Last season the Lakers finished 3-2 in the summer league with Marcus Landry leading the team in scoring. They’ll have a vastly different roster this summer with Robert Sacre likely the only returning player. Following the opening three games the Lakers will then take part in a tournament to determine the winner. Last season the Golden State Warriors defeated the Phoenix Suns in the title game, 91-77 behind 33 points off the bench from Ian Clark who ended up on the Utah Jazz roster this past season. Tickets for the NBA Summer League are on sales now so if your looking for a great getaway with some sun, fun and to get your basketball fix then shoot out to Las Vegas to catch some up close basketball at great prices. Usually you can walk up and just get tickets at the door. Chris M.
The West Elite: (San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors)
The veteran San Antonio Spurs picked up where they left off and are off to a fast start to begin the season. They’re well coached, experienced and deep and should contend for the top record in the NBA all season. If Tim Duncan and Tony Parker can stay healthy the Spurs are the favorites for a return trip to the finals. The Oklahoma City Thunder welcomed back Russell Westbrook early and their star point guard seems to be the same explosive player he was before his meniscus tear. The Thunder is 5-1 on the season with their lone loss versus the Minnesota Timberwolves. The presence of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook guarantees 55 to 60 wins—how that translates into the postseason is the big question. The Thunder still misses that extra scorer that James Harden once provided. The Los Angeles Clippers are still adjusting to the coaching style of Doc Rivers, but have a deep lineup and bench and an elite point guard in Chris Paul.
The Next in Line: (Minnesota, Memphis, Dallas, Houston)
The Minnesota Timberwolves are finally healthy and displaying the potential that many predicted when Ricky Rubio arrived in the United States. In Rubio, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic the Wolves have one of the best trios in basketball and an elite Head Coach in Rick Adelman. The Wolves acquisition of Kevin Martin, who thrived under Adelman in Sacramento, has given the club the strong perimeter shooting two guard they missed. Look for the Wolves to challenge the 50 win mark and reach the playoffs for the first time under Love. Memphis switched Head Coaches, with Dave Joerger taking over for Lionel Hollins. They’ve struggled initially in the transition but still feature the same big and physical lineup that’s worked for them the past three seasons. Marc Gasol is one of the league’s best centers and he forms perhaps the best center/power forward combination in basketball with Zach Randolph. The Dallas Mavericks, who missed the playoffs last season, have rebuilt to make another run. The newly minted backcourt of Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon is working so far, giving Dirk Nowitzki the guard play he hasn’t had since the Mavs title run. The key for Dallas, like San Antonio, is the health of their veteran players. Over in Houston the Rockets have the potential to be in the elite group, but have struggled defensively so far this season. Dwight Howard is showing many of the same inconsistencies he displayed in Los Angeles last season and he’s not yet providing the interior defensive presence the Rockets desperately need. Houston can score points on anybody; the big question is whether or not they can defend like an NBA title contender. Right now the jury is still out.
On the Upswing: (Portland)
The Blazers are off to a fast start (5-2), although only one victory is over a legit playoff contender (San Antonio). That being said the Blazers look to be a club that can occupy the playoff position(s) that the Lakers and/or Denver may be vacating. LaMarcus Aldridge is one of the premier power forwards in the game, while Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum are consistently improving their game. The Blazers have been efficient, reducing turnovers, and are second in the conference in field goal attempts per game. Their +4.0 scoring margin is good for 5th in the conference.
Bubble Teams: (Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans)
Putting the Lakers in the bubble team category may be a stretch. Their success hinges on how close to .500 they are when Kobe Bryant returns. Los Angeles has improved their overall depth and the youth of their roster, but still lacks the quality depth of most playoff contenders. It’s questionable whether or not Steve Nash has anything left in the tank as he battles persistent injuries. If Nash can’t provide the minutes the Lakers need they may plummet down the standings. The Pelicans are an interesting club. They’ve had some good victories this season as well as some bad performances. They’ve injected some talent into their roster but it’s still not clear how the backcourt trio of Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holliday will co-exist due to their high ball usage rate. Inside though the Pelicans have the emerging Anthony Davis who’s quickly becoming the superstar many predicted. Davis alone could be the difference maker that vaults the Pelicans into playoff contention.
The Pretenders: (Sacramento, Denver)
The Sacramento Kings have a talented roster that once again looks like a bunch of spare parts. DeMarcus Cousins is one of the most talented big men in the game, putting together a solid season. His checkered past though makes it hard to rely on him day in and day out. Ben McLemore has great potential but he’s young and finding his place in the NBA. The Kings have nice depth inside and some solid role players, but due to the consistent roster overhaul it’s been hard for them to find consistency. They’ll be a lottery team again. Denver, a Western Conference power last season is off to a slow start in the post-George Karl era. Losing several key roster components, like Andre Iguodola, Corey Brewer and Kosta Koufus has disrupted their rotation. They still have Ty Lawson to lead the team but the recent injury to Javale McGee is another blow to their depth. Denver has a significant home court advantage at Pepsi Center that could make them a fringe playoff contender, but it’s hard to see them making much of a run.
