San Antonio Spurs 118 – New York Knicks 130 – Game Recap

Quick: when was the last time you felt this good about the potential of our team? I think it has to be when KP was posting 30ppg to start the 2017-18 season and things looked rosy (and possibly unsustainable).

While it looks that everytime we play the Spurs at MSG we put on our best face, it was tremendously refreshing to see this team perform well and to see some pieces click together so nicely (DSJ-Dotson-Mitch, especially). I feared DSJ was able to connect only with DeAndre Jordan, probably because they had already played 40-something games together: well, this game proved me wrong, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Other things to be happy about: 37 three point attempts and 25 assists are quite a gaudy number for this team. Sadly, apart from DSJ (more on him later), the only player who tallied more than 2 assists was Noah Vonleh, who was probably the worst Knick on the court last night.

I also have to say that I don’t remember a Spurs team so pedestrian. As you might know, since I made no mystery of it through my years as a commenter on this blog, the Spurs are my second team (mostly thanks to my Manu roots) in the NBA, so I watched a lot of Spurs basketball in the last 15 years. Apart from the Richard Jefferson iteration, I can’t remember a Spurs team playing so deflated and kinda out of sync. I know they’re missing their two point guards, but wow, they’re not positioned well for the immediate future. There’s a real chance they end up missing the playoffs this year. I say this because, while this was a good win for the aforementioned reasons (plus some that will be highlighted in the usual sections), we didn’t beat a great opponent, merely an adequate one. It’s good anyway, since we’re a very bad team, but these are not your typical Spurs.

A brief summary of the game: after a heated battle in the first quarter, we emerged victorious at the end of that period on a score of 30-26. From there on, we never relinquished the lead, that at some point ballooned to over 20 points. Heroes were everywhere to be found through the night, with even Lance Thomas harnessing for a game some of his latent basketball skills such as “putting the ball in the hoop” and “snatching some boards”. In the fourth quarter we let the Spurs have a taste of our own fake comeback medicine, but a steady shooting night from Dotson never let the dam crumble down, plugging holes at the most delicate times. We escaped with a comfortable win and, honest to god, it was soul-soothing to see Mitch and the kids finally smile a bit.

The good:

– Damyean Dotson (27 pts, 5 rebs, 2 ast, +14 +/-) played one of his best games as a Knick and did pretty much what we should ask of him every single game: get open on the perimeter, grab a few boards, don’t surrender on defense. He won’t knock down 61,5% of his threes everytime, but if he is the 37% shooter from three that he looks to be he’ll be a nice contributor with a real point guard at the helm. With last night outing, Dot became just the 11th Knicks player all-time to hit at least 8 threes in a game. You know who isn’t on the list? THJ, that’s who. Getting rid of little Chuck had really some merits. Also, it was time a guy shot 13 mostly assisted threes in a game. It’s 2019, basketball has evolved, and if you don’t have credible volume threats catching and shooting from the perimeter, things won’t be goink well. Man, I miss Danilo Gallinari.

– Mitchell Robinson (15 pts, 14 rebs, 1 ast, +7 +/-) has, among a lot of good things going for him, a trait that makes me think he will be a surefire top-5 center for a long time: he develops, almost in real time. He had a few glaring flaws entering the season: fouling too much, shooting badly his free throws, being mediocre at defensive rebounding. Can you say, with a straight face, that he hasn’t improved a lot in just half a season? In the month of February (aka the Kanter-free portion of the season) he’s grabbing 8.3 boards, shooting 69% from the line while “only” fouling 2.9 times per game in 21.5 minutes. I won’t bore you with basic per-36 projections, but suffice to say that he’s already addressed a lot of things that would have slowed his rise to dominance in the League. I’m also changing my stance about including him in a trade for AD: just don’t. He’s probably the best contract in the League by a long mile among the non-max ones, and he can only keep improving. I already see in him things that we were only hopeful to see in KP. To me, Mitch has become totally untradeable (unless it’s for Giannis, Embiid or maybe Zion).

