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Archive for the tag “Kobe Bryant”

Plenty Of Changes Needed In Lakerland

(photo courtesy of Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times)

(photo courtesy of Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles Lakers have been one of the most storied franchises in professional sports history. From Jerry West to Kobe Bryant, the Lakers have always had star power along with the championship mettle. Thinking of all that history makes it hard to believe the Lakers have been relegated to what they currently are now. After their loss to the Golden State Warriors Tuesday, the Lakers are now sporting a record of 2-12. The team, which former Laker Byron Scott coaches, has stumbled out of the blocks yet again. And the worst part is there is no telling when they will stumble out of the darkness and back into the limelight. Under Scott, the Lakers have not made the playoffs nor have they looked close to making it. For a franchise that has been used to success, this is something that has to be troublesome for the team and their fans. After reviewing the game against the Warriors, there were a few things that struck me as interesting for a team that is constructed the way they are. It just seems like they are out of sync. They are a young team and they are not expected to make the playoffs, but some of the things they are doing is not making them any better on the court. With a few adjustments, the team could actually be a better product to watch and be more competitive on the court.

The offensive philosophy of this team seems very simple. It seems like they run the offense through Kobe Bryant still. In case Byron Scott has not been watching, Kobe is not the same Kobe he once was. For example, he went 1-14 against the Warriors and did not seem to have the same lift he once had. But Scott seems determined to run the offense through Bryant no matter what. One day he may want to realize that Bryant is not the future of this team. The future of the team lies in D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and power forward Julius Randle. These three young guys have a chance to be the future of the franchise and lead them back to relevance. But as long as the offense is run through Kobe, there is no room for them to grow. And as time goes on, these young players need time to mature and minutes to grow. The more they are put in situations where they have to lead and be the playmaker, the more you find out what you do or don’t have in them. You also find out what you need to surround them with. And once you are able to get a true evaluation of their skills, then you can start moving forward with more information and things to build on.

The adjustment in the offensive philosophy not only has to do with the change of the focus but the change of pace as well. Byron Scott is trying to run a Princeton-style offense with the young players that he has. If you are not aware of what kind of offense this is, it is predicated on movement and a series of cuts and off-the-ball movement. For a team that has veteran players that are in the NBA it takes time to learn. So imagine what it is doing to the youngsters playing with the Lakers. D’Angelo Russell looks tentative on the court at all times. It seems like he is thinking more than playing. Clarkson will be fine, but he even has moments where he does not get what’s going on too. And as far as Randle, he is a guy they want to take a rebound and push the basketball. But it seems like they are not really pushing the fact that they want him to push the basketball. The slower pace for the Lakers helps guys like Kobe and center Roy Hibbert but hurts the young guns. Since Hibbert and Kobe are not giving them much, why are they catering to these two? Why not get the most out of your young and entertaining pieces by pushing the basketball? And if Hibbert or Kobe cannot keep up, cut down their minutes and play more young guys that can pick up the slack. If that can happen, I can guarantee the Lakers would see more out of Russell than they currently are. They would also see Clarkson and Randle be better.

The Lakers do have some talented scorers off their bench in Nick Young and Lou Williams. The former 6th man of the Year with the Raptors last season, Williams came to LA this offseason to play for the Lakers. It was thought he would bring some firepower off their bench, but it has not worked out the way he has thought. His average is down three points from 15 points per game to 12 points per game. And when you watch the games, Byron Scott has him playing point guard. Lou Williams may not be the prototypical size for a shooting guard, but that is what he does and has done his whole career. Having him initiate the offense is not a good look at all. The best thing to do for him is put either Clarkson or Russell on the point and allow him to create as a scorer when Kobe goes to the bench. In doing that, you will get the best use out of Williams that can help this team. And if you combine the faster tempo with this move, then you get Lou Williams going in the right direction.

The Lakers could be better than what they currently are. But instead of being a team that is getting their young pups ready to take over, they are still letting the old guard run this team. Kobe is one of the greatest players of all-time, but his time has passed and he is holding back these youngsters. And if Byron Scott does not understand that, then maybe it is time for him to call it a career with the Lakers. The team has pieces to grow with, but Byron is not helping the situation at all. If these adjustments were made at least on the offensive end, the Lakers would be growing instead of looking like a team with no direction.

