet Okur missed 69 games with various injuries.

On the morning of Feb. 10, the Jazz were 31-23, but they ranked 18th defensively and had outscored their opponents by just two points over their 54 games. And at that point, Jerry Sloan decided he had enough. He resigned and then Williams was traded after the All-Star break. The Jazz went 8-20 under Tyrone Corbin, falling from sixth in the West to 11th.

2009-10 Washington Wizards (26-56)
Maybe the biggest train wreck season in NBA history.

The Wizards had Gilbert Arenas (returning from a knee injury that limited him to just 15 games in the previous two seasons), Caron Butler and Jamison back together. And they added Randy Foye and Mike Miller in a trade with Minnesota. The idea was that they would get back to where they were three seasons earlier, when they led the Eastern Conference through January.

But after a mid-December west coast trip, the Wizards were just 8-17. And on the plane ride back from Phoenix, Arenas and Javaris Crittenton reportedly got in a dispute about a card game. Two days later, Arenas brought guns to the Verizon Center locker room, and the rest is history.

Though they won the No. 1 pick the following summer, the Wizards still haven’t recovered. Since the start the 2008-09 season, Washington has a 99-256 (.279) record, worst in the league.

2008-09 Phoenix Suns (46-36)
We tend to think of Shaquille O’Neal being a bad fit in D’Antoni’s system. But the Suns actually ranked No. 1 in offensive efficiency in his one full season in Phoenix. The problem was that they ranked 25th defensively.

Maybe that was when we really started to appreciate Shawn Marion — who the Suns traded to Miami for O’Neal the previous season — for his defense. The Suns’ defense was hurt even more when they traded Raja Bell and Boris Diaw to Charlotte in December of ’08.

Right after the All-Star break, with the Suns holding a 30-23 record, Amar’e Stoudemire was lost for the season with a detached retina. But O’Neal and Nash missed only 15 games between them that season. And despite the presence of two future Hall of Famers (and past MVPs), the Suns finished two games out of the playoffs in a tough Western Conference.

The ’08-09 Suns were one of only two teams in the last 35 years to win at least 46 games and not make the playoffs. The other was the 2007-08 Golden State Warriors, who were 48-34.

2006-07 Memphis Grizzlies (22-60)
The Pau Gasol Grizzlies probably don’t come to mind when thinking about disappointing teams of the past, but only *five teams suffered a bigger drop-off in winning percentage over the last 35 years. And the Grizzlies didn’t have the personnel changes nor the injury issues that easily explain the regression with those five.

They did trade Shane Battier to Houston that summer for the draft rights to Rudy Gay. And Gasol did miss the first 22 games of the season, putting the Grizz in a 5-17 hole. But they weren’t much better when Gasol returned. Coach Mike Fratello was fired at 6-24 and they finished with the worst record in the league.

The 2005-06 Grizzlies went 49-33 under Mike Fratello, made the franchise’s third straight trip to the playoffs, and ranked second in the league defensively. Then Battier left, Eddie Jones wasn’t the same player anymore and the ’06-07 Grizzlies ranked dead last defensively.

*The five teams were the 2010-11 Cavs (departure of LeBron James), the 1998-99 Bulls (departures of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson), the 1996-97 Spurs (David Robinson played just six games), the 1982-83 Houston Rockets (departure of Moses Malone), and the 2007-08 Heat (injuries to Dwyane Wade and O’Neal, who was eventually traded).

2006-07 Miami Heat (44-38)
The defending champs lost O’Neal for more than two months to knee surgery and Dwyane Wade for six weeks to a shoulder injury.

But both were in the lineup when the Heat got swept in the 4-5 matchup in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Along with the 2011 Mavericks, they’re one of two defending champs since the 1998 Bulls that didn’t win a playoff game the following season.

L.A. Recovery Wouldn’t Be Unprecedented

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The ditch is just a little bit deeper this morning.

The Los Angeles Lakers lost their fourth straight game on Wednesday. They’re now 12-20 under Mike D’Antoni, 5-11 since Steve Nash‘s return, and a brutal 2-10 in January.

The Lakers are just four games out of eighth place, but they’re eight games under .500. If you assume that it will take 45 wins to make the playoffs in the Western Conference, the Lakers would need to finish the season 28-12 to get there.