– Dennis Smith Jr. (19 pts, 6 rebs, 13 ast, +10 +/-) stuffed the stat sheet last night, and did so while never turning the ball over, leaving that dubious honor to Mudiay. His game has still a lot of flaws, particularly in the shooting department (sometimes it looks like he’s shooting in claymation), but there’s no denying that he shows all the signs of potentially becoming a goodish PG, which is the most we ever dreamed to ask of him. If he can stop jumping in the air while passing (something he never did last night, and it showed in the TO column) and keeps on finding open guys here and there I’m totally ok giving him the keys to the Knicks car. The most amazing athletic sequence of the night, that came with the game already decided but was nevertheless greatly satisfying – a predaceous steal in the passing lanes that led to a backboard alley-oop to Mitch – also showed an important trait to search for in a PG: the joy and the instinct to make plays for other people, especially big man. Hubie Brown always says that you have to reward the big man that covers for you on defense, and boy is he right. With that alley-oop, Dennis did the right thing for the team and for the audience. Good boy.

The bad:

– Noah Vonleh (3 pts, 3 rebs, 3 ast, +5 +/-) is looking more and more out of sorts. I understand the need to play him a bit with DeAndre Jordan sidelined; what I don’t understand is how is it even possible that this guy is the same I dubbed the Knicks 2018/19 MVP for a few months. He’s turned into a pumpkin and I don’t know why. His season numbers still aren’t that bad, but his WP/48 cratered and went under .100. Right know he doesn’t have a place in the offense, other than jacking shots from the perimeter and trying a couple old-school baby hooks in the general vicinity of the hoop. On defense, he looks unfocused. Last night he had a chance to shine a bit more but was simply terrible. Apart from the assists, it seemed he and Lance Thomas exchanged bodies before the game.

Fun-sized bits:

– Kevin Knox had the second double-double of his career. Generally speaking, he played an ordinary game, but you take what you can get. Still not a good basketball player. Also, his fouls are really, really stupid. A foul on DeRozan for an easy and-one and two (!) fouls on three point shooters? Come on, man. On the other side, his lob for Mitch was very pretty.

– Let’s talk a bit about Mudiay. In his second game after the shoulder injury, he scored well against the Spurs second unit (19 points on 10 shots, definitely not bad at all). Sadly, the team just doesn’t play as a team with him as a the leading ball-handler. Case in point: he played more or less 10 minutes with Mitch on the court. He never, never, never, passed him the ball. Like, you have this 7’1″ athletic marvel and you can’t bother/are not able to throw a lob to him, even if the man rolled correctly after the pick? Sorry, but Mud shouldn’t be playing ahead of Kadeem Allen.

– Speaking of Kadeem: I hope he isn’t playing because management did the math about the 45-day thing, and not because Mudiay is suddenly available. This would be like being cash strapped, having both a Prius (owned) and a Hummer (leased, with the leasing due to expire in a few months), and still going around with the gasoline-chugging Hummer just because it was cool in 2015.

– I’m ok with not playing Kornet after his brutal recent stint (I’m not ok with playing Lance Thomas instead, but whatever). That said, why did we hand a 45-day contract to a guy we knew would suck and we almost never played, instead opting to sign Ellenson to play spot PF minutes? 45-day contracts failures are pretty inconsequential, but Hicks was a big failure from the start.

– This was the second time in Lance Thomas’s whole career when he scored at least 16 points and grabbed at least 7 boards (the other was a 2015 game against the Hornets where he went for 16 and 8). This guy played 373 games in the NBA and gets paid 7 million dollars to vanish from the court night after the night. He’s the real heir to David Copperfield. Very nice game last night, though.

– John Jenkins is another guy I hope to see more alongside DSJ, not Mudiay. The man is a sniper, but needs the ball in the right spots, otherwise he’s useless. Mudiay wouldn’t be able to pass the ball in the right spots to Antetokounmpo.