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What The Trade Of Roy Hibbert Means For The Indiana Pacers And Los Angeles Lakers

Roy Hibbert is headed West to play with the Los Angeles Lakers. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Roy Hibbert is headed West to play with the Los Angeles Lakers. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The Indiana Pacers were heading into next season with renewed optimism after the return late last season of Paul George. Even though he did not play the way he did before the leg injury, he showed glimpses of being his former self out on the court. And even though they were not getting a ton from center Roy Hibbert, there were some thoughts that the team would make more strides towards returning to what they were on the court. But the strides they would making, there was the realization that Hibbert would never be the same player that showed up in enough time to get a big contract from the Pacers. The team was probably hoping he did not pick up his player option for next season that would have paid him $15.5 million in 2015-2016. But on draft night, Hibbert exercised his option and took up the team on the last year of his deal. Immediately upon signing, many wondered if he would ever suit up for the Pacers again. And as time went on, it seemed to be a certainty that he was gone. The Pacers were shopping him around and hoping that anyone would take him off their hands. The results may have not came immediately, but the Pacers seemed to have found a match for Hibbert and his contract. The Los Angeles Lakers are willing to ship some pieces to their team to take a chance on potentially reviving Hibbert’s career. And for Indy, they seem to be content with letting HIbbert go.

Last season, the Indiana Pacers were a team that did not have much offense to go around. In fact, they ended the season 24th in scoring. But as bad as they are offensively, the Pacers were a top five defensive team. And despite what some may think of Hibbert, he was a part of that defensive strategy there in Indianapolis. But with the trade, he is no longer there to cover for the mistakes perimeter defenders may be making. So with Hibbert gone, expect the defense to drop down a level. But don’t be mistaken. The Pacers will still be a solid defense next season. Backup center Ian Mahinmi will be able to step in and make an impact defensively. Despite being shorter than Hibbert, who is 7’2”, Mahinmi is able to cover more ground. And with that, the Pacers defense will be quicker to the basketball and therefore be more versatile with the quicker Mahinmi. But the veteran backup is not the only player that will have an impact in the front court of the Pacers. Offensively, rookie big man Myles Turner will step in and add a different flavor for the Pacers offense. He easily is the most versatile big man on their roster and with his range shooting the basketball, he will be able to pull opposing big men away from the basket. And when that happens, that opens up lanes for newly-acquired Monta Ellis along with Paul George and Rodney Stuckey to attack the basket. With no one at the rim and with all three of these guys having great explosiveness to the rim, the pressure they would put on defenses without a big at the rim would give teams headaches. This move may change the Pacers, but it will make them better overall in regards to their team speed. And there may be some more pieces to add to this equation once the compensation has been agreed upon. The two most mentioned names are forward Ryan Kelly and center Robert Sacre. Of these two, Kelly would be the most help on this team due to his ability to shoot the three and his size as well. He would be a part of helping remake the Pacers offensively while still helping to maintain a solid defensive presence.

The Pacers look solid going forward, but the Lakers are somewhat of an enigma. They have struggled the last two seasons and it seems like big-name free agents are avoiding the Lakers like the plague right now. The Lakers added players like Lou Williams and Brandon Bass in free agency, rookie D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, who was lost last season after the first game. Add that group with a healthy Kobe Bryant and the Lakers look a little better than they did last season. The Lakers were a team that were porous defensively and before Hibbert, the Lakers are a porous defensive team. With the addition of Hibbert’s services, he can be a force defensively provided he does not have to move much or guard on the perimeter. And with the Lakers, he can be someone that can upgrade what they got defensively out of the center position despite his limitations. But for as much as he could help them defensively, he could be a non-factor when playing against the teams that can go small. When that happens, Hibbert is at a disadvantage due to his lack of foot speed. And that can cause some issues for the defense in Los Angeles. Offensively, Hibbert was a player that could make it happen at one point in his career. But over the last couple of years, it seems as if he has regressed and not taken advantage of his physical tools offensively. Sliding him into the Lakers lineup is something that will be hard to do because of the speed the Lakers will want to play at. Hibbert is best at a slow-paced game where he can post up. But with the Lakers, can we expect them to slow the ball down when he is out there? That is something that is yet to be determined but the best guess is that he will not fit what they want to do offensively at all. In the end, the Lakers traded for someone they could have a trial run with for one season and it will not hurt the development of their young players. Should Hibbert not fit, the Lakers could let him walk next season and gain back the salary cap space created by his departure. And as for Hibbert, he could go out to Los Angeles and help his value going into the summer of 2016. It could be a winning situation for Hibbert and the Lakers or it could go horribly wrong for one of them. This marriage for the 2015-2016 season will be something to watch.

Ultimately, the Pacers moved forward and got rid of a guy that was once considered part of their future. And as for the Lakers, they are taking a chance on the former Georgetown big man for one year. Both teams have some things they like and don’t like, but the Pacers just made themselves better while the Lakers are playing again for the future. Only time will tell is both of these teams win in this trade. But for right now, it looks like the Pacers are winning this one in the immediate future.

