Tag Archives: Jeff Hornacek

2017-2018 Atlantic Division Projections

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X-Boston Celtics 51-31 (3)

For teams in the NBA who are really serious about rebuilding, they need to sit back and see what the Boston Celtics are doing. After the Celtics won the NBA Championship in 2008, they were able to remain as a title contender until 2013 when their age began to show. And instead of hanging on to players that were over the hill, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge immediately pushed the rebuild button as his team began the process of starting over.

Danny Ainge

Ainge’s first order of business was to find a head coach who was on board with his rebuilding plan and he found his man in former Butler Bulldogs men’s head basketball coach Brad Stevens. Stevens had never coached at the profession level and his first season in Boston only saw the Celtics win 25 games. However the Celtics would quickly be ahead of schedule in regards to rebuilding as in year two of the Stevens regime, they would be playoff bound. Last season the Celtics would win 53 games en route to winning the Atlantic Division Title as well as having the best record in the Eastern Conference. Boston would reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2012, and although that they were swept there by the Cleveland Cavaliers, the C’s have served notice to the rest of the NBA that they are once again ready to be a title contender.

Heading into the summer, Ainge knew that he had a team that was a good enough to be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, but what could he do in order to give the Cavaliers a run for their money?

Courtesy of a lopsided trade with the Brooklyn Nets in 2013, the Celtics acquired multiple first-round draft picks. And after the Nets the finished with the worst record in the NBA last season, they earned the first overall selection in the draft. However the Celtics had the option to swap first-round picks with Nets which they did. But Ainge wasn’t done wheeling and dealing as he made a deal just prior to the NBA Draft with the Philadelphia 76ers as he moved down to the third overall slot, and in the process he was able to obtain more draft picks.

Jayson Tatum

The Celtics would select Duke Blue Devils small forward Jayson Tatum who after averaging 16.8 points and 7.3 in his only collegiate campaign showed that he was ready to take his game to the next level. Tatum would add to that in the NBA’s Summer League as he was able to average 18.7 points and 9.7 rebounds for the Celtics as he gave them a glimpse of what to expect from him this season.

Ainge wasn’t done there as he pulled off a huge shocker when he was able to acquire All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving from the Cavs. Irving is just entering the prime of his career and he has been integral in Cleveland’s three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals. However Irving has gotten tired of being in the shadow of small forward LeBron James.

In acquiring Irving from Cleveland, the Celtics parted with a pair of draft picks which includes a first-round pick for next year that originally was the property of the Nets, as well as small forward Jae Crowder, and point guard Isaiah Thomas. The past few years had seen Thomas morph into being the heart and soul of the Celtics due to his scoring ability as well as his fearlessness which endeared him to the Boston fans. However a hip injury put Thomas’ future with the Celtics in doubt, and when Irving was put on the trading block after letting the Cavs front office know of his desire to no longer be a member of the organization, the trade went down.

Kyrie Irving

What Irving gives the Celtics is a proven scorer who has shown that the bigger the stage, the more that he produces. For Irving’s six-year NBA career he has averaged 21.6 points per game. But Irving is not in that typical point guard mode as he is more of a shooting guard in a point guard’s body. However Irving should have no problem fitting into the offensive system that Stevens operates due to the fact that it comes down to ball movement, moving without the ball, and getting to the basket. Irving should have a big season for the Celtics as he looks to not only endear himself to the folks in Boston, but also show that he can succeed without LeBron.

Sandwiched in between drafting Tatum and obtaining Irving was the Celtics being able to sign free agent small forward Gordon Hayward. Hayward was one of the most coveted free agents over the summer after he averaged 21.9 points per game and helped the Utah Jazz reach the Western Conference Semifinals for the first time since 2010. All signs pointed to Hayward not re-signing with the Jazz, and it appeared to be a slam dunk decision for him to join the Celtics as Stevens was his college head coach.

Hayward made his decision official on July 4 when he and the Celtics came to terms on a four-year deal for $128 million. What Hayward gives the Celtics is a point forward who has what it takes to excel in Stevens’ system. Hayward can move well without the basketball, while can also score, while making the people around him better. And Hayward’s ability to handle the basketball can take some pressure off of Irving while also allowing him to concentrate more on being a scorer.

However things would become bad for Hayward and the Celtics on opening night when he fractured his ankle. More than likely Hayward is done for the season, but luckily the Celtics do have depth in the front court, while this injury occurred at the beginning of the season as this team will still have time to gel.

Boston would also lose some depth in their backcourt when they traded guard Avery Bradley to the Detroit Pistons. In exchange for sending Bradley to Detroit, the Pistons received power forward Marcus Morris who provides with interior scoring as well as some toughness that they lost when they traded Crowder.

Marcus Smart

Boston still has guard Marcus Smart who has proved to be a valuable bench player, while also providing toughness to the squad. In 2016, the Celtics drafted small forward Jaylen Brown third overall and he showed flashes of his potential. And with the Hayward injury, he will be a valuable player due to his athleticism.

The Celtics also have veteran center Al Horford who will never be a player that will consistently get 20 points and 10 rebounds, but he is a guy that could give Boston 15 points and 8 boards, while his decade long experience in the NBA, as well as winning a pair of national championships collegiately with the Florida Gators should pay dividends.

It will take the Celtics some time to gel, but they should improve as the season goes along as they’ll seek to fill the void of Hayward’s absence.

Y-Toronto Raptors 50-32 (4)

The Toronto Raptors currently find themselves in their best stretch in franchise history. The Raptors have made the NBA Playoffs in each of the last four years which included making the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 2016. But after three straight Atlantic Division Titles, the Raptors finished second in the division last year due to a surge by the Boston Celtics. And as the Celtics appeared to have passed the Raptors in regards to being the team to beat in the Atlantic, will they have enough in their arsenal to keep up with them and the other top powers in the Eastern Conference?

Dwane Casey is set to begin his seventh season as the head coach of the Raptors and by far he has had the most successful tenure of any head coach in franchise history which is also a credit to team president Masai Ujiri who has put the right players in place in order for the team to have success.

Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan

The Raptors still possess one of the best backcourts in the Eastern Conference which consists of shooting guard DeMar DeRozan and point guard Kyle Lowry. The confidence level of DeRozan has continued to increase throughout his eight-year NBA career. Last year DeRozan averaged 27.3 points per game which was fifth in the NBA as he has become “the guy” in Toronto. DeRozan has never been known to be a perimeter shooter as he has only shot 28% from behind the three-point line for his professional career. But what DeRozan specializes in is getting buckets as he is one the quicker players in the NBA in regards to his first step which helps him to get to the basket.

It may not seem like it, but Lowry is set to begin his 12th NBA season and sixth with the Raptors. Lowry has become a steadying force for the Raptors at the point guard position which led to him agreeing to return to the club last summer after agreeing to a three-year deal for $100 million. But as good as Lowry and DeRozan have been for Toronto, who else will step up in order to make this a championship team?

Serge Ibaka

Last season saw the Raptors acquire power forward Serge Ibaka from the Orlando Magic. What Ibaka gives the Raptors is a stretch four who can knock down perimeter shots which opens up the lane for both Lowry and DeRozan. Center Jonas Valenciunas has been a project for the Raptors and he has  now turned into a player who can get 15 points as well as 10 rebounds per night. But will this frontcourt production be enough for Toronto to keep up with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Celtics in the Eastern Conference?