– Rebecca Haarlow (who’s looking better by the day, I don’t know how) with a disturbing snippet from the last game against the Wolves: “Mudiay asked coach Fizdale if he could keep on shooting or if he’d be better passing the ball to his teammates: Fiz told him ‘If you’re hot, just keep shooting!'”. Fizdale’s approach to offense is a Russian Doll-like loop of facepalms, only (spoiler alert – but watch the show! Russian Doll is very good and Natasha Lyonne is great, even if the ending is so-so) we find ourselves in front of a depressing loss after every mistake and not in front of a sink after every death.

– At a certain point in the second half, we called a timeout. Right after the timeout the ball was inbounded in the wrong halfcourt, resulting in a halfcourt violation. I’m (mildly) colorblind, and I’m better at solving Rubik’s cubes in my sleep than Fiz is at making plays in the huddle.

A really reinvigorating win, this one was. And I liked it, because the minutes allocation were good, if not optimal. See you on Tuesday, when we’ll test our mettle against the Magic. I hope we see another 30 minutes of Mitch, and less of Mudiay.

PS: I wasn’t able to recap the last game because I was busy with the semifinals of that singing contest. It’s likely I passed the round, I’ll know more today. If that’s what will happen, there will be some Finals atmosphere around here come April :D



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Unsung Knick History – Four and a Half Davids Beat a Goliath (Named David)

This is the fourth in a series (of indefinite length and regularity) of examinations into different games, events and decisions that impacted Knicks history in some way, shape or form. Stories that are not as famous as, say, LJ’s 4-point play or Willis Reed playing Game 7, but still have a place in Knicks history, especially for die-hard fans. Here is an archive of all the stories featured so far.

Today we look at an amazing 1995 game between the New York Knicks and the San Antonio Spurs (a season after David Robinson was voted the NBA’s Most Valuable Player) where the Knicks defeated the Spurs in double overtime with a line-up of Herb Williams and four guards!
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Going out of business! 50% off! Priced to move! (All sales are final. Void where prohibited by law)

Following hard on the heels of Mike K’s fine breakdown of the benefits (or lack thereof) of trading for McGrady, I’m going to channel my inner Bill Simmons (I’ve been watching “Jersey Shore” on MTV and going to strip clubs all weekend to emotionally/psychically prep m’self. Needless to say, it’s been pretty harrowing.) and throw out some possible deals that could be made, even if our erstwhile coach is playing it coy:

“The key is it’s got to fit into the plan,” D’Antoni said before the Knicks’ 112-91 loss to the T’wolves last night. “It’s got to be right. I think we as an organization, we’re looking all the time, trying to better the team without messing up the long-term plan. It’s a tricky thing to do.

“We’ll keep looking. [Team president] Donnie [Walsh] will keep looking.”

You got that right, Coach. It is tricky. Is it as tricky as realizing that perhaps you should have played more than 6 guys in the 2nd half of a back-to-back, even if it means deviating from the sanctity of your precious 8-man rotation or going to the zone when Jefferson, Love and (shudder) Ryan Freaking Hollins are positively killing the Nix in the low post? Maybe not. But I digress…

Since it’s so durned difficult to make trades, in the spirit of teamwork (I’ve been taking my Teamocil these days), here are a few reasonable and hopefully fair deals to aid our (snicker, chortle) playoff push or upgrade for the future.

New York trades: Jared Jeffries (SF/PF) and Cuttino Mobley (SG)
Sacramento trades: Kenny Thomas (SF/PF), Sergio Rodriguez (PG),  Hilton Armstrong (C)

Why it’s plausible: Rodriguez is buried behind Tyreke Evans and Beno Udrih at PG. Jeffries has been a rumored target of Cowtown’s eye for awhile. They save some serious ducats (Mobley) in exchange for taking on JJ’s last year – hence a net savings – and dump 3 cats who are out of their rotation. The Nix get a young, up-tempo PG and of course, salary-cap savings.

New York trades: Jared Jeffries (SF/PF)
San Antonio trades: Matt Bonner (PF), Michael Finley (SG) Ian Manhinmi (PF/C)

Why it’s plausible: In the west playoffs, JJ’d be a valuable piece, guarding a variety of players – from Nowitzki to Brandon Roy to Chris Paul. The Nix would agree (nudge, nudge, wink wink) to release Bonner and Finley so that they could re-sign w/San Antonio. The ‘Bockers get a young big/project and (all together now), cap room in 2010.