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The Best And Worst Fits For LaMarcus Aldridge’s Services

It's decision time for LaMarcus Aldridge. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Stewart/US PRESSWIRE)

It’s decision time for LaMarcus Aldridge. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Stewart/US PRESSWIRE)

There are many free agents out there that have some decisions to make. Some, like Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies, are only taking meetings with the team he has played for in the NBA and no one else. While others have decided to open up the field and take meetings from everyone. There are some enticing names out there, but one that rings a bell for many is Portland Trailblazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Last offseason, the Portland Trailblazers tried to lock up the talented forward to an extension. And although it was believed by many that he would stay there and sign a more lucrative extension with Portland this offseason, there was some speculation as to him potentially leaving Portland this summer. This belief came to fruition a little bit more when Aldridge opened up his recruitment this summer as of the last few weeks. There are as many as seven teams that are reportedly interested in him and want to add him to their rosters. Aldridge, although he has not really won a lot in the playoffs, is a big man that many consider dominant and that can change a team’s fortunes just with a signature. And expectedly, he is the most coveted free agent out there (subtracting LeBron James from this one because we know he isn’t leaving Cleveland again). But where would be the best fit for him?

The list of teams interested in Aldridge are the New York Knicks, the Toronto Raptors, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Dallas Mavericks, the Houston Rockets, the San Antonio Spurs and the Phoenix Suns. Looking that list of teams, there are a couple that stand out in regards to his talents. If you have taken a look at Aldridge’s game, it is very versatile in terms of his range. The 6’11” power forward can post very well when he wants to. He can face you up and take the jump shot as well as drive the middle of the lane or the baseline to attack the rim. But what makes Aldridge even more special is his ability to stretch the defense for a man his size. He can shoot all the way out to the three-point line and he can also be a good pick-and-pop big with as well as he shoots the jumper. At times he can get too comfortable shooting the jump shot, but he is effective with it nonetheless. The team that would obviously benefit from having him the most is the San Antonio Spurs. Tim Duncan is not getting any younger and with Kawhi Leonard getting ready to accept a big extension from the Spurs, San Antonio needs another piece to go along with him. By adding Aldridge, that helps stabilize the team down low once Duncan decides to hang it up. In essence, you would be replacing Duncan with a player that is very similar to him but more athletic. Add him to what they have coming back next year reportedly (Duncan and Manu Ginobli are reportedly coming back on cheaper salaries to help the team) and this team could be hoisting the trophy again in 2016 with Aldridge. And the good thing about the Spurs is that they can pay Aldridge as much as they want due to the sacrifices of Duncan and Ginobli. At this point in their careers, they know they are playing more for rings than salaries. And for Duncan, that can help them potentially get one more before riding off into the sunset. For Aldridge, it would help him add a crowning achievement to his career and also help the Spurs bridge the gap successfully into the next era of San Antonio basketball. Imagine the motion offense they run with Aldridge and Kawhi being the main options. But for the here and now, Aldridge and Duncan would remind many of the original Twin Towers that San Antonio had when they won it the first time with a young Tim Duncan and a veteran David Robinson. Amazing how things can change over time as Duncan would be the veteran in this scenario.

The Spurs would be an excellent fit for Aldridge and he could very well land there. But like there is a best fit for Aldridge, there is one fit that would be the worst for him. The Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks are clamoring for the services of Aldridge. Both are looking at him as the missing piece to what they want to accomplish. But in reality, both teams are a tie for the worst fit for his services. In Dallas, the team there is a jump-shooting team for the most part. And even though Aldridge can shoot the jump shot, he would basically be asked to be the post presence for that team. That is fine and dandy on the offensive end of the court, but on the defensive end that would be trouble. Imagine Aldridge having to be the rim protector for the Mavericks. Even though Chandler is older, he is still far and away a better rim protector than Aldridge will ever be. The only way the addition of Aldridge could work is if the Mavericks can send Dirk to the bench and allow Aldridge to start with a guy like Chandler as the center alongside him. But the reality of that happening is slim to none and even if it did, the Mavericks still would not have enough in the West to win a title. As far as Houston, they seemed to be run by James Harden. And that can be a good thing and a bad thing. Harden is a playmaker on the offensive end of the court and a lot of the offense runs through his hands. But Harden has said that he would like for Houston to bring another playmaker in besides him next season. Looking at the Houston Rockets as they are (when healthy), there are devoid of another playmaker and need one sorely to take the load off Harden a little bit more. In the draft, they had the opportunity to add a playmaker and chose to add Sam Dekker instead. So with the addition of Aldridge, that would not address the need they had. Dwight Howard occupies the post and that would take away from the touches Aldridge would have in there. And as far as him pairing with Harden, he would become exclusively a pick-and-pop guy, and that would not be what the Rockets needed. Ironically, Josh Smith actually fits this team better than Aldridge because he has the ability to be a playmaker, although he is inconsistent at times. Aldridge going there would not make this team any more dangerous unless they got rid of Dwight Howard or he found a jumpshot, two things that are not likely to happen anytime soon.