The schedule makers were not kind to the Raptors as they will begin a six-game road swing in late October. This stretch will see the Raptors face some of the top teams from the Western Conference which includes games against the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors. The Raptors are still one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, however they are still not on the level of the Cavs.

New York Knicks 38-44

There was a time when the New York Knicks were one of the top teams in the NBA, but for their disgruntled fan base, that was a lifetime ago. Since 2005, the Knicks only have three playoff appearances, while each of the last three years has seen them lose at least 50 games. The Knicks have been the epitome of dysfunction which was further illustrated by the failed tenure of Phil Jackson as the team’s president. The Knicks have been nothing short of a circus with none of the key people within the organization on the same page, and it doesn’t appear to be that much better at Madison Square Garden heading into the new NBA season.

After Knicks owner James Dolan decided to part ways with Jackson in June, he decided to hire Steve Mills as the team’s president and Scott Perry as the general manager. Dolan decided to retain Jeff Hornacek as the Knicks head coach as he should finally have a chance to flex his basketball muscles.

Jeff Hornacek

Last year was Hornacek’s first year as the Knicks head coach and under him New York lost 51 games. A big reason for the Knicks struggles was that Jackson wanted Hornacek to operate under the umbrella of the triangle offense, while his system is more wide-open. But now with the Jackson debacle behind the Knicks, we should see a more wide-open brand of basketball being played at Madison Square Garden this season.

Another reason why this season shouldn’t be as stressful for the Knicks is that the team finally came to grips and traded small forward Carmelo Anthony. When the Knicks acquired Anthony from the Denver Nuggets in 2011, he immediately became their first true franchise player that they had since the days of Patrick Ewing. However Anthony and Jackson were never on the same page, and with the star small forward turning 33-years of age this past May, he wanted to go a team that would give him an opportunity to win an NBA Championship.

Last month the Knicks would trade Anthony to the Oklahoma City Thunder and in process they handed the keys to their franchise to power forward Kristaps Porzingis.

Kristaps Porzingis

In 2015, Porzingis was the fourth overall pick of the NBA Draft by the Knicks and it has not taken him that long to establish himself with the fans in the Big Apple. Last season Porzingis averaged 18.1 points and 7.2 rebounds, but with Anthony no longer in New York those numbers should increase. Coming into the NBA there were some scouts who compared Porzingis’ skill set to that of Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki. And the scoring ability of Porzingis as well as his prowess for passing will once again be a thing of beauty at Madison Square Garden.

In trading Anthony to the Thunder, the Knicks were able to acquire center Enes Kanter and small forward Doug McDermott. The last two seasons have seen Kanter used as a bench player in Oklahoma City, but he will be a starter in New York City. What Kanter gives the Knicks is a player that can score close to the basket, while also being able to consistently grab boards which was a category that New York flourished in last season as they averaged pulling 45.2 rebounds per game, and that was fifth in the NBA.

After McDermott was a three-time All-American for the Creighton Blue Jays, he has gone on to be a solid scorer coming off of the bench in the NBA. And with the scoring ability of Porzingis and Kanter, McDermott should get his fair share of open looks at the basket.

The Knicks were 19th in the NBA in assists last season and this will once again be a category that they’ll struggle in due to the struggles at the point guard position. The Knicks did sign veteran point guard Jarret Jack as this will be the ninth different NBA team that he’ll play for, but injuries have limited him over the past few years. The Knicks used a first-round pick on point guard Frank Ntilikina who was injured before he even signed a contract with contract with New York as that doesn’t bode well for him or the team.

This will be an interesting season for the Knicks as they will be good enough to take care of the also-rans in the NBA, but they will have their struggles versus the contenders.

Philadelphia 76ers 35-47

The Philadelphia 76ers are set to begin their 69th year as an NBA franchise. The 76ers have claimed three NBA Championships, while they’ve had some of the greatest players in league history such as Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, and Allen Iverson play for them. But the Sixers recent history has been marred by a philosophy which has revolved around “tanking”. Philadelphia has not made the playoffs since 2012, while they have only won 73 games over the last four years. The last four NBA Drafts have seen the Sixers picking no lower than third in the first round. However with the penchant to select injured players by former 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie, the turnaround in Philadelphia has taken longer than it should. But for the first time in a long time, there is some optimism in the City of Brotherly Love for this team.

Bryan Colangelo

Bryan Colangelo has one full season under his belt as the 76ers president/general manager. Colangelo knows how to build a roster as he was twice named as the NBA’s Executive of the Year during his tenure as the general manager of the Phoenix Suns, while he also helped to turn around the fortunes of the Toronto Raptors when he served as their general manager. Philadelphia went 28-54 as Colangelo set out to restore some order to the franchise last season. And as the Sixers learned how to compete, they showed that their days of being a pushover in the NBA could be coming to an end.

Joel Embiid

The brightest spot for the 76ers last season was the impact that center Joel Embiid had. Embiid was the third overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft by Philadelphia, however injuries forced him to sit out his first two seasons in the NBA. Embiid became a force for the Sixers last season as he averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks. But the injury bug once again did Embiid in as he was limited to just 31 games. However if Embiid is ever to remain healthy, he will be a force in the interior at both ends of the floor for Philadelphia.

2016 saw the 76ers use the first overall pick of the NBA Draft on small forward Ben Simmons. However Simmons would suffer a fractured foot last September which saw him miss the entire 2016-2017 NBA season. But Simmons is now healthy and ready to go which will be a huge plus for Philadelphia. Heading into the 2016 NBA Draft, Simmons was compared to Cavaliers small forward LeBron James due to his ability to pass and be an all-around player at the small forward position. At 6’10”, Simmons has the ability see over most of his opponents, while he has made the players around him better at each step of the way along his basketball journey.

Philadelphia would once again select first this year in draft, but it was after they made a deal with the Boston Celtics. Originally the Sixers were slotted to select third overall, but with the Celtics feeling that they could trade down and still get the player that they wanted, Philadelphia moved up to select point guard Markelle Fultz.

Markelle Fultz

In one season collegiately for the Washington Huskies, Fultz averaged 23.2 points, 5.9 assists, and 5.7 rebounds to become a third-team All-American. And now as the first overall pick of the draft, Fultz is ready to live up to the hype.

In 2015, Philadelphia selected center Jahlil Okafor third overall. And although that Okafor has tremendous upside to score in the low post, he has fallen out of favor in Philadelphia as it would not surprise me to see him traded at some point this season.

Very quietly shooting guard J.J. Redick has become one of the better three-point shooters in NBA history. The Sixers shocked many observers during the off-season when they gave him a one-year for $23 million as his game is one-dimensional. However Redick can provide the young Sixers with a veteran presence who knows what it takes to get to the playoffs as it all about changing the culture in Philly.

The schedule makers were not kind to the 76ers as four of their first five games this season will be versus teams who reached the playoffs last season. Philadelphia should be an improved team, but there success primarily hinges on their key young players remaining healthy.