The good news is that neither the 21-21 Portland Trail Blazers (who had lost six straight before beating the Pacers on Wednesday) nor the 22-22 Houston Rockets (who have lost eight of their last nine) are playing well, so it might not take 45 wins to get in.

The other good news is that it’s not unprecedented for a 17-25 team to turn its season around and make the postseason, even in the Western Conference.

The last team to do it in the West was the 2004-05 Denver Nuggets, who were 17-25 under Jeff Bzdelik and interim coach Michael Cooper. Then they brought in George Karl, who led them to a 32-8 record over their last 40 games.

At 49-33, those Nuggets were the No. 7 seed in the West, and they got knocked out in the first round (4-1) by the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs.

According to Elias, here are the last five teams to make the playoffs in the West after a 17-25 start or worse

Season Team First 42 Last 40 Total Seed Playoffs
2004-05 Denver 17-25 32-8 49-33 7 Lost in 1st round, 4-1
1996-97 Phoenix 15-27 25-15 40-42 7 Lost in 1st round, 3-2
1996-97 L.A. Clippers 17-25 19-21 36-46 8 Lost in 1st round, 3-0
1985-86 Sacramento 16-26 21-19 37-45 7 Lost in 1st round, 3-0
1983-84 Kansas City 17-25 21-19 38-44 8 Lost in 1st round, 3-0

The ’04-05 Nuggets are the only team above that finished with a winning record. The other four benefited from a weaker conference and/or a league with fewer teams. And really, the Lakers’ chances of making the playoffs depend a lot on how well the Rockets and Blazers finish the season.

Portland’s record is already inflated. They’re 21-21, but have the point differential of an 18-24 team. And they also have the hardest remaining schedule of the three.

Remaining schedules

Team Home Away B2B OppW OppL PCT Avg. NetRtg
Houston 19 19 8 802 791 0.503 -.4
L.A. Lakers 19 21 7 837 834 0.501 -.2
Portland 19 21 7 907 767 0.542 +1.2

NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

The Lakers’ schedule and Rockets’ schedule are about even. And get this: They play each other in L.A. on the final night of the regular season.

Before we get there, though, the Lakers need to turn their season around. And we’ve yet to see any evidence that they can.

Blogtable: Trades We’d Like To See

Pau Gasol, by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Pau Gasol, by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Week 13: First-half blindside | Knicks or Nets? | Trade me!

A month from trade deadline: Give us a trade you’d like to see.

Steve Aschburner: Utah needs to break up that logjam of power forwards, with Al Jefferson my preferred choice for a fresh start. But no one needs a fresh start more than Pau Gasol, who would be way better off getting out of L.A. and shedding the Lakers’ scapegoat role. Gasol for Amar’e Stoudemire? Gasol in a package to Atlanta for Josh Smith (scratching two trade itches at once)? Gasol is getting older, he’s fragile and he’s got a big contract, but the skilled and classy big man deserves better than the demotion and snide treatment he’s dealt with lately.

Fran Blinebury: I’m ready to trade the Quizmaster for next season’s lease at empty Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. But barring that, let’s swap Pau Gasol for Josh Smith.  It gets Pau out of toxic Lakerland for his own good and lets him pair up nicely with All-Star big man Al Horford. Smith could make a big splash in L.A. and save the season or be permitted to walk off into free agency. If that happens, it’s addition by subtraction, since coach Mike D’Antoni and the stats show that Gasol and Dwight Howard do not work effectively together.  Lakers have to take the baggage of Johan Petro, DeShawn Stevenson and Ivan Johnson to make it work.

Jeff Caplan: The Lakers have 2 choices: Trade Pau Gasol or trade Dwight Howard. At this point the right call might just be to trade D12. The Nets would probably take him today and the Lakers can move on with some pretty nice players, including team-oriented Brook Lopez, who can score like Dwight, although he won’t rebound or defend quite like Dwight, even this Dwight after back surgery. Gasol is a bit more difficult to trade and get back as much quality. On paper, it’s a no-brainer that you keep Howard and trade Gasol. But Howard’s immaturity and inability to assume responsibility seem to stretch to new levels with every passing game.