Of course there are four other teams that fit in this scenario and the Lakers are reportedly the leading candidate for his services. The fit there would be nice, but with the fluidity of the situation there in regards to the potential trade for Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, there is no telling what kind of team will be there. If they get Cousins, the team would be tough provided Kobe can stay healthy this season. If they don’t trade for Cousins, then he could potentially have to play center and that would not be a good thing defensively at all. In the end, Aldridge will get paid one way or the other. The decision is his ultimately, but if he is seriously thinking about getting a ring along with getting paid, San Antonio is the spot where he needs to go. They have the best coach, system and scenario for him to succeed immediately.

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Jerry West: A Legacy Of Front Office Success

Jerry West's legacy of success has been legendary as a front office guy. (photo courtesy of www.goldenstateofmind.com)

Jerry West’s legacy of success has been legendary as a front office guy. (photo courtesy of http://www.goldenstateofmind.com)

The Golden State Warriors were a mess in 2010. Head coach Keith Smart had some players on his team that were for real like Steph Curry and Monta Ellis. But he also had some players on his team that were not really NBA players like point guard Acie Law and forward Jeff Adrien. The team finished 36-46 that season and missed the playoffs again. A change was needed and one was needed immediately. The team seemed to be going nowhere fast and had no direction at all. Owner Joe Lacob knew the team had to make something happen. So in 2011, the plan to make the Warriors a better team took off. And ironically, the plan started with the hiring of Jerry West to an executive position with the team. The 1st year of the plan started off rough with under the leadership of Mark Jackson as coach, but just as of 2015 and under the leadership of 1st year head coach Steve Kerr, the team is now in the NBA Finals. For the Golden State Warriors, this is their 1st appearance in the NBA Finals in a long time. And this team is much deeper and more talented than they have been in a while as well. Amazing that Steph Curry was just finding himself in the NBA at the time of the restructure and now he is the main player and the MVP of the league. But to West, this is what he has done his whole career. He is a winner through and through and that can be shown even past his playing days.

West was very successful as a player in the NBA. He was the only player to ever win a NBA Finals despite losing the NBA Finals and he also was a 14-time All-Star along with making the All-NBA 1st team 10 times and the NBA All-Defense team 4 four times. “The Logo”, as he was nicknamed due to his silhouette being the logo of the NBA still to this day, had a highly successful career and could have retired and lived off his legacy. But instead of doing so, he began another legacy of building teams. West, after his playing days, was the coach of the Lakers for three seasons, sporting a 145-101 record. He made the conference finals once, but never was able to win a title as a coach. After leaving the coaching position to become a scout, West returned to the frontlines as a general manager for Los Angeles in the 1982-1983 season. And to this day, his scouting and moves as a general manager have him receiving most of the credit for the five titles the Lakers won in the 1980’s (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988). He was not only brilliant for what he did with those teams, but what he did after them as well. He knew which buttons to push with the organization and when to get rid of players. He rebooted the Lakers after the team lost some steam in the early 1990’s by putting together point guard Nick Van Exel, forward Cedric Ceballos and center Vlade Divac along with head coach Del Harris and making the Lakers a Western Conference semifinalist. He would go on to win the Executive of the Year award the first time in that season (1995). But it was the move he made the following offseason that would set up the Lakers for their next title runs. West would make a play and successfully get center Shaquille O’Neal to leave Orlando to play in Tinseltown. And along with getting Shaq, West traded established center Vlade Divac for a talented young guard from Philly named Kobe Bean Bryant. Of course there were some growing pains when these two got together in Los Angeles, but eventually they became one of the most dominant duos to ever play the game. And they would go on to win three titles in a row together as a tandem before these two also parted ways from each other. West would leave the Lakers and resurface as the general manager of the Memphis Grizzlies, but that was not the end of the success that he had.

When West joined the Grizzlies organization in 2002, he was said to want to join Memphis because he “wondered how it would be to build a winning franchise that has not experienced much success.” Of course it would be almost impossible for him to reach the level of success he did with the Lakers, but he did something that some thought was impossible in Memphis. When West got there, he had his work cut out for him. The Grizzlies were a team that many thought could eventually fold in Memphis due to the lack of success and the lack of support at times. But with acquiring veterans like Jason Williams, James Posey and getting the most out of Pau Gasol at the time, the Grizzlies were able to make the playoffs. And since that time, it seems like the team has been a staple for the playoffs ever since. The Grizzlies, once known as the team that picked a player in Steve Francis that frowned upon them, had transformed into a team expected to make the playoffs every year and West was the key cog in that transformation process. The success all came to a head when he was named Executive of the Year for the 2nd time in his career. But what was even more impressive about this award the second time around was he did it with a smaller budget and with players that some teams did not even want around. The best move by far that he made for that franchise was hiring an older coach that many thought was done in the coaching game. When he hired Hubie Brown, the team responded and played well under him, culminating in an NBA Coach of the Year award in the same 2004 season. West would go on to retire as the Grizzlies general manager in 1997 and he turned over his managerial duties to Chris Wallace. West was there in Memphis for a short time, but his impact there was immeasurable. And he will forever be thought of as the guy that helped turn Memphis into a team people took seriously.