New York sends: Jordan Hill (PF), Cuttino Mobley (SG), Wilson Chandler (SF/PF)
Golden State trades: Anthony Randolph (PF), Anthony Morrow (SG), Speedy Claxton (PG) Devean George (SF), Raja Bell (SG)

Why it’s plausible: For whatever reason, Nellie seems down on the Anthony’s (Morrow and Randolph). Chandler’s stock is at an all-time high. Hill can be sold to Golden State of Mind-ers as a reasonable substitute for Randolph and the Nix absolutely steal two pieces and actually save cap-bucks (a million or so).

And finally, just fo’ sh@*%s n’ giggles, a mega-deal (pigs flying not included)…

New York sends: Wilson Chandler (SF/PF), David Lee (PF/C), Nate Robinson (Freakshow), Jordan Hill (PF/C), Toney Douglas (PG)
Portland trades: Greg Oden (C), Jerryd Bayless (PG), Rudy Fernandez (SG), Travis Outlaw (SF/PF), Patrick Mills (PG)

Why it’s utterly implausible but makes a weird, twisted kinda sense: Hear me out. While Portland would be admitting that they screwed the pooch by taking Oden over Durant, look at their 8-man roation post-trade –

PG Miller/Blake
SG Roy/Robinson
SF Chandler/Webster
PF Aldridge
C Lee

Lee and Aldridge in the high/low post would be great. Robinson returns to the Pacific Northwest and wouldn’t be a PG liability since Roy does a chunk of the ballhandling. Chandler’s a serious upgrade at SF over Batum/Webster. And they get two prospects in Hill and Toney D to boot.  That Blazers team could seriously challenge the Nugs and the Spurs (if not the Lakers) and given the number of picks/overseas assets the team still has, they’d still have the pieces to make a deal if it didn’t work out.

For the D’Antonis, we’d be a little light this year (to say the least), but moving forward, wouldn’t Oden be worth rolling the dice on? If he’s healthy he’s the defensive 5 we haven’t had since Ewing. Bayless is another boom-bust investment and Rudy F. could be Ginobili 2.0. That’s a TON of if’s, but what’s the ceiling of the guys we’re trading? Lee’s great, but not a franchise player or even a Robin to someone’s Batman like Vintage Pippen/Worthy/McHale or these days, Gasol/Pierce. Chandler’s getting better n’ better, but he’s a very poor man’s Shawn Marion. Hill could be a more athletic Kurt Thomas and Douglas might turn into Chris Childs. All nice pieces, for sure. But there isn’t a franchise guy in the bunch. Now take a look at the 2010 roster if these moves pan out:

PG Bayless
SG Fernandez
SF Gallo
PF That guy from Cleveland
C Oden

You bring Jeffries off the bench and fill the rest of the roster w/vet free agents who are jonesing to be part of LeBron’s entourage & Marcus Landry types. If you wanna get really ballsy, you see if Phoenix will dump Nash for expirings + picks. That’s a serious contender right now. It won’t happen, just b/c Portland can’t/won’t bail on Oden. But a girl can dream, right? Whaddaya think Knickerblogger-istas?

What’s Wrong With the Knicks?

The New York Knicks have limped out to a 1-6 start, their worst since 2003 when they began the year 1-8. That season, they eventually finished 37-45, which would actually be an improvement for this team. So although history shows us that all is not lost, there are some issues the team must overcome to get back on track.

Not to Three?
The team’s three point percentage of 30.3% is 57 points lower than last year’s average, but that number isn’t indicative of how bad New York’s shooting has been. That percentage is inflated by Danilo Gallinari’s sizzling 46.6%. The non-Gallo Knicks are shooting an appallingly bad 22.5%. And while the knee-jerk reaction is to blame non-shooter Jared Jeffries and rookie Toney Douglas, the pair are actually 2nd and 3rd on the team respectively in three point percentage. It’s the regulars of Hughes, Harrington, Duhon, Chandler, and Robinson that are sinking the team.