Brooklyn Nets 22-60

The spend today and not worry about tomorrow philosophy that the Brooklyn Nets have employed for the last five years has finally caught up to them in a very bad way. Several “win-now” trades by the Nets saw them part with multiple first-round picks which could have been vital for them, but instead those draft picks are being used to build other teams. In 2013, the Nets sent multiple first-round picks to the Boston Celtics for small forward Paul Pierce, power forward Kevin Garnett, and shooting guard Jason Terry. None of these players suited up for the Nets for two seasons, while Garnett and Pierce are now retired. The Nets have helped the Celtics to become a title contender as Boston has consistently been picking early on in the NBA Draft courtesy of Brooklyn. And to make matters worse, the Celtics who own the Nets first-round pick for 2018 have already traded that pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a deal that saw Boston acquire point guard Kyrie Irving. The Nets are coming off of consecutive seasons in which they lost at least 60 games and for the folks who follow the squad that calls New York City’s most popular borough home, don’t expect things to get that much better heading into the new NBA season.

Kenny Atkinson

Kenny Aktinson is set to begin his second season as the Nets head coach and he has a tall task in front of him in regards to making this team compete in the Eastern Conference. This off-season saw the Nets make a very questionable trade with the Los Angeles Lakers. The Nets sent center Brook Lopez, along with the 27th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft to the Lakers for center Timofey Mozgov and point guard D’Angelo Russell. Lopez was coming off of one of his best seasons with the Nets, and he leaves Brooklyn as the franchise’s all-time leader in points with 10,444. In trading Lopez, the Nets parted with a quality big man for a point guard in Russell who comes to Brooklyn with question about his maturity. In two seasons with the Lakers, Russell never showed that he could be a leader for the team, and when Magic Johnson became the franchise’s president of basketball operations earlier this year, it made the young point guard expendable. And whereas that the Lakers gave up on Russell, will a fresh start with a new team be able to motivate him?

In looking at the Nets roster there is not that much optimism heading into a new NBA season as this team could once again finish with the worst record in the league and not even have a top draft pick to show for it.

X-Division Winner

Y-Playoff Berth

Source: Basketball-reference.com

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The Ongoing Saga At MSG

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The New York Knicks are one of the NBA’s original franchises, and their home has been dubbed as “The World’s Most Famous Arena”. The Knicks have called Madison Square Garden home since 1968 and they’ve had some good moments there which included Willis Reed’s epic performance in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals that catapulted New York to their first title. The Knicks would win their second NBA Championship in 1973 and continue to be a solid team which included trips to the NBA Finals in 1994 and 1999. But when the Knicks were eliminated in the first round of the NBA Playoffs in 2001, little did they or any else know what coming down the pike.

19 games into the 2001-2002 NBA season, head coach Jeff Van Gundy resigned as the head coach of the Knicks and since then they’ve employed ten different head coaches. Included in that list of head coaches who couldn’t get it done for the Knicks over this stretch are some Basketball Hall of Famers such as Lenny Wilkens, Larry Brown, and Isiah Thomas. But unlike the Knicks of the 1990’s, this organization has not come close to being a championship contender and there is only one man to blame for that.

James Dolan

Since 1999, James Dolan has been the man who claims ownership of the Knicks. Dolan also owns Madison Square Garden, along with the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League, and the WNBA’s New York Liberty. But unlike the Rangers who appeared in the Stanley Cup Final in 2014, or the Liberty who’ve won four Eastern Conference Championships since their inception in 1997, the Knicks are at the other end of the spectrum.

Dolan has become the poster boy of the Knicks ineptitude as they’ve become one of the NBA’s laughing stocks. The Knicks have consistently mortgaged away their future for quick fixes which has done nothing more than set them back further, while also annoying an already furious fan base.

Since the end of the 2000-2001 NBA season, the Knicks have only had three winning seasons and with just 27 games remaining here in the 2016-2017 campaign, another trip to loserville appears to be on deck. But aside from the losing, it is how things are going down for the Knicks.

Phil Jackson

Since 2014, Phil Jackson has been the Knicks team president. Jackson did bring some excitement with him to the Garden since he won 11 NBA Championships as a head coach, and two more as a player with the Knicks. But when Jackson joined the Knicks, he didn’t have any previous front office experience and it is showing.

As the Knicks president, Jackson is married to the triangle offense which brought him success as a head coach. Jackson’s first hire with the Knicks was making Derek Fisher the team’s head coach. Fisher was fresh off of an 18-year playing career in the NBA. But like Jackson, Fisher didn’t have any previous experience for the post that he was ready to assume. Fisher’s saving grace was the fact that he played for Jackson and was familiar with his triangle offense.

In Fisher’s first season with the Knicks, the team went 17-65 for their worst season in franchise history. In Fisher’s second season, the Knicks were showing improvement as they were 23-31. But Fisher would be fired by Jackson for off-the-court issues which included his missing practice due to the fact that he could not make it back from California as he went to visit his girlfriend. The Knicks would go 9-19 for the rest of the season under interim head coach Kurt Rambis, while Jackson would set his sights on a new head coach.

But there would be a twist in Jackson’s search as Dolan who previously claimed that he would no longer meddle in the Knicks day-to-day operations, wanted a hand in picking the team’s next head coach.

Jackson was focused on another head coach who would run the triangle, but the Knicks would ultimately settle on former Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek. Hornacek has been known to run an uptempo offense, but was open to using some of the fundamentals of Jackson’s triangle. But with Jackson and Hornacek not on the same page, the results have shown in the Knicks record.

The Knicks are currently 22-33 which includes dropping 23 of their last 31 games. The Knicks continue to slide in the standings as they are currently in the 12th place in the Eastern Conference and 3.5 games behind the Detroit Pistons for the final playoff spot. And a disgruntled fan base has to sit by and watch this team crumble before their very eyes.

Jackson has assembled the Knicks current roster and on paper, this would have been a good team five years ago, but the majority of their key players are washed up.

Carmelo Anthony

When Jackson joined the Knicks, he knew that he was going to have to convince small forward Carmelo Anthony to re-sign with the team. And in the summer of 2014, Anthony decided to remain in New York as he and the Knicks agreed on a five-year deal for $124 million. Part of Jackson’s sell job to Anthony was that he was going to put a team capable of winning a championship around him. But Jackson has been rebuffed in free agency by superstar players, and he has had to settle for washed up players such as center Joakim Noah and point guard Derrick Rose. Jackson’s greatest claim with the Knicks was drafting power forward Kristaps Porzingis in 2015, but his recent treatment of Anthony leaves something to be desired.

On multiple occasions Jackson has publicly criticized Anthony for his style of play. And on multiple occasions, Anthony has privately spoke to Jackson seeking to have this style of “communication” eliminated, but apparently to no avail. Jackson appears to be a man that is trying accomplish two things. First, Jackson has come across in a mode where he is attempting to get Anthony to waive his no-trade clause, while also trying to get Dolan to fire him with neither of these dreams set to become a reality anytime soon for him.

The only two teams that Anthony appears willing to waive his no-trade clause for are the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers. And whereas the Clippers don’t have the trade assets to accommodate the Knicks, the Cavaliers have no interest in making a deal as New York wants power forward Kevin Love in return which isn’t happening, thus Jackson and Anthony are stuck with each other.