Scott Howard-CooperDeMarcus Cousins for anybody. Because if Kings fans are about to lose their team, they shouldn’t have to also lose their mind in frustration in the process. (Not going to happen, though. Every Cousins rumor that popped up the last several weeks was mostly bad fiction writing.)

John Schuhmann: This is kind of a simple idea, but I’d like to see the Nuggets trade Corey Brewer and a pick to Atlanta for Kyle Korver. Both guys are on reasonable, expiring contracts, so the deal wouldn’t affect future cap space at all. Denver desperately needs perimeter shooting to complement their speed and athleticism, and Korver could put them in the top-five offensively and in the upper echelon of the Western Conference. And with the return of Wilson Chandler, Brewer is now expendable. I’ll admit that it would help if Anthony Morrow (or Lou Williams) was healthy, so that the Hawks weren’t so reliant on Korver’s shooting.

Sekou Smith: I’d like to see the Lakers put Pau Gasol out of his misery and move him somewhere he can rediscover the role he played three seasons ago, before that playoff meltdown against the Mavericks that started his current career slide. Even with these rumblings about the Lakers considering Dwight Howard trades, Gasol is the big man the Lakers have to move. Gasol still has enough tread left on his tires to help anchor the low post somewhere other than Los Angeles. And it’s clear, now that he’s been relegated to a reserve role in favor of  Earl Clark, that Gasol isn’t in the Lakers’ plans.

Blogtable: First-half Blindside

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Week 13: First-half blindside | Knicks or Nets? | Trade me!

Besides the Lakers, what’s one thing you didn’t see coming this season?

Steve Aschburner: The Golden State Warriors. No way, no how did I see these guys winning more games by the midpoint than they won last season (23 in 66 vs. 25 in 40), being 12-5 against winning teams, ranking among the top contenders in both offensive and defensive field-goal percentages, showing such road chops, boosting their rebounding diligence and on and on. The personnel changes have been modest but surgical – Landry, Jack, Barnes, Ezeli – while much of the improvement has come from within, with the chemistry and continuity of coach Mark Jackson‘s second season. (Even now, it feels weird writing that whole paragraph.)

Golden State's Mark Jackson, by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Golden State’s Mark Jackson, by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Fran BlineburyThe Clippers challenging for the best record in the league and home-court advantage all the way through the NBA Finals. There was no doubt that Chris Paul and Blake Griffin had them moving forward.  But after last spring’s playoff sweep by the Spurs, this is a Bob Beamon-like leap ahead.  Jamal Crawford has been a turbo-charger and Eric Bledsoe makes the backcourt an embarrassment of riches.  Their offense and defense rank in the top five, they are 17-7 against teams with winning records, 13-6 on the road and 22-7 against the West.

Jeff Caplan: I could go negative here and say I didn’t see Boston struggling to this degree, although I was never one who thought they’d barnstorm through the season either. So, allow me to spread sunshine across the land and praise Mark Jackson’s Golden State Warriors, who are 25-15 and playing a total team game that’s entertaining as heck to watch. Oh, and they haven’t even seen Andrew Bogut yet.

Scott Howard-CooperDidn’t see these Knicks coming. If anything, I saw them going: going down a notch in New York City thanks to the Nets’ arrival, going away while relying on a lot of AARP members, Raymond Felton and Amar’e Stoudemire. Instead, they’re keeping the pressure on for the top spot in the East. Surprise, surprise.

John Schuhmann: If you told me before the season that the Warriors would win 25 of their first 40 games, rank 12th defensively and rank sixth in rebounding percentage, my response would have been, “Wow, I’m looking forward to seeing Andrew Bogut healthy and playing well.” That they’ve done all that without Bogut is pretty incredible to me. Mark Jackson and Mike Malone deserve credit for devising a defensive system that works for their personnel, and Stephen Curry and David Lee deserves credit for improving on that end of the floor. I’m still looking forward to seeing Bogut healthy and playing well.

Sekou SmithThe Knicks. Given the way they finished last season (getting trounced in that first round matchup against the Heat), I honestly didn’t see a top-two team in the East coming from whatever the Knicks cobbled together over the summer. I didn’t see “Carmelo Anthony, MVP” coming either. But he shut his critics up with some of the best basketball of his career through the first half of this season. The Knicks basically had the first half I was expecting from the Lakers.