Andrew Wiggins Contenders: (Utah)
The Jazz are the NBA’s worst right now. With Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson playing for other teams the Jazz are relying on the young of Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter to provide the bulk of the scoring. The trio has potential but they’re young and overmatched against the rest of the Western Conference. Utah is solidly positioned to get a high lottery pick with the ability to add a significant piece next June.
The NBA regular season starts on October 29th, 2013 and millions of diehard fans are looking forward to this season. The biggest game of opening night is the Chicago Bulls traveling to South Beach to take on the defending NBA Champion Miami Heat. Most experts and fans feel as if both of these teams are going to be very good. Per the usual, teams like the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder are going to make a run at the playoffs but some will want to know what team or teams are going to surprise in the 2013-14 season.
Portland Trail Blazers
In the last few years the Portland Trail Blazers have struggled to put together a good team. Last year they had the rookie of the year, Damian Lillard and this year they are hoping to put some pieces around this amazing point guard. The major concern for the Trail Blazers is their youth. Young NBA teams can take some time to develop as they have not played a large number of games together. Once these young athletes get to know each other’s style of play the sky could be the limit for Portland. There is only one player on the team that is over the age of 30 and the season is grueling.
As I mentioned in a previous article on Barry’s Tickets, a young NBA team has a distinct advantage in the second half of the season. The question is, can the Blazers win enough games in the first half of the season so that the second half actually means something? If the Trail Blazers can get to the All Star game in contention for the playoffs they should be able to make a decent run in the second half of the season. Having fresh legs will make a world of difference this season.
The NBA has become a point guard dominated league. In the 70s, 80s and and 90s NBA teams wanted a center that could dominate the paint. Shaq was a force as he helped the Lakers win multiple titles. Many experts feel as if Kobe has never been the same player without Shaq in the middle. When Kobe has a great season it is often when there is a presence at the center position for the Los Angeles Lakers. That said, many teams have accepted that a point guard is now much more important than a center. The big men get hurt easier and they don’t have the ball in their hands nearly as much as they used to. I am truly shocked that more NBA teams do not draft a prolific point guard with their top pick. One team that went out and got a point guard in the 2013 NBA Draft is the Utah Jazz.
Trey Burke was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves but was traded to Utah. In my opinion, this was a great move for the Utah Jazz as a point guard can completely change a team; much quicker than a center or a big man. After watching Trey Burke play for the Michigan Wolverines last year I can say that he will make a huge difference for a team in the NBA. He lead his Michigan team to the Final Four and he has a floor presence unlike most athletes his age. I do not feel as if Trey Burke will be a high scorer in the NBA but he will be able to get his team in the correct offense. I think Trey Burke will be a similar player to Chris Paul. There is no way that we can predict he will be as good as Chris Paul but even if he is half as good he will drastically improve the Utah Jazz.
New Orleans Pelicans
Most people know of this team as the New Orleans Hornets but they have changed their name to the Pelicans for this season. That might be a little bit of foreshadowing for the season that is coming. If you look at the roster it is littered with college basketball stars. Names like Austin Rivers, Jeff Withey, Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday immediately catch the eye of anyone that enjoys the college game. As we all know, you cannot put an NBA team together with just college basketball superstars. While many college players will go on to have great NBA careers there are some college stars that simply do not fit the mold of an average NBA player. Height, weight, wingspan and overall athletic ability are often much more important than college stats.
If the Pelicans can find a true point guard to run the show this could be one of the most improved teams in the NBA. The Pelicans were downright bad in the last two years as they won 21 and 27 games respectively. With this being the case it is not going to take that much to improve. After shipping Chris Paul to the west coast this team has struggled to find its identity. As mentioned with the previous two teams, a point guard is now very important in the NBA. In fact, I would say that a point guard is more important than a center or a power forward. When I was growing up the power forward and shooting guard positions were essential as these were the positions in which most points were generated. Points come from everywhere on the court in the current state of the NBA. With the hand checking rule changing the way defense is played it is no longer difficult for teams to score 100 points.
A point guard is needed to distribute the ball and get the offense going. With the Pelicans being a young team one would think they are going to try to get up and down the court. This makes it even more important to have a solid point guard that does not turn the ball over. Finding that great point guard can be difficult which is why some teams cannot seem to turn the corner and make the playoffs. Some in New Orleans have wondered if it is going to end up being the curse of Chris Paul. There is little argument to be made that Chris Paul gave New Orleans their best years of basketball. They have yet to come close to that quality of basketball since they let him go to the Los Angeles Clippers. Speaking of the Clippers.