Jackson also drew the ire of Cavs small forward LeBron James when he used the term “posse” to describe his business partners such as Maverick Carter earlier this season. Jackson is continuing to put his foot deeper into his own mouth and this only adds to the hypocrisy of Dolan.

In the past Dolan has gone out of his way to censor Knicks commentators such as Walt “Clyde” Frazier due to his criticism of the team. And part of Dolan firing Larry Brown as the Knicks head coach in 2006 was over his public criticism of players.

However Dolan’s time in operating the Knicks has been marred with lapses in judgement. We’ll never forget Anucha Browne-Sanders’ sexual harassment suit against the Knicks, Dolan, and Thomas in 2007 following her termination. A jury would ultimately rule in favor of Browne-Sanders which would cost Dolan and Madison Square Garden $11.5 million, along with public shame. Browne-Sanders’ claims of sexual harassment were initially directed at Thomas who Dolan decided to stand by which only made things worse. Dolan let his ego get in the way as it would have been very simple for him to cut Browne-Sanders a check for at least $7.5 million to make this problem go away without bringing public embarrassment to his organization, but that wouldn’t be the case.

Dolan’s ego continues to get the best of him as last Wednesday night saw former Knicks player Charles Oakley physically escorted out of Madison Square Garden and arrested. Oakley and Dolan will never be confused as far as being kissing cousins due to the fact that Oakley has been publicly critical of how the Knicks are being operated under Dolan. But Oakley is not saying anything that Knicks fans are saying on the streets of New York City aren’t spewing as they want to see this team win.

The altercation last Wednesday began during the first quarter of New York’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers when MSG security at the request of Dolan approached Oakley while he was seated a few rows behind the Knicks owner. Oakley who was known as a very intense competitor during his playing career immediately became agitated. And after a security member put his hands on Oakley, a scuffle ensued.

The result would become an embarrassing episode for Oakley, the Knicks, Dolan, MSG, and the NBA. Oakley would be arrested and charged with three counts of third-degree assault. Following Oakley’s arrest, the Knicks would make a statement on the matter which was capped off by the notion that the former player should “get help”.

Since then Dolan has fired the head of MSG security Frank Benedetto and banned Oakley from his arena indefinitely. But if Oakley was the aggressor and the one at fault as Dolan has publicly claimed, why did his head of security get shown the door?

Dolan has claimed that Oakley is an alcoholic and was intoxicated at the time of the incident. However Oakley has denied being intoxicated, while he has claimed that MSG security was on him the moment that he sat down. And it is Dolan that must be reminded that he was the one and not Oakley who was checked into a rehabilitation center for drug and alcohol abuse in 1993.

At the end of the day this is something that the Knicks may never recover from under Dolan. Oakley is a Knicks legend as he was the heart and soul of the team during the 1990’s. Basketball fans in New York City embraced Oakley for his rugged style of play as he fought the likes of Charles Barkley, Xavier McDaniel, and Rick Mahorn. Oakley is one of those people that will tell you like it is whether you want to hear it or not which is why he is loved in the Big Apple. But since he spoke the truth about the Knicks and Dolan, he has been given the dry shave.

Dolan has reached out to former Knicks such as Allan Houston and John Starks as they’ve worked for the organization in the past, but not Oakley or Hall of Famer center Patrick Ewing. Ewing is currently an assistant coach for the Charlotte Hornets as the Knicks have all but refused to bring him back in a coaching capacity. Another former Knicks player in Mark Jackson has reached also out to the Knicks in the past as far as being a head coach, but like Ewing he was denied.

Instead of Dolan putting his ego aside in order to broker a meeting with Oakley, he has gone the route of appearing to be a bigger jerk in the eyes of Knicks fans as he’s decided to throw his weight around by sending his “goons” after Oakley, and subsequently banning his from MSG. And with the way that Jackson is treating Anthony, along with Oakley being handcuffed at the Garden, why would any talented NBA player be willing to sign his name on the dotted line in order to join the Knicks?

There’s a possibility that Oakley could sue Dolan and Madison Square Garden and he would have a strong case in his favor. Oakley sat down to watch the game and then MSG security approached him at his seat. But if Dolan expected Oakley to be that much of a problem, why was he allowed in the building in the first place? It wasn’t one member of MSG’s security team that approached Oakley, but several members which was not going to deescalate the situation. An MSG security official then put his hands on Oakley which caused him to react in a physical way. And once Oakley was restrained, Dolan rose up from his court side seat in the manner of a pleased mob boss who had just seen a planned hit orchestrated to perfection.

It also doesn’t help Dolan’s case due to his past drug and alcohol issues, the Browne-Sanders case, or the fact that some Madison Square Garden employees were terminated after they couldn’t make it to work due to Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

We’ve heard the term “starting over” thrown around in the Knicks direction before, but the only solution for the franchise at this point is to have NBA commissioner Adam Silver take the team away from Dolan. The Knicks play in the NBA’s biggest media market and they’ve failed to consistently be relevant for nearly two decades which doesn’t help the league. Penn Station is right under MSG, but the Knicks are the train wreck as the owner, team president, head coach, and star player are not on the same page as the results can be seen on a nightly basis when they take the court.

The Knicks are 22-33, but it is not farfetched to say that this team could struggle to win 10 games for the remainder of the season. Dolan is in a fantasy world as he feels that only a select few fans are displeased with the way that he is running the franchise, while Jackson has taken the term “out to lunch” to another plateau. Hornacek appears to be a nice man who walked into an impossible situation, but he should have known better since Madison Square Garden became a graveyard for basketball careers a long time ago. Anthony had the chance to get out of New York City nearly three years ago. However since the Knicks could offer Anthony more money than any other NBA team, he decided to stay.

The Knicks are so pathetic to the point that longtime season-ticket holder Spike Lee is willing to help Jackson “pack his bags” in order to leave town. But since Lee is a paying customer that is putting money into Dolan’s pockets, he not Oakley can be critical of the Knicks putrid performance.

As I stated in a previous blog post that the Ringling Brothers might be shutting down their circus which has come to the Garden for years, but we still have the Knicks. And at this point not even the Keystone Cops of the Three Stooges could hold a flame to Dolan’s Knicks are far as being clueless.

Source: Basketball-reference.com

 

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The Best Circus In Town

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After 146 years of entertainment the Ringling Brothers Circus is shutting down. The circus provided laughter and excitement for all ages as it has always been pure entertainment. For many years one the of the best venues for the Ringling Brothers show was New York City’s Madison Square Garden as it in the heart the Big Apple. And even though that we won’t see the Ringling Brothers make their way to the Garden anytime soon, there is another circus that has taken its spot.

It’s hard to describe the New York Knicks as a basketball franchise. The Knicks last NBA Championship came in 1973 and although that they’ve come close hoisting the title a few times since then, they have specialized in the art of frustration.

Phil Jackson

In 2014, Phil Jackson was named as the Knicks team president. Jackson won 11 NBA Titles as a head coach, and two more as a player with the Knickerbockers. But Jackson never ran an NBA front office before coming to the Knicks and he was going to have to learn on the fly under the microscope of the biggest media market in the world. However since joining the Knicks, all that Jackson done is to tarnish his legacy.