Blogtable: Who Ya Got, Knicks Or Nets?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Week 13: First-half blindside | Knicks or Nets? | Trade me!

Who wins the Atlantic, Knicks or Nets?

Steve Aschburner: So we’ve given up on Boston, eh? The Celtics were my pick coming in. The Knicks and the Nets both are flawed teams, too. They’re led by stars (Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams) with shaky reputations as winners. Each has a big man (Tyson Chandler, Brook Lopez) performing at an All-Star level. Each relies in part on a former knucklehead (J.R. Smith, Andray Blatche), each has oldsters and so on. I’ll take New York, narrowly, for three reasons: I like their chances of playing defense to coach Mike Woodson‘s specifications the rest of the way, I think Amar’e Stoudemire can bring real second-half help and I think the Woodson bump that Brooklyn has gotten from coach P.J. Carlesimo will be hard to sustain over another 40 games.

Fran Blinebury: Never thought the 3-ball attack that was so much a part of the Knicks’ red-hot start was going to carry them through a full season. P.J. Carlesimo has tapped into Deron Williams, Brook Lopez is rounding into form and Joe Johnson is stepping up. I’ll take the Nets in a hot Battle of the Boroughs race.

Jeff Caplan: You know what? I like what the the Nets are doing. These guys have shown a real maturity in allowing P.J. Carlesimo to take over and do his thing. It’s actually darn inspiring considering what’s gone on in Los Angeles with that third coach over there. The Nets’ win at the Garden the other day was big for those guys. With the Knicks, injuries are a real issue right now and it could really have a negative effect on Jason Kidd down the stretch. Give me the boys from Brooklyn.

Scott Howard-CooperI picked the Nets at the start of the season to win the Atlantic. I’ll stick with that, partly because it’s too easy to make a bunch of switches during the season (Lakers to win the West!) and partly because the Nets have had some bad moments and are still on the Knicks’ heels.

John Schuhmann: It’s a tough call. The Nets have been the much better team of late, but they have a slightly tougher schedule (fewer home games, more back-to-backs) going forward and I imagine both teams will have their highs and lows over the final three months. I believe the Nets were underachieving offensively early on, but I also believe that the Knicks’ ability to take care of the ball (lowest turnover rate in NBA history) and the eventual return of Raymond Felton will help them sustain offensive success.

If either team had shown sustained defensive success in the first half of the season, I’d believe in them more. The Knicks defended well for the first few weeks of November, but have been pretty awful there since. And though they’re 11-2, the Nets have ranked just 12th defensively in P.J. Carlesimo‘s time on the bench.

So yeah, I think it’s really even. And I’ll give the Knicks the slight edge, because they already have a two-game lead in the loss column.

Sekou Smith: Two weeks ago, I’d have told you the Knicks … easy. Then, P.J. Carlesimo showed up and started coaching like he did at Seton Hall. My gut says the Knicks have another roll or two in them between now and the end of the regular season. But the Nets have the balance and some wicked momentum right now on their side. Barring anything crazy happening at the Feb. 21 trade deadline, this thing goes down to the final days of the season with the Nets clipping the Knicks at the tape.

Gasol And Howard A Bad Mix Under D’Antoni … Sound Familiar?


HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Mike D’Antoni is right. The Lakers have been much better with only one of their two $19 million big men on the floor than with both of them together.

That was D’Antoni’s explanation when he said before Monday’s game in Chicago that Pau Gasol would be coming off the bench until further notice. And the numbers back D’Antoni up, even after the Lakers lost to the Bulls by 12 in a game in which Gasol and Dwight Howard played just seven minutes together.

Lakers efficiency with Gasol and/or Howard on the floor

On floor MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Gasol + Howard 612 102.7 103.5 -0.8 -14
Gasol only 329 110.7 101.0 +9.7 +61
Howard only 736 108.1 100.5 +7.5 +83
One of the two 1,065 108.9 100.7 +8.2 +144

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Offensively, with both Gasol and Howard on the floor, the Lakers have scored at a rate that would rank 12th in the league. With only one of the two on the floor, they’ve scored at a rate that would rank second.