For some teams, going through a cold spell from behind the arc might be a nuisance, but D’Antoni’s offense requires the team to make their treys to open up the inside. I documented this here, showing how other teams are clogging the middle and daring the team to beat them from the outside. That said this is probably an early season funk, and more likely than not New York will end up in the middle of the pack with regards to three point shooting. Hopefully the drought will end sooner than later.

Ill Ill Will?
It seems that Knick fans are split on their opinion of Wilson Chandler. Some see a youngster with a lot of upside, while others see caution flags from his advanced stats. But neither side envisioned him playing this poorly. Chandler has been dreadful in 2010, starting off the year with a PER of 7.7, nearly half of his 2009 rate of 12.9. The decline is entirely due to his anemic shooting: 39.9% TS% and 20.0% 3P%.

Chandler did have surgery in the offseason, which prevented him from working on his game during the summer. The good news is that his non-shooting stats have been identical to last year, which means that there isn’t a lingering physical issue that is causing his decline. The bad news is Chandler was never a good shooter to begin with, and that he needed the extra time to work on his jumper. The best the team can hope for is to send Chandler slashing to the hoop more often, which is usually a good prescription for any athletic player struggling to find their range.

There’s No Movement, No Movement, No Movement…
What happened to the movement on offense? The hallmark of D’Antoni’s offense is having some kind of constant motion, either via ball or players. But this year, it seems that the half court offense has become stagnant. And of course there’s the limitation of the roster. Chris Duhon is still passing up easy buckets in the paint, Al Harrington is still refusing to pass the ball, and Jeffries is still getting court time. The one guy who has the multifaceted game to jumpstart the offense, Nate Robinson, is sidelined with an injury.

Again it seems the lack of an outside threat has hurt the team, but perhaps D’Antoni should be finding another way to generate points. Given his reputation as an offensive coach, he should be able to coax some more production out of this group.

Pennies On the Dollar (Or Thousands of Dollars on the Millions of Dollars)
While one could argue that their precious cap space and a lack of assets prevented them from making a major move, the truth is the team failed to improve at all. The team didn’t deviate from their 2009 roster much, adding only Darko Milicic, Jordan Hill, Toney Douglas, and Marcus Landry. None of these players are averaging 10 minutes per game.

The problem boils down to New York failing to find any low cost help. It’s easy to say the NBA is a superstar’s league, but the truth is that teams need to fill their entire roster. This means front offices need to not only be successful in acquiring superstars, but digging the bargain bin for productive players. The Celtics might not have won a a title without their big trio, but perhaps their troika of youngsters Rondo, Perkins, and Powe was equally important to that championship run. The same could be said for the Spurs for turning the undrafted 30 year old Bruce Bowen and 57th overall pick Manu Ginobili into a part of their core. And the Pistons would not have won their last championship without Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups – two players that were relative nobodies before their arrival in Detroit.

Every year there seems to be a few unheralded players who find success on the major league level, in addition to homeless veterans willing to play for a bargain. In the Donnie Walsh era, the Knicks have flirted with lots of inexpensive players like Von Wafer, Demetris Nichols, Anthony Roberson, Cheikh Samb, Mouhamed Sene, Courtney Simms, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Joe Crawford, Chris Hunter and Morris Almond but failed to unearth any rough gems.

For a team that relies on outside shooting so much (New York was 1st in three pointers attempted last year), the team has a glaring hole at shooting guard. The 2-guard position is filled by a small forward (Wilson Chandler), an undersized point guard (Nate Robinson) and an aging slasher with a questionable shot (Larry Hughes). To compound the situation the team does have a free roster spot and there are some options available (Almond, Crawford and Szczerbiak). It would cost the team a fraction of their total salary to acquire a shooter, but for some reason they’re content in staying pat. Having a three point specialist would probably be helpful a few nights over the course of the season. But developing one from the NBA scrap heap into the rotation would be the mark of a good front office.