Jackson is adamant about the Knicks operating under the umbrella of his triangle offense which led to all of his titles as a head coach. Jackson’s first order of business was to hire a head coach in Derek Fisher who played for him with the Los Angeles Lakers. With Fisher not having any prior coaching experience in the NBA, Jackson expected his transition to be a work in progress which it was as New York would go 17-65 in his first season. 64 games into Fisher’s second season he was fired after reports of him missing practices due to fact that he could not get back from Los Angeles in time where his girlfriend was surfaced. There were also reports of Fisher being linked to women who were involved with some players on the Knicks roster which would lead to him possibly losing the locker room.

Jeff Hornacek

Last summer Jackson was looking for another head coach to run the triangle, but Knicks owner James Dolan chimed in on the next hire which led to former Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek taking over the team. Hornacek runs more of an uptempo style of offense, while Jackson still wants the Knicks to operate the triangle which has been a recipe for disaster.

Through 44 games the Knicks are 19-25 which includes going 3-12 over their last 15 games. And just like the Knicks were before Jackson arrived in New York, they are a team that is going in circles.

Carmelo Anthony

The Knicks have a star player in small forward Carmelo Anthony who is not going to lead New York to the NBA Title that people were hoping for when he was acquired from the Denver Nuggets in 2011. Anthony is an isolation ball player that needs 20-25 shots per game in order to effective. Jackson’s triangle offense relies on ball movement which is not the case when Anthony is on the court. Jackson had a chance to get from under Anthony in 2014 when he became an unrestricted free agent. But since the Knicks could offer Anthony more money than any other team, he was convinced to stay in New York by the likes of his wife La La Anthony and Jackson.

Jackson sold Anthony on the dream of teaming him with other star players which would lead to championships. But this season what the Knicks have is a roster that lacks star power, while it is comprised mainly of players that were good five years ago.

Derrick Rose

Last summer the Knicks acquired point guard Derrick Rose from the Chicago Bulls. Rose was the NBA’s MVP in 2011, but he has never been the same player since he suffered a torn ACL during the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Rose is averaging 17.5 points and 4.5 assists for the Knicks this season, but the explosiveness that he had with the Bulls is gone. The Knicks also signed Rose’s former Bulls teammate in center Joakim Noah to a four-year deal for $72 million. Noah was the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2014 as he was a catalyst in regards to the Bulls success as far as being a consistent postseason team. But with back and feet injuries, Noah isn’t the same player that he was in Chicago as he has still managed to average 5.6 points and 9 rebounds in New York City. The Knicks do have their building block of the future in power forward Kristaps Porzingis who was Jackson’s first draft choice with the team. Porzingis is the Knicks second leading scorer at 19.4 points per contest, however an Achilles injury currently has limited his effectiveness.

But the Knicks biggest issues this season have come on the defensive end of the court. New York is 25th in points allowed as they are surrendering 108.3 points per game. In watching the Knicks play defense, there isn’t any communication or intensity which is hard to fathom with Noah on the team. However aside from Noah, the Knicks roster isn’t littered with players that dig in on the defensive end which means that their chances of winning will be hindered. And all of this falls under the category of a lack of leadership for this franchise.

James Dolan

The Knicks find themselves led by a meddling owner in Dolan, a team president in Jackson who is trying to do the old “bait and switch” by discussing his issues with Anthony publicly to the media as opposed to the player so that he’ll request a trade, and a head coach in Hornacek whose style of play doesn’t fit with how Jackson wants the team run. Anthony is an aging star with a bad knee who most people are finally realizing won’t lead the Knicks to an NBA Title, while Rose couldn’t pick up a phone to notify the team about his going back to Chicago to deal with a family issue as he went AWOL for New York’s 110-96 home loss on January 9 to the New Orleans Pelicans. And just as the Knicks have been a mess since 2001, they aren’t getting any better under Jackson’s watch.

There should be a sign in front of Madison Square Garden which reads “doomed to fail” as some of the best basketball minds in NBA history such as Larry Brown, Donnie Walsh, and now Jackson have all failed to clean up the mess that is the Knicks. Attempting to turn the Knicks into a winner is the equivalent of reshuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic as either the front office tries to build a winner overnight through various trades, or they don’t properly evaluate young talent. Jackson is too set in his ways which were successful for him before, but it is not going to happen in New York. Anthony is another in a long line of All-Star caliber players who upon arriving to 33rd Street and Eighth Avenue were unable to live up the unrealistic expectations that were put upon them. And at the end of the day all that the Knicks have to give to their fans are higher ticket prices to go along with a mediocre product on the court.

But all isn’t lost for the Knicks as they currently find themselves in 11th place in the Eastern Conference and 2.5 games behind the Bulls for the final playoff spot. However even if the Knicks are able to turn things around and make the playoffs, what good would it do them just to extend their season for four more games in order to be swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers? Success continues to be hard to achieve for the Knicks as long as the owner, team president, head coach, star player, and the majority of the roster aren’t on the same page. The only winners in this ongoing Knicks saga are the members of the media as they’ll have plenty to write about while they will continue to poke fun at and criticize this team. However watching the Knicks is worth the price of admission and then some as it is indeed the best circus in town.

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2016-2017 Atlantic Division Standings

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X-Toronto Raptors 54-28 (3)

The past three years have seen the Toronto Raptors become the class of the Atlantic Division. The Raptors have focused on basketball fundamentals which has led to more wins and a growing fan base in Canada. The Raptors will begin the upcoming NBA season as the three-time defending Atlantic Division Championships, and after Toronto reached the Eastern Conference Finals last June for the first time in franchise history, the expectations around this team have increased.

Dwane Casey

 

Dwane Casey is set to begin his sixth season with the Raptors and in each of his campaign’s in Toronto, the team’s win total has increased. And after the Raptors won a franchise best 56 games last season, they are poised to once again be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.

Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan

The backbone of the Raptors has been their All-Star backcourt of point guard Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan averaged a career-high in points last season at 23.5 points per game as he continues to improve as a perimeter shooter. Lowry’s numbers have continued throughout his NBA career as he is emerging as one of the better point guards in the league. Last year Lowry averaged 21.2 points and 6.4 assists per contest and as he intends to test free agency next summer.

Around Lowry and DeRozan, the Raptors have developing players such as center Jonas Valanciunas. Valanciunas has spent his entire four-year NBA career with the Raptors and his numbers continue to improve as he averaged 12.8 points and 9.1 rebounds last season. Valanciunas is a prime candidate to average a double-double this season which could make the Raptors that more difficult to deal with. The Raptors signed center Jared Sullinger who could be a solid role player in Toronto after he spent the last four years with the Boston Celtics. And the Raptors first-round pick in center/power forward Jakob Poltl could give them another dynamic as a big man that can stretch the floor with his ability to hit he mid-range jump shot.

Size has been the one thing that has held the Raptors back in recent years, but as this team continues to get better in the front court, their chances of being a title contender are that much better.

Y-Boston Celtics 48-34 (4)

The past two years have seen the Boston Celtics become “The Little Engine That Could” of the NBA. The Celtics are not the most talented team in the league, but they scrap and claw on a nightly basis as they are a team that opponents are not excited to face. Brad Stevens is the Celtics head coach, and it is a post that he has maintained for the last three years. And in each year that Stevens has been in Boston, the Celtics win total has increased. The last two seasons have seen the Celtics make the playoffs, but they’ve been unable to advance past the first round. However will things change for the Celtics next spring?