Los Angeles Clippers
It is hard to say that the Clippers are going to be a surprise team as they are already one of the best teams in the west. I think this is the season they can make some huge strides towards getting to the NBA Finals. Now that Blake Griffin and Chris Paul have played with each other for a few seasons they should be able to get off to a quick start. If the Clippers can get off to a start that is above .600 in the first 25 or 30 games they have a chance to win the Western Conference.
Most experts are predicting the Oklahoma City Thunder to win the west but there is an opening for the Clippers. What is quite unique about 2013 is the fact that coming into the season it is accepted that the Clippers are the best team in Los Angeles. It has been a very long time since this was even considered by the fans and the experts. Anyone that has watched NBA basketball for the last four decades knows that Los Angeles is dominated by the Lakers. If Kobe Bryant is not 100% healthy this year the Lakes are going to struggle just to make the playoffs. There are even rumors that they might go out and get Carmelo Anthony. If this happens we know there is truly trouble in paradise.
What to Expect in 2013-14
This is going to be a very exciting year for professional basketball. LeBron James and the Miami Heat are getting older so they are vulnerable. Dwayne Wade has had all kinds of injury problems. It would not be surprising to see him sit out several games this year just because of health issues. If the Heat run into any injury problems that leaves the door open for some younger teams to grab the best record in the NBA. I think it is safe to say that the 1990s Bulls team has nothing to worry about when it comes to the all time best record of 72-10. The only way a team will come close to that type of record is a team that has enough young players to make it through the entire season without injuries.
I don’t think we will see the Heat make it to the All Star break without injuries. Keep an eye on some of the younger teams as they may surprise you in the upcoming season. As mentioned in this article, point guards are going to rule the league this year so take noticed of the teams that have a true leader at the point guard position.
Lamar Odom, one of the most sympathetic but enigmatic characters in L.A. sports history, returns to team with which he started his NBA career. It might be amazing, it might go bad, or it could be just simple strange.
With Mo Williams finally deciding Friday to exercise his $8.5-million contract option, the Clippers and Dallas Mavericks were able to agree to a four-team trade that will bring Lamar Odom (32) back to the Clippers team that drew up him in 1999.
Odom will earn $8 million for the 2012-13 season, but the Mavericks could have bought out his contract for $2.4 million by Friday if Dallas didn’t find willing trade partners in L.A. and the Utah Jazz.
In December 2011, Odom was traded from the Lakers to the Mavericks, though he was dropped just several months later after he failed to perform.
Staying in Los Angeles will mean a lot more than a career boost and extra family time for the NBA forward — it also means that he and Kardashian, 28, will be able to make starting a family of their own a top priority. The Clippers had some trepidation about getting Lamar, because of his awful season and seemingly disinterested attitude in Dallas last season after he demanded a trade from the LA Lakers, who tried to move him in an attempt to land point guard Chris Paul.
However the Clippers had any worries allayed after Coach Vinny Del Negro and President Andy Roeser both met with Odom on Thursday at the team’s practice facility in Playa Vista.
Like many Clippers fans, seeing Odom for the first time was an experience – it was just like love at first sight. He played every position and no position, all at the same time. He sailed around the court effortlessly, never showing up out of place. Odom was tall and athletic and qualified, but most significantly, he was smooth. He was cool without even trying – a state every 14-year-old desperately tries (and fails) to achieve.
This is a fantastic trade for the LA Clippers, who need to strengthen their bench depth to make a much deeper run in the playoffs next year. Odom should really be satisfied to be back in Los Angeles, even if it’s not with the Lakers. Odom’s past playoff results will be a valuable addition to a young Clippers team that has minor championship experience.
The second-longest active postseason drought is over. The Clippers are officially in the NBA playoffs this year. They had more than just making the NBA playoffs on their minds after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder Monday night,
Monday night’s heavyweight Western Conference bout ending in a surprising manner, as the LA Clippers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, 92-77. The game locked up Lob City’s postseason bid, marking the first time the Clippers have made the playoffs since 2006.
Los Angeles was lead by Blake Griffin who had 17 points and 11 rebounds, but got some serious support from Nick Young off the bench who went for 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting and 3-of-4 from downtown.
The real turning point in the game came in the 3rd quarter where L.A. topped Oklahoma 23 to 14. Durant mustered 24 points, but James Hardin only had 12 while Russell Westbrook only managed nine points to go along with five turnovers.
The L.A. faithful were in attendance to celebrate their playoff qualifying night as the franchise enjoyed their 32nd consecutive sellout crowd.
There was a time, for example, the bulk of the team’s existence that simply making the NBA playoffs would have been the most a Clippers fan would dare to expect from a team that has finished with a record above .
The Clippers’ 2005-06 playoff appearance represents the only time they’ve won a playoff series while playing in Los Angeles, and even then they didn’t get beyond the second round.