An Open Letter To LeBron James

Dear LeBron,

Can I call you LeBron? Thanks! LeBron, I am writing to you in the hopes that all is well with you and yours as you prepare for the final season of your contractually obligated engagement with the Cleveland Basketball club. As you may have heard or read somewhere on the internets, a great many folks are speculating about where you will choose to ply your trade in the year 2010. One possible destination is the city that I call my home, New York. You may have also heard that we have a basketball team. They’re called the Knickerbockers. (Fun fact: They’re named after the Dutch settlers who bought Manhattan island from the natives for $24 in wampum!) Truth be told, the New York team has hasn’t been very good for a while now. How long ago was it? Well, the last time they won more games than they lost, Meg Ryan was still considered a sex symbol.

Now, were you to join our team, I can say with a good degree of certainty that you would greatly improve our chances of winning on a day-to-day basis and possibly even elevate the squad to the status of, “championship contender”. Many of my fellow fanatics would very much like this to happen. I’m here to formally ask that you please do not join our team.

It’s not anything personal. You seem like a very nice, charming fellow. And it’s certainly not in any way a condemnation/criticism of your skills on the court. You are, without a doubt, great. You are the greatest since his royal merchandizing/Nike-ness. Were you to disregard this letter, I would assuredly join the maddening crowd in utter adoration/awe of your overall sprezzatura.

But here’s the thing. It wouldn’t be right. I know it. David Stern knows it and I think you know it too even if it runs contrary your (and Mr. Stern’s) ultimate dreams of worldwide financial/iconographic domination and the fact that situating yourself at the epicenter of this media maelstrom would go a great length towards helping you achieve said goal(s).

Now don’t get me wrong. I would love to have an athlete of your caliber on our side. If we had a smart GM who really tanked a season or two in order to get a top 3 draft pick to snag someone as good as you or who discovered someone as good as you in the middle of the first round when the experts had said individual pegged as a mere role player or plucked someone as good as you out of obscurity via trade before his abilities grew to full flower, then hell’s yeah. I’d be tickled pink for [As-yet Nonexistent Savior] to wear the blue and orange. But not like this. We’d be buying you, nay stealing you from the good burghers of Cleveland because goddamnit, we’re the richest most powerful mofos around. It’d be the equivalent of cheering as the Soviet tanks rolled over and through Montenegro.

And if you did sign here, then what? The Lebrons/Knicks go about obliterating other teams? Winning handily? Winning with ease? No sirree. I’m sorry, that’s not me. It just doesn’t mesh with my Weltanschauung. That’s not the team I grew up loving and grew to love. I know my guys are going to lose — lose in heartbreaking fashion, lose via pound-your-nails-into-the-floor-with-your-forehead, repetitive stupidity. And although the actors in this particular melodrama (tragedy?) may have been recast many times over, I still know how it’s going to end, because it’s the same effing play. The script hasn’t changed, just the players. Take our last game v. Indiana f’rinstance. One Clyde said, towards the end of the 4th Quarter (Quarto?), down by 4, after Granger fouled out, “Granger’s out. Now Indiana won’t be able to score and the Knicks can come back.” I should have turned the set off right then and there. That’s it. Toast. Done. We’re boned. Why? Because once the “star’s” out of the game, the other players start moving the ball and playing unselfishly and somehow, quelle surprise, manage to overcome the absence of their, “star.” What happened on Wednesday? The Knicks didn’t score a point in the game. Hibbert, Ford n’ Dantae Jones killed ‘em. I know when the Knicks are trying to mount a comeback that a normally reliable free throw shooter’s gonna brick the first one. (Esp. if he gets the double whammy by Breen mentioning how nifty Player X is from the charity stripe before he’s about to shoot.) In the Indiana game I called both of Harrington’s misses and the Hughes miss at the beginning of the 4th. It’s not b/c I have psychic powers, it’s just that I’ve been watching the same game, over and over again for the past 30 years.