Isaiah Thomas

Last year saw point guard Isaiah Thomas turn into a star for the Celtics. Thomas led the Celtics in points per game (22.2) and assists (6.2) as he earned his first All-Star Game nod. Thomas has solid ability as a point guard being that is able to penetrate, but for the Celtics to take that next step they are going to need a consistent low-post presence.

For the last nine years, center Al Horford has been one of the cornerstones of the Atlanta Hawks. With the Hawks, Horford was a four-time NBA All-Star as he averaged 14.3 points and 8.9 rebounds during his time there. But when Horford became a free agent this past summer, the Hawks signed center Dwight Howard which made him expendable. And when the Celtics offered Horford $113 million on a four-year deal, he jumped on it.

Al Horford

Horford gives the Celtics a dependable scorer in the post, and he has already been named as one of the team’s captains which gives you an idea of the respect that he commands.

The combination of guards Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley continue to pester opponents with their frenetic play at both ends of the floor. Both Smart and Bradley are two of the better defenders at the point guard position along with each player providing a change of pace on offense which gives Stevens more options as he preaches versatility with his team.

Jae Crowder

Veteran small forward Jae Crowder should be able to feed off of Horford’s presence in the front court as he no longer has to be the Celtics primary scoring option in the post. The Celtics have high hopes for their first-round pick in small forward Jaylen Brown. But a sleeper on this roster could be rookie forward Ben Bentil who averaged 21.1 points and 7.7 rebounds last year in the college for the Providence Friars. Aside from leading the Friars in scoring and rebounds, Bentil also led the team with 52 made three-point field goals, and his scoring ability will be huge off of the bench for the Celtics.

Five of the Celtics first six games this season will be at home, and a fast start could be just what they need to push the Toronto Raptors for the top spot in the Atlantic Division.

New York Knicks 41-41

Phil Jackson

When Phil Jackson became the president of the New York Knicks in March 2014, he brought excitement and expectations to the franchise. But in two seasons under Jackson’s regime, the Knicks have only managed to win 49 games, while the man that he was grooming to be the next “great head coach” in Derek Fisher was fired last season after the team got off to a 23-31 start. Kurt Rambis would be named as the Knicks interim head coach for the remainder of the season as New York went 9-19 under him. But what was even more surprising than the firing of Fisher was that Jeff Hornacek was hired to be the new head coach of the Knickerbockers.

The Knicks will be Hornacek’s second NBA coaching gig after he compiled a record of 101-112 in nearly three seasons as the head coach of the Phoenix Suns. Hornacek was never able to lead the Suns to the postseason, and the highlight of his time in Phoenix was when the team won 48 games during the 2013-2014 NBA season. However it is really going to be very interesting to see how the marriage between Hornacek and Jackson will work since Jackson is notorious for hiring coaches that will solely run his triangle offense which isn’t a specialty of the Knicks new head coach who prefers a more uptempo style of offense.

Jeff Hornacek

The hiring of Hornacek smells of Knicks owner James Dolan once again putting his nose into the day-to-day operations of the team which makes you wonder if Jackson’s days at 33rd Street and Eighth Avenue are numbered? And even though that the Knicks can be described as the best circus in town, this group must find a way to co-exist in order to make a roster that has individual talent work as a team.

The centerpiece of any potential Knicks success is small forward Carmelo Anthony. Anthony has been with the Knicks since 2011 and he has given New York a face of the franchise while helping them reach the postseason on three occasions. Anthony also led the NBA in scoring during the 2012-2013 NBA season, but since then his offensive numbers have dipped. Anthony is 32-years of age with a bad knee. And although that Anthony can still fill up the bucket, the clock is ticking on he and the Knicks to win a championship together.

Kristaps Porzingis

The Knicks are hopeful that power forward Kristaps Porzingis will be able to build off of his solid rookie campaign. Last season Porzingis averaged 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks. Porzingis came into the NBA being compared to Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki, and he could be a player that could average 17 points and 10 rebounds this season under Hornacek.

This off-season has seen the Knicks bring in an array of veteran players. The Knicks signed former Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah to a four-year deal that is worth $72 million, while also signing guards Brandon Jennings and Courtney Lee. The Knicks would also acquire point guard Derrick Rose from the Bulls to complete their roster overhaul. But unfortunately for the Knicks, these are moves that should have been made five years ago.

Derrick Rose

In 2011, Rose was the NBA’s MVP as he was one of the league’s brightest stars. However since then knee injuries have derailed Rose’s once promising career. Noah was Rose’s teammate in Chicago where they helped the Bulls to be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference when they were healthy. Noah was the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2014 as his toughness and grit defined that era of Bulls basketball. But like Rose, Noah has been dealing with injuries as foot and shoulder issues have limited his effectiveness over his final two seasons in Chicago. The Knicks will be the fourth different team that Jennings has suited up for and he is seeking to find the explosiveness that he had earlier in his career. Like Jennings, Lee has bounced around the NBA as the Knicks will be his seventh different team. Throughout Lee’s career, he has been an underrated defender that should be able to provide a spark off of the Knicks bench for Hornacek.

The Knicks will look to push the pace of play more this season under Hornacek, but the most important thing for New York is to have everyone on the same page as it will be very interesting to see how this motley crew comes together as the season progresses.

Philadelphia 76ers 29-53

It’s no secret that the Philadelphia 76ers have become the worst franchise in the NBA. The 2011-2012 NBA season was the last time that the Sixers finished with a winning record and it was their only winning campaign over the last seven years. The last three seasons have seen the 76ers combine to win 47 games, and to give you an idea of how bad that it has been in Philadelphia, ten NBA teams won more games than the Sixers last year alone than they were able to accomplish over the last three campaigns. Last season was just about as bad as it could get for the Sixers as they managed to go just 10-72 which led to some wholesale changes.

Sam Hinkie was relieved of his duties as the 76ers general manager after he oversaw the worst stretch in franchise history. Former Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo was brought in by the Sixers as an advisor and his first order of business was to name his son Bryan as the team’s new president and general manager. The younger Colangelo has a proven track record of putting a team together from his time as the general manager of both the Suns and Toronto Raptors as he was named as the NBA’s Executive of the Year in 2007. Now Colangelo is tasked with making the Sixers respectable once again and they could be a team on the rise.

Brett Brown

Brett Brown is set to begin his third season as the Sixers head coach and although that the man who hired him in Hinkie is no longer running the show in Philly, he will still be calling the shots on the sideline.

The Sixers will begin the upcoming NBA season on the wrong foot as they will be without the services of small forward Ben Simmons. Simmons was the first overall pick of the NBA Draft this past summer after he averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 4.8 assists in one year for the LSU Tigers. But a foot injury will keep Simmons out of action for at least three months which will postpone his NBA debut.