The playoff berth was actually sealed in the first half when the Houston Rockets lost to the Denver Nuggets, but give the Clippers some style points for the win over the Thunder.
The Clippers rank first in the league in points per possession (PPP) on shots the ballhandler takes in the pick-and-roll, while Paul ranks sixth among all players. Point being, if Paul gets a favorable switch or the space to operate coming off a screen, he’s one of the best point producers in the league.
To properly blow up a pick-and-roll, you need to have mobile, intelligent big men. The Lakers are a perfect example of this. Pau Gasol is one of the best in the business at showing hard on a screen, then recovering properly. He’s a big reason the Lakers rank 9th in pick-and-roll ballhandler defense, even with the molasses-like duo of Derek Fisher and Steve Blake covering the ball most of the year.
Although they probably won’t meet in the first round, offensively the Clippers would love a matchup against the San Antonio Spurs, who rank as the league’s worst defensive team in PPP allowed to ballhandlers in the pick-and-roll. The Spurs have immobile bigs and lack the ability to switch their bigs on to guards — a huge reason why the previous meetings between these two teams have been so high scoring.
The Denver Nuggets would be another favorable matchup, as they check in as the 20th best team in spot-up PPP, and 23rd in 3-point percentage. However, both the Grizzlies and Nuggets pale in comparison to one of the best matchups for the Clippers and one of the worst shooting teams in the league — the Utah Jazz. The Jazz are 28th in the league in spot-up opportunities and 29th in 3-point shooting at a woeful 30.7 percent, which is almost ten percentage points lower than the first place Spurs. The Jazz are on the outside looking in at this point, but the Clippers would love to somehow see them in the first round.
The NBA playoffs begin April 28. The Clippers will play four of their remaining five games on the road, including visits to Denver, Phoenix and Atlanta before closing out the regular season April 25 in New York.
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Recap: NBA All-Star Saturday Night
NBA All-Star game is the biggest event of All-Star Weekend, but as we all know, some of the best competitions and sneaker surprises happen on NBA All-Star Saturday Night.
On the docket was the Haier Shooting Stars, Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Footlocker 3-Point Shooting Contest, and the crowd favorite Sprite Slam Dunk Contest.
The night seemed to evaporate rather quickly, as is the weekend, and it will be back to business much too soon for most of us here in Orlando for the festivities.
Here are the results from the four events:
1. Haier Shooting Stars Winner: Team New York
With a time of 37.3 seconds in the final round Team New York Knicks defeated Team Houston’s (Chandler Parsons, Kenny Smith & Sophia Young) time of 47.6 seconds. The competition is far from the best of the evening but it does provide some interest watching players hoist up half court shots to closeout their attempt. It also incorporates a female from the WNBA on each team which brings that league a tad bit more attention. Team New York had the two fastest times of the night and Houston said the trio had practiced “a little bit”.
2. Taco Bell Skills Challenge Winner: Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
Parker won the skills challenge with a time of 32.8 seconds in the final round defeating Rajon Rondo (34.6 seconds) and defending champion, Deron Williams (41.4 seconds). Rondo probably could have gotten the W if his bounce passes didn’t continue to rattle in and out. It took him 4 attempts to complete that challenge and was inevitably his downfall. Parker has competed in the competition twice previously and was at ease coming in he said the following afterwards.
3. Foot Locker 3-Point Contest Winner: Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Love squeaked into the finals and then pulled an upset win over Kevin Durant and defending champion James Jones. Love survived 2 overtimes or shootouts to take home the title with 17 points in the final shootout.
Love certainly wasn’t the favorite as “Bigs” don’t usually do well in the competition. James Jones had the competition high 22 in the first round and certainly looked like he was primed to repeat. He just got cold and was unable to keep up with Love and Durant.
4. Sprite Slam Dunk Contest Winner: Jeremy Evans, Utah Jazz
Evans might be the happiest player at All-Star weekend capturing 29% of the (reported) 3 million votes for the contest. (I would really like to see that tally) Just being given the opportunity to attend the event would have been enough for the humble forward but winning it might just make a difference in his play the rest of the season. He is that appreciative.
Remember he was a last minute replacement for Iman Shumpert.
Unfortunately his win is mired in the dubious distinction that the event field was more boring than vanilla.
Paul George had two of the better dunks of the evening but lamented that the competition does indeed lack star power. The dunk contest needs the league’s “faces” he said, mentioning (Miami Heat) LeBron, (Chicago Bulls) Rose, even Westbrook by name.
Evans did have the most original dunk of the night and it probably carried him to the win. He jumped over a seated Gordon Hayward then caught and dunked two balls thrown in the air by Hayward.
Unfortunately, the humility of Evans was not enough to save the lackluster evening. The NBA will have to look at ways of keeping the format fresh and potentially getting bigger names to commit to the event in the future.