Defensively, with both Gasol and Howard in the game, the Lakers are defending at a rate that would rank 19th in the league. With only one of the two in the game, they’re defending at a rate that would rank ninth.

Overall, with Gasol and Howard on the floor together, the Lakers have the point differential of a 37-win team. With only one of the two on the floor, they have a point differential of a 61-win team.

The question, of course, is why the Lakers can’t play well with two of the best big men in the league on the floor together. And it’s hard not to point at the coach, because things were OK before D’Antoni took over.

Lakers efficiency with Gasol and Howard on the floor together

Coach GP MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Brown 5 135 110.8 95.4 +15.5 +41
Bickerstaff 5 130 105.4 100.8 +4.6 +6
D’Antoni 18 346 98.6 107.7 -9.1 -61

Five games apiece for Mike Brown and Bernie Bickerstaff are small sample sizes, but it’s clear that the Lakers’ early issues weren’t with their bigs. When they got off to a 1-4 start under Brown, the bench was more of a problem.

The big man issues under D’Antoni are on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Gasol is a different player when he’s on the floor with Howard. In those 612 minutes, just 44 percent of his 208 shots have come from the paint. With Howard on the bench, 67 percent of Gasol’s 109 shots have come from the paint.

D’Antoni’s system calls for three shooters around a point guard (who can also shoot) and a pick-and-roll big man. And Gasol can’t space the floor like a true stretch four.

Gasol’s shooting with Howard on and off the floor

Howard on/off FGM FGA FG% %FGA paint
Howard on floor 83 208 39.9% 44.2%
Howard off floor 54 109 49.5% 67.0%

Here’s the thing: Gasol played 5 1/2 seasons with Andrew Bynum. And with Bynum on the floor, Gasol still took 66 percent of his shots from the paint, because Phil Jackson‘s offense allowed for two post players. The Lakers were a very good offensive team with the two bigs on the floor together.

Defensively, the Lakers have breakdowns all over the place this season, mostly with guards Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. But there’s no clear explanation why they’re much better with only one of the two bigs on the floor. It may be a foot speed issue, and they may just be able to recover better with a smaller, quicker player at the four. Under Jackson, they were better defensively with Lamar Odom at the four than with Bynum and Gasol out there together.

Still, this is all kind of ridiculous. And it’s all too familiar. On the last team D’Antoni coached, he had two guys making about $40 million combined who couldn’t play well together either.

Under D’Antoni, the New York Knicks were a minus-137 and absolutely awful defensively in 1,506 minutes with Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire on the floor together. The coach’s inability to get his two stars on the same page is a big reason he isn’t in New York anymore. Under Mike Woodson, the Knicks are even (plus-0) in 497 minutes with Anthony and Stoudemire on the floor together.

The Lakers probably aren’t going to be making another coaching change. Instead, Gasol is probably on his way out the door. And we can only wonder what might have been had L.A. hired Jackson when they let go of Brown in November … or if they had just kept Brown.

Hawks Lose Lou Williams For The Season


HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Atlanta Hawks suffered a major blow Saturday when they learned that Lou Williams has a torn ACL in his right knee and is out for the season.

Williams suffered the injury on Friday night in the Hawks’ 94-89 loss in Brooklyn. It was a non-contact injury, much like those suffered by Derrick Rose and Iman Shumpert last April. A date for surgery has not yet been set.

The injury throws a wrinkle into the Eastern Conference playoff picture, where the Hawks are one of six teams with between 15 and 19 losses. They had a solid hold on the No. 3 seed at the start of January, but have lost seven of their last nine games and are now in serious danger of slipping down to the seven or eight spot in the next week.

Williams, signed to a three-year, $15.7 million dollar contract, was a key component coming off Atlanta’s bench, averaging 14.1 points and 3.6 assists per game. The Hawks currently rank 15th offensively, scoring just 101.2 points per 100 possessions. But they were better with Williams on the floor (102.1) than they were with him on the bench (99.9).

Williams’ injury means that rookie John Jenkins will have to step up. Jenkins is more of a shooter than a playmaker, but the Hawks do have both Jeff Teague and Devin Harris to handle the ball.