The inability for the 76ers to win games in recent years has led to selecting early in the NBA Draft, but Hinkie rolled the dice on players that weren’t healthy. In 2013, the Sixers obtained the draft rights to center Nerlens Noel from the New Orleans Pelicans, but he missed the entire 2013-2014 NBA season after he recovered from a torn ACL that he suffered in college. In 2014, the Sixers used the third overall pick of the draft on center Joel Embiid, but injuries have prevented him from participating in an NBA game. Last year the Sixers first-round pick was center Jahlil Okafor. Unlike Noel and Embiid, Okafor was able to suit up as a rookie for the Sixers as he averaged 17.5 points and 7 rebounds in 53 games before a knee injury cut his rookie campaign short. However all three players are healthy and it should give the 76ers a huge advantage in the front court.

The good things for the folks in Philadelphia is that it can’t get any worse than it has already been. Colangelo is working to bring a competitive team to the City of Brotherly Love and the 76ers should be an improved team this season.

Brooklyn Nets 22-60 

Last year was a sign of things to come for the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets lost 61 games last season which was the third worst record in the NBA and the icing on the cake was that they didn’t have a first-round pick to show for their futility. The Nets are still suffering from the moves that were made by former general manager Billy King as most of their recent and future picks are now property of the Boston Celtics after the team’s failed attempt to become an instant title contender in 2013 when they acquired aging players such as power forward Kevin Garnett and small forward Paul Pierce. The Nets run at a title was short lived as they are coming off of their worst campaign since 2010 when they were still the New Jersey Nets.

Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has finally realized that winning an NBA Championship is not an easy process and instead of the quick process, he has finally decided on the slow, methodical process. Prokhorov has hired Sean Marks as the Nets new general manager and he’ll be tasked with making Brooklyn respectable.

Marks played for 11 seasons in the NBA and he won a championship as a member of the San Antonio Spurs in 2003. Marks has spent the last four years working in the Spurs front office and he is looking to bring some of that winning formula with him to Brooklyn.

Marks’ first order of business was to hire a new coach in Kenny Atkinson. The Nets will mark Atkinson’s first head coaching gig in the NBA, but he has had stints as an assistant coach in the league with the New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks. And now that Atkinson is running the show in Brooklyn, you can expect him to preach ball movement for the Nets.

Brook Lopez

One of the few bright spots that the Nets have on their roster is center Brook Lopez. Lopez is coming off of one of his best NBA seasons as he averaged 20.6 points and 7.8 rebounds in 73 games for the Nets. Lopez gives the Nets a solid presence in the post, but trading him to a contending team could return draft picks to Brooklyn that will be needed in order for them to turn things around.

Aside from Lopez, the Nets are a team that is mainly comprised of youngsters that are thankful to be on an NBA roster and veterans that are attempting to hold on. This past summer the Nets signed point guard Jeremy Lin to a three-year, $36 million deal as they are hopeful than he can give them a dose of “Linsanity” as he did when he suited up for the Knicks in 2012. Rookie shooting guard Isaiah Whitehead is a native of Coney Island and he won’t be fazed by playing in front of the hometown fans as he could have a positive impact on this team.

The Nets will be fighting an uphill battle all season long as they have finally come to grips of the reality that is their rebuilding process.

X-Division Winner

Y-Playoff Berth

Source: Basketball-reference.com

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No Direction

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Throughout the 48 years that the Phoenix Suns have been an NBA franchise, they have been a constant tease to their fan base. In the Suns second year of existence, they made the playoffs only to miss out on the postseason in each of the next five years. In 1976, the Suns won the Western Conference Championship to advance to the NBA Finals where the experience of the Boston Celtics was too much for them. From 1978-1985, the Suns would make the playoffs each season, but this was an era in the Western Conference that was dominated by the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, and Seattle Supersonics. For the entire decade of the 1990’s, the Suns would make the playoffs, but they were never able to attain that elusive NBA Championship. With Mike D’Antoni as the Suns head coach in the mid-2000’s, Phoenix had a wide open brand of basketball which was highlighted by point guard Steve Nash being named as the NBA’s MVP in two consecutive years. However the Suns struggled on the defensive end of the floor which hurt them against teams such as the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks in the postseason. And little did the Suns know that when they lost the 2010 Western Conference Finals to the Lakers what would be in store for them.

Since 2010, the Suns have only had one winning season while failing to make the postseason. Overall the Suns have not been the same team since longtime owner Jerry Colangelo sold the team in 2004 and his son Bryan resigned as the team’s general manager in 2006. Since then the Suns have gone through four general managers, and six head coaches while this team has been kept together with spit and glue.

Jeff Hornacek

The bottom fell out for the Suns last month when Jeff Hornacek was fired as their head coach after beginning this NBA season with a record of 14-35. Hornacek was in his third season in Phoenix, and he had never been given a talented roster to work with even though he overachieved in his first season when he went 48-34. The Suns have also missed on some of their first round picks in the NBA Draft while they’ve been unable to lure any big-time players in free agency to the desert.

One of the biggest things that has hurt the Suns recently is that they have concentrated on obtaining perimeter players while also failing to land an impact player in the NBA Draft. And the result has been a team that has been completely forgotten about in the Western Conference. As a team, the Suns are near the bottom of most statistical categories in the NBA at both ends of the floor while they don’t have one player that is in the top 20 of any major individual category which is a pretty good indication as to why their record is as bad as it currently is.

Ryan McDonough

It’s obvious that the Suns need a complete overhaul and team owner Robert Sarver should think about starting over. Ryan McDonough is in his third year as the Suns general manager and he is the one that gave Hornacek this subpar team to work which means that he deserves as much blame if not more than the now exiled head coach. The Suns need a general manager that knows how to evaluate talent instead of simply picking a player that is the best player in the NBA Draft. For right now the Suns should also stay away from the temptation of spending big in free agency. Last summer saw McDonough sign free agent center Tyson Chandler to a four-year deal that is worth $52 million. And that is a large amount of money to give to a player such as Chandler who is 33-years of age that has averaged just 8.7 points and 9.3 rebounds during his NBA career. The Suns are also contractually locked in with points guards Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight for the next few years. Bledsoe and Knight are the Suns two leading scorers this season, but it would be prudent for Phoenix to trade one of the players being that they basically do the same thing on the court. The Suns also have a disgruntled power forward on their hands in Markieff Morris who has not been a happy camper ever since his twin brother Marcus was traded by the team to the Detroit Pistons last summer. Morris no longer wants to be with the Suns, but the team won’t trade him, and all that it is doing is becoming a huge distraction and headache to everyone that is involved. At this point the best thing for the Suns to do is simply cut their losses and move on which would a be a win-win for both parties.

Earl Watson

With the dismissal of Hornacek, former NBA player Earl Watson is now the Suns interim head coach. This is Watson’s first go round in the NBA as a head coach and I expect the Suns to give him the rest of the season to show what he can do. But like the general manager’s seat, the Suns appear to need a new direction at the coaching position as well. Former NBA head coaches in Mark Jackson and Tom Thibodeau are expected to be hot commodities this summer and the Suns should at least put out a feeler to gauge the interest of one of these men.

Some NBA teams have become enamored with the “small ball” effect after watching the Golden State Warriors win it all last June. But what has helped the Warriors is the fact that their point guard Steph Curry, along with shooting guard Klay Thompson are two of the best scorers in the NBA, while they also possess one of the best overall teams in the league. Like many other teams, the Suns don’t have that luxury, thus their reliance on Bledsoe and Knight to carry them is not having the same positive effect. The game of basketball is still won on the interior which is something that the Suns have lacked for a very long time. And in Phoenix, it is time go back to the drawing board because what the Suns are currently doing isn’t working.