West is on the cusp of being a part of another championship run in his career after his playing days. Not many former players can say they have had the success he has had after his playing days. But West is just a basketball junkie and he still gets it after all these years. Of course he is not the main guy behind the management there in Oakland, but where he goes, success usually follows. And this situation with the Golden State Warriors isn’t any different. After all these years, the 77 year old West still is having a lasting impact on the NBA.

It’s time for Dwight Howard to accept his sidekick role permanently

James Harden and Dwight Howard trying to get on the same page. (photo courtesy of www.washingtonpost.com)

James Harden and Dwight Howard trying to get on the same page. (photo courtesy of http://www.washingtonpost.com)

During the summer of 2013, Dwight Howard had a decision to make. Did he want to stay with the Los Angeles Lakers and pair with Kobe again or did he want to move on to play somewhere else? The relationship between Howard and Kobe in his one year with the Lakers was strained at best. Kobe was serious and about business. While Howard was jovial and never seemed to be serious about winning in Kobe’s eyes. In the meeting the Lakers had with Howard when he was making his decision where he would sign, Kobe went directly at Howard and told him that he could “teach him how to be a champion”. Howard listened to Bryant, but he was not at all interested in sticking around somewhere that he felt he could not be himself. Howard and Bryant were just not meant to be a pairing. Their personalities just went together like oil and water. And ultimately a separation was needed. Howard signed, for less money and one less year, with the Houston Rockets franchise. He was viewed as the guy that could change their franchise and help them ascend to greater heights than they did before. Well, two years later, the story of Howard in Houston has not gone the way he thought it would.

Howard had a good first season with the Rockets, averaging 18 points and 12 rebounds. The Rockets made it back to the playoffs on the strength of Howard and Harden, yet they ran out of gas in the 1st round of the NBA playoffs, losing to the Portland Trailblazers in six games. Howard had a great series versus the Trailblazers, putting up 26 points per game and grabbing 14 rebounds per game as well. But his efforts were not enough for them to continue forward. Going into this season, many thought that Howard would pick up where he left off versus Portland. But unfortunately he did not have the regular season he thought he would. Howard had progressed in the 2014 postseason. He was actually using post moves and looked like he knew what he was doing down there. But that did not last this season as he went back to the usual Dwight. Of course it did not help that he was injured most of this season, but when he was out there, he was the big man that could do everything else but put together two post moves back to back. Over the years, what made Howard so special over his career is his athleticism as a big man that allows him to block shots and be a bulldog rebounding the ball. That incredible athleticism allowed him to get by without having any real post moves for most of his career. But as time goes on in his career, the injuries are piling up and the athleticism is not what it once was. Now the soon-to-be 30 year old center is entering a phase of his career that may take him out of the spotlight even more. He had wanted to be a leader of his team. But the time has come for him to succumb to being the sidekick.

Dwight has realized that he is not the best player on the team in Houston. That title belongs to Rockets shooting guard James Harden. The veteran big man has said that he is willing to be the sidekick to Harden and that should be what he should do. After all, Harden has pretty much carried this team to the spot it’s in now without the services of Howard for much of the year. It was an easy decision for Howard to defer to the best player on the team. And if they are to make a run, Howard must realize that he is the sidekick and stay in his role. In fact, the best thing that could have happened to this Houston team was him getting injured. It allowed for more players like Terrence Jones to develop more and it also allowed Harden to have uninterrupted time as the leader of the team. Now with Howard there as the secondary guy, he can potentially go back to the things that made him good in Orlando, being the anchor on defense and rebounding. And if Howard can zone in on doing those things, the Houston could be a bigger threat than originally thought, especially if guys like Trevor Ariza, Jason Terry and Corey Brewer are hitting threes. The penetration of Harden along with the effect of Howard on the boards would be staggering to teams. But what happens after this season if the Rockets are not successful with Howard as the sidekick?