You may be thinking, Lebron, that the above paragraph might suggest that I would like you to join the Knicks, just so I could watch a different story unfold, if only for variety’s sake. A valid point, indeed. But I see, (and indubitably always will see) the failures of this team as an utterly apt paradigm for the way that the rest of the real world functions. The Democrats are going to pass an utterly useless watered down Health Care Bill, Obama’s going to send more troops into Afghanistan because he’s scared of looking ‘weak,’ Bloomberg’s going to flat-out BUY a third term, Glenn Beck’s going to use the remake of the TV show “V” to justify his inane conspiracy theories about Marxists in gov’t, and the Knicks are gonna blow it. Incorrigible, maddening blunders, every man jack of them and there’s absolutely nothing you or I or anyone can do to stop them from happening. If my team started kickin’ ass and taking names, well, I’d have to totally rethink my understanding of the world and start rooting for the Yankees and Dick Cheney and Paris Hilton the E! Network and people who feel that $76 is a reasonable price for an entrée at a restaurant and support the activities of a whole lot of other hateful non-persons who WIN all the time and who don’t. Goddamn. Deserve it. I just can’t be that guy.

(Just to be clear, the 90’s teams are totally valid w/in this construct. We all knew that Patrick would miss the finger roll, Starks would shoot 2-18 in game 7, and that the Spurs would demolish the Camby/Sprewell squad, didn’t we?)

Moral victories. Loveable losers. Tragic Defeat. That’s my stock in trade. So, I’m sorry LeBron. I’d rather you stay in Cleveland. We’ll lose and lose again, but at least I’ll remain true to my principles, to myself.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter, Lebron. I wish you all the best.


Robert Silverman

2010 Poll: Who Will Win the West?

Los Angeles Lakers (Vegas odds to win title: 5:2)
Unlike the East, the West has one clear favorite. Since trading for Pau Gasol, the Lakers have appeared in two straight Finals winning it all last year. Not content to let it ride, Los Angeles upgraded from Trevor Ariza to Ron Artest. This would be a gamble for most teams considering the Queensbridge native’s history, but Phil Jackson has always been able to keep individual personalities from ruining a team.

San Antonio Spurs (6:1)
In an attempt to keep up with the Lakers, the Spurs bolstered their roster in the off season. San Antonio added Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess which should give them a stronger rotation. But ultimately the Spurs will only go as far as their top 3. Last year the team suffered injuries to Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, and if they lose either of them (or Tony Parker) they’ll fall short of any title hopes.

Denver Nuggets (8:1)
The conventional wisdom is that teams that finish strong are likely to have a momentum that continues to the next season. This seems logical since many great teams go through phases of success before winning a title. However there’s little evidence to support that claim, and many teams just get lucky in a playoff series. The 2009 Denver Nuggets will probably avoid the fate of the 2007 Warriors or the 2008 Hornets, as they are likely to see the second round in 2010. However I think Vegas is way too kind to their odds, and I would bet against them to make the Western Conference Finals, nevertheless win a championship.

Last year per-minute stud Chris Andersen had a monstrous playoffs, however over the last 3 years each of the Denver bigs (Andersen, Nene, and Martin) has missed nearly the whole year due to injury. And while the other teams in the conference improved this summer Denver merely tread water, losing Kleiza and adding Ty Lawson. Unless they get another playoff boost from a great per-minute shot blocking/rebounder buried on the bench, they’re not likely going to be able to compete against the Lakers for Western supremacy.

The Field (starting at 10:1)
According to Vegas, the Trailblazers rank 6th in the West, however Portland deserves a higher ranking. They had the West’s second highest expected winning percentage last year (68.4%), which correlates well with winning percentage the year after. Portland also had the NBA’s best offense powered by their fantastic rebounding. The Blazers return with their rotation in tact plus Andre Miller. Although not the ideal fit for the team, Miller provides an upgrade over Bayless & Blake. They’re much better than their 12:1 odds would indicate.

Ahead of Portland are Dallas and Utah at 10:1. The Mavericks added Shawn Marion, Drew Gooden, and Tim Thomas. Marion’s production slipped in Miami and Toronto, and Dallas is hoping that their offensive scheme will better fit his talents. Meanwhile the Jazz matched the offer sheet for Paul Millsap, and are hoping that they can collectively stay healthy. Finally the New Orleans Hornets swapped Chandler for Emeka Okafor, which could make them relevant in the West again.