In the 2015-2016 season, there could be some issues between Harden and Howard. Assuming that Howard could be healthy, he could go back to the guy that would be requesting touches in the post. And as is documented by his play over the years, he cannot really be consistent with his post moves. Howard requesting touches in the paint without being able to do anything with it would do two things to the Rockets offense. First, it would take away the possessions that Harden has the basketball. Harden is by far the best playmaker the Rockets have and when he has the ball in his hands, good things tend to happen for Houston. So it would be imperative that Harden have the ball to help everyone else around him, including Howard, be more effective. Secondly, Howard requesting post touches will make the flow of the offense slow down. No one really fears him in the post when he has to make post moves. Teams fear him more when he gets offensive rebounds. Putting Howard in potential pick-n-roll situations more and then surrounding he and Harden with shooters is the most efficient way they can run offense.

Dwight may be content with playing the sidekick role for this postseason, but we have all witness the times where he expresses disgust when things don’t go the way he wants them to go. And that can be a bad thing for any team. Dwight may have to come to grips that he is not the main attraction there in Houston. James Harden has taken over that title for the foreseeable future. It’s up to Dwight Howard to understand that he cannot be the main focus at this point anymore. The best thing he can do is be Robin instead of trying to be Batman.

Changing The Age Limit To 20 Would Be A Good Move By The NBA

Adam Silver Adam Silver has officially taken over as the new NBA commissioner. And one thing he has immediately mentioned is the age limit in the NBA. Silver has mentioned that he would like to change the age limit in the NBA from 19 to 20 years of age. This rule would effectively make it where kids would have to stay in college for two seasons after graduating high school. Of course this rule has been met by some pushback from some fans of the game. But overall, this rule would be excellent for the NBA.

Over the years, the NBA has become a league where offenses have become hard to watch. Some of that can be attributed to the specialization of the game these days. But a lot of blame lies on the development (or non-development) of players when they enter the NBA. More often than not, we see players enter the NBA that are not physically or developmentally ready to play. As a result, players tend to either sit on the bench while they develop, play before they are even ready or get sent down to the D-League. In some instances, this works out. But in other instances, the underdevelopment of a players leads to a quick exit from the NBA. By allowing the kids to stay in school for a minimum of two years, this could let them develop more and also would help produce a better product on the floor in terms of developed players.

Another good positive would be reflected in the salary cap for teams. A lot of times, teams draft these players without them being able to be contributors right away. That leads to money being tied up in players that will not help your team. With a two-year minimum, it decreases the chances of having underdeveloped players tie up salary. That would allow teams to have more money to get that veteran that may be the missing piece to their championship run. Or for teams with lower expectations, it would be a chance to make the playoffs with a good piece they would be able to add.

We witnessed LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Tracy McGrady enter the NBA right out of high school and many feel that should be what the league allows. All four have had successful careers in the NBA. But for all the success these four had, some tend to forget the stories of guys like Korleone Young and James Lang. Young was considered one of the top high school players in America as a senior at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia. The 6’7” small forward was thought to be one of the top picks taken in the 1998 NBA Draft. Unfortunately, things did not work out for Young the way he wanted them to. He was drafted 40th in the NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons, only to play three games and be cut by the team. Young never played in the NBA again. Lang was a 2003 high school All-American and he felt he was good enough to take his talents to the NBA. Apparently, NBA teams did not think as good about him as he did himself. Lang was drafted with the 48th pick by New Orleans but he was waived by the team after he was deemed to not have shown ability to be on the active roster by GM Bob Bass. After a couple of 10-day contacts and some D-League stints, Lang was eventually out of chances to prove himself. Both Lang and Young were talented kids, but there were underdeveloped and maybe by going to college they could have developed more skill to hang around longer in the NBA. But instead, they are now nowhere to be seen on the NBA scene. Allowing the college option to be there would be great for some kids because some will find out that they were not as ready as they originally thought they were. And with that, they could start to work on parts of their game that could get them ready.

Ultimately, I believe this rule will be put in place. It helps not only the NBA but college basketball. And maybe with this rule, we can get back to a less watered-down product on the court in college and the NBA. In the end, it’s about having a kid be prepared for life along with the spoils of the NBA and college can help that kid prepare for both at the same time.

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Sports Imitating Life

Torrey Smith emotional after playingSports are a major piece of the fabric of American culture. It is hard to come by anyone these days that doesn’t watch them or hasn’t played them at some point in their life. But sports are not just a part of our culture. In many ways it mimcs the way our world runs. When you look at sports, you are looking at a microcosm of America.

Roger Goodell and David Stern are two of the most hated commissioners in the sports world. But why is that? The biggest reason is because of the controversial decisions they make. Recently, Goodell made a change in the celebration rules. Many fans were not happy with him and voiced their opinions through social media forums. But even when he makes a good decision for the game, he still catches flack. The same can be said for NBA commissioner David Stern and some of the decisions that he has and has not made. And the same thing can be said of the President of the United States. No matter who is in office someone will always be dissatisfied with their decisions. Goodell and Stern are like the president in many ways. And the NFL and NBA is the country they are running. They are in positions of power and they have what most don’t have: ultimate control. And the feelings they invoke in some are good and to others they are repulsive.

If the commissioners are the president, then the players are the representation of the people. Even though they get multi-million dollar contracts all the time, they still are separated into classes. For example, in the NBA there are upper-echelon players like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant that represent the upper class. Then there are second-tier stars that represent the middle class. And then there are the guys that are making the veteran minimum that represent the lower class of the league. The people that have the most money have the most power and influence. And in life, that parallel rings true. The people with the most money are running the country while the middle class (if that is even exists anymore) and the lower class are one step away from not making it.

And as far as the owners, they are the governors and councilmen. They give their wants and needs to the commissioner, but the boss ultimately runs the show. For the most part, the owners and the commissioner are on the same page. Both seems to be an extension of each other, with the commissioner having more power than the owners in the end. But the only difference between the owners and the commissioner is that the commissioner has to manage all teams while the owner has to manage only one franchise (or two if the owner has two teams in different sports). Collectively, both owners and commissioners tend to have deeper pockets than the players do, so that and their position puts them at the head of the wheel, while they control all that happens under their watch.

With all this, where does it leave the fans? Unfortunately, we do not have a prominent role in the sports world besides paying money to watch the players do their thing on the field. In a sense, we are helpless as to what the players and the owners do. If we are comparable to anything it would be animals. We are living, breathing and active in this world, but we do not have much control over the decisions. Simple and plain, we have no power and we have to deal with whatever decisions are made. No matter how much we complain and say we are done with the system, the fans will continue to support the game.

Sports in a sense, imitates life and vice versa. It is all in the perspective of how you see it.

Follow me on Twitter @General_MP or hit me up on Facebook at Mike Patton-The General .

The Dwight Howard Experience Moves To Houston

dwight howard rockets

After Chris Paul announced that he would re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers,
Dwight Howard was the biggest free agent on the market. The Golden State
Warriors, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta
Hawks were all in the bidding for his services. Slowly but surely he began to
eliminate each one until it was down to Los Angeles and Houston. In the end, after
much pondering, he picked the Houston Rockets. Immediately the stock in Houston
got a little bit better while the Lakers are left with none of the pieces from
the trade they made to get Howard from Orlando to begin with.

 With Dwight in Houston, the pressure is on. He left $30 million on the table to go and join the Rockets. And after leaving the Lakers (which is something that most players don’t ever do) the only justification in moving away would be to win a ring. At the present time, Houston is in a better position to make runs to the title than the Lakers. And that is due to the presence of an emerging star in James Harden. The smooth shooting guard has been electric for the Rockets ever since arriving in Houston via trade last season. With these two together, they make one of the best big man/guard combos in the NBA. But how they work together will be the key.

  James Harden likes to be the guy in control of the offense. And last year with the offense in his hands, the Rockets were one of the most explosive offenses in the league. The Rockets routinely ran pick-and-rolls with Harden at the controls. Adding Howard to the mix could potentially change the dynamic of their offense. While Dwight is more effective in the pick-and-roll, he has said that he would like to get the basketball more in the post. The problem with that is Howard is more efficient as a pick-and-roll player than he is when receiving the ball in the post. So going forward, do the Houston Rockets play to his demands and give him the ball in the post or do they stick with the pick-and-roll? A perfect solution would be to do a mixture of pick-and-rolls that highlight Harden and post ups that can make their new star happy. The onus will be on Dwight to get better in the post and make things happen when given the opportunity. With shooters like Chandler Parsons, Omer Casspi and yes, even James Harden, Dwight will have plenty of room to work with inside. The key in both styles of offense will be the effectiveness of Dwight. The more effective he can be in the post, the less we will see of the pick-and-roll offense. For the Rockets sake, they better hope that head coach Kevin McHale and Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon can make his post game better.

   Defensively is where Howard is best for Houston. Last year the Rockets had a big, physical center in Omer Asik. He defended opposing centers well, but he did not scare opposing teams as much as Howard can. Dwight makes the Rockets better defensively because he is an excellent weak side defender and shot blocker. That strength of Howard’s will help cover up for the weakness of Harden defensively. As good of an offensive threat as Harden is, he is very ineffective on the defensive end. Dwight can deter those shots that Harden gives up because of his subpar defense. Another thing that Dwight can add defensively is rebounding out of his area. Most big men can rebound within the area that they occupy, but only a few can step outside of the area they are occupying and go get boards. Howard can cover up for teammates missing block out assignments because he is so agile and strong. That ability adds to more possessions for Houston and allows them to also get out and run more.

   The spotlight is on Houston now. With the addition of Howard, they went from an up-and-coming team to a potential contender. Ultimately, this move begins and ends with Howard and Harden. How they co-exist and how Howard handles himself will be paramount to how this team does. It should be interesting to see what we get from Houston next season.

Mike Patton aka “The Sports General” is the
Sports writer for Freesworld.com. Follow him on Twitter @General_MP and on
Facebook at www.facebook.com/MikePatton32482

Old School vs. New School

The NBA of today is interesting. There is more social media that makes the superstars of today larger than life. Compared to the NBA of yesteryear, this new NBA is different. But is it a better product than the NBA of the past?

I often wonder what would happen if the players of today played in the same era as Magic Johnson’s Lakers, Larry Bird’s Celtics and Isaiah Thomas’ Pistons. Would these players adapt to the style or would they continue to play the way that they are playing now? I wonder how LeBron would react if he took a hard foul like Lakers forward Kurt Rambis took back in the day. The game was definitely more physical back then. In this day and age, there isn’t any hand-checking. Hand-checking would allow players to use their hands to nudge and guide players where they wanted them to go defensively. No hand-checking allows players like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to go to the basket and use their speed to their advantage. Would Kobe just complain about the physicalness of the game or would he adjust? Would LeBron wolf to the officials or would he use the brawn he possesses to bully people into submission? That would be interesting to see.

Another difference in today’s game compared to yesteryear is the presence of specialists. Guys like Steve Novak, Steve Kerr and Kyle Korver are players who possess one skill: shooting the basketball. Back in the day, there weren’t any specialist. Even though players were less athletic back then, they were better all-around basketball players. But even more than that, the players back then thought the game and didn’t just play it. Bill Laimbeer could think, shoot and play defense. Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson could play defense as well as score. More guys today just rely on athleticism or their certain skill to maintain their roster spot.

If I had a choice to watch old school or new school basketball, I would choose the old school. There was more scoring, more all-around basketball play and there was also the physical part of the game as well. You had to go hard or go home when you drove down the lane back then. Today’s game is geared more towards the offensive players, yet and still, teams struggle to score. What I wouldn’t give to see some of today’s players trying to hang in there in that type of atmosphere.

What are your thoughts sports fans? Do you like the new school basketball more than old school basketball? Let your voice be heard.

#SportsBlogMovement

Not This Year

The Lakers finally got off the snide Tuesday night with a thorough domination of the Utah Jazz. The Lakers looked more energized and they didn’t look like an old team. Shockingly, they played harder than a younger Jazz team playing their first game. All in Lakerland are saying that this could be the beginning of the team getting on a roll. But, I’m not so sold on that.

The Lakers ended the season very unimpressive last season as the Dallas Mavericks steamrolled the Lakers right out of the playoffs. Going into this season, many expected the Lakers to make a move to inject some new life and give them some hope to be a contender. What the Lakers got this season was more frustration followed up by signings that most question. The first move was the proposed trade of Chris Paul to Los Angeles. Well, like we all know, Lamar Odom was in that trade as well as Pau Gasol. The trade ended up not happening as NBA Commissioner David Stern nixed the deal. In the process of that deal getting scrapped, Lamar Odom got his feelings hurt and asked for a trade out of Tinseltown. The Lakers obliged and traded him to Dallas for the trade exception the Mavs got in the Tyson Chandler sign-and-trade to the Knicks. If I were the Lakers, I would have tried to persuade Odom to stay and be a part of the team. But, they didn’t and they let him go.

Most thought the next move would be for the Lakers to make a run at Dwight Howard. But, that deal never materialized and the Lakers ended up signing PFs Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy. No offense to these two guys, but neither of them bring the skill level that Odom brought, let alone the scoring ability. So, this move is deemed by me as a downgrade.

The Lakers also failed to get some PG help this off-season. Sure, some say there was nothing out there, but I believe they needed someone to man the PG position. I like Derek Fisher and I believe that he still can play, but to be honest, his starting PG days are over and he would be the perfect backup PG for this team.

The last thing I want to look at from the Lakers perspective is they do not have any consistent offense off the bench. Backup PG Steve Blake had a good game off the bench the first game and Metta World Piece played well in Sacramento, but neither of these guys are dependable on the offensive end. And this means that more of the scoring load will fall on Kobe and Pau Gasol. And over a 66 game season that’s compressed and offers a lot of back-to-back games, that’s trouble for these older stars.

With all that I’ve mentioned, I think the Lakers are still going to be a thorn in some teams’ sides. C Andrew Bynum comes back from suspension in one more game and maybe his presence will help mold this team into a more defensive team. To be honest, this team may be better suited to hang its hat on defense more than offense based on the pieces that they have. Only time will tell but this team, as it stands, is not a contender. It should be interesting to see how they evolve this year.

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