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2015-2016 Pacific Division Projections

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Y-Golden State Warriors 57-25 (3)

It took a couple of generations, but the Golden State Warriors are once again sitting on top of the basketball world. This past June, the Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers to claim their fourth NBA Championship in franchise history, but their first since 1975 and they have a team in place that doesn’t want the organization to wait another 40 years to once again be champions.

Steve Kerr

In Steve Kerr’s first season as the head coach of the Warriors, he was able to push all of the right buttons which resulted in an NBA Championship. Kerr has the benefit of having one of the best back court duos in the NBA play for him. Warriors point guard Steph Curry comes into this NBA season as the reigning MVP as he is the modern version of the “Microwave” due to the fact that it doesn’t take that long for him to heat up and once he gets going, just simply pull up a chair and enjoy the magic. Curry has the ability to average 30 points per game, but he doesn’t have to due to the depth that the Warriors possess around him. However Curry is still a phenomenal passer and like most good jump shooters, he is lights out from the free-throw line. Along with Curry in the Warriors backcourt, there is shooting guard Klay Thompson. Together Curry and Thompson form the “Splash Brothers” and aside from them both being the sons of former NBA players, they each possess tremendous jump shots as they each have the ability to put the Warriors on their respective backs for extended periods of time.

Draymond Green

The Warriors also receive tremendous production from their front court. Last season saw small forward Draymond Green emerge as an impact player which saw him rewarded by the Warriors with a five-year contract extension over the summer that is worth $82 million. The Warriors have a ton of depth on their club that includes the likes of small forward Andre Iguodala who is the reigning NBA Finals MVP and he is also a defensive specialist which comes in handy when Golden State faces some of the premier teams in the Western Conference.

Last spring the Warriors swept the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round of the NBA Playoffs as these two teams will meet in two of their first three games this season. But being that the Warriors will comes into this season as the defending NBA Champions, they must expect to get every team’s best game on a nightly basis. It also won’t help the Warriors that Kerr will be sidelined to begin the NBA season as he is recovering from back surgery to repair a herniated disc. And in the interim the Warriors will be led by former NBA player Luke Walton as their head coach as it will be interesting to see if he’ll be able to get his message across to this team.

X-Los Angeles Clippers 57-25 (4)

Doc Rivers

Doc Rivers has been the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers for two years, but he hasn’t been able to get his club past the second round of the NBA Playoffs. Last season the Clippers held a 3-1 series lead over the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Semifinals, but they were unable to close them out which left them scratching heads. The Clippers would undergo a few changes this off-season with the biggest one coming in the form of new uniforms.

DeAndre Jordan

Center DeAndre Jordan became a free agent over the summer and he flirted with joining the Dallas Mavericks. Jordan”verbally” agreed to join the Mavericks, but he had a change of heart and worked things out in order to re-join the Clippers. What the Clippers get with Jordan is a player that led the NBA in rebounds last year at 15.0 per game along with being one of the better shots blockers in the league. From 2004-2013, Rivers was the head coach of the Boston Celtics and he helped the organization win their 17th NBA Title in 2008. At the center of that was small forward Paul Pierce who was the cornerstone of the Celtics franchise during the 2000’s. After being traded by the Celtics to the Brooklyn Nets in 2013, and spending last season with the Washington Wizards, Pierce has decided to join Rivers in Los Angeles. For his 17-year NBA career, Pierce has averaged 20.7 points per game and he’s also been one of the best clutch players during this era of basketball which is the kind of player that the Clippers have lacked. Pierce is also a native of Inglewood, California and he’ll now have the opportunity to play for one of his hometown NBA teams.

The signings of Jordan and Pierce are good for the Clippers, but the success of this team will come down to the ability of point guard Chris Paul and power forward Blake Griffin. Paul continues to give the Clippers quality seasons as he is one of the better floor generals in the NBA along with being in line with what Rivers expects from his point guards while Griffin must continue to develop into a valuable go-to-guy for the Clippers.

The Clippers are also hopeful that they were able to solidify their role players this off-season when they signed forward Josh Smith and guard Lance Stephenson along with re-signing guard Austin Rivers. Rivers is the son of the Clippers head coach while Smith and Stephenson have a history of being “loose cannons” which could hurt or help the Clippers this season.

The Clippers will have a chance to get off to a fast start in the first four games which includes a pair of meetings with the Sacramento Kings. And you can go ahead and circle November 4 on your calendar when the Clippers travel to face the Golden State Warriors who are the defending NBA Champions as there is no love lost between these two clubs.

Phoenix Suns 38-44

The past five years have seen the Phoenix Suns fail to qualify for the NBA Playoffs which ties their longest stretch without reaching the postseason in franchise history. Jeff Hornacek is set to begin his third season as the head coach of the Suns and in two years in Phoenix, he has made the most of his situation with the Suns, but unfortunately this is a team that lacks a star player that can put this team on his back.

Eric Bledsoe

The closest thing that the Suns have to a star player is point guard Eric Bledsoe. This will mark Bledsoe’s second full season in Phoenix and for him to lead the Suns to the postseason, he is going to put up an MVP caliber season and unfortunately he won’t be able to do it all by himself. The Suns are hopeful that power forward Markieff Morris will be able to take his game to the next level, but he currently isn’t a happy camper in the valley of the sun. Morris’ twin brother Marcus was traded by the Suns this off-season to the Detroit Pistons which has left Markieff disgruntled. Because of this Morris doesn’t want to play in Phoenix anymore, but the Suns are not budging due to the fact that he is under contract with them which has produced a stalemate.

Heart and hustle have made the Suns competitive in Hornacek’s first two years in Phoenix, but the 2015-2016 NBA season will be a completely different beast as they should struggle in the Western Conference.

Sacramento Kings 39-43

The Sacramento Kings have not posted a winning record since 2006 and six of the last seven NBA seasons have seen them lose at least 50 games. The Kings have also become one of the most dysfunctional franchises in the NBA which is evident by the past few months. Last season the Kings went through three different head coaches with George Karl set to led this team for the 2015-2016 NBA season. Karl hasn’t been on the same page with Kings power forward DeMarcus Cousins which led to Karl wanting to trade Cousins prior to the 2015 NBA Draft. But Kings owner Vivek Ranadive decided to step in as he wants Cousins and that almost led to Karl being fired.

DeMarcus Cousins

Cousins is one of the premier power forwards in the NBA and he would be more of a household name if he played in a bigger market and/or on a better team. But if Karl and Cousins are able to get on the same page, he is a player that has the potential to average 25 points and 15 rebounds.

Rudy Gay

Along with Cousins, the Kings have a proven scorer in small forward Rudy Gay. In nine seasons in the NBA, Gay has averaged 18.5 points per game as the Kings are the third different franchise that he has played for. But Gay’s versatility on both ends of the floor make him the perfect compliment to Cousins. The Kings used the sixth overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft on center Willie Cauley-Stein who is a shot blocker that will need some time to get adjusted to the NBA game. The Kings also have size behind Cauley-Stein in center Kosta Koufos while they have a young in shooting guard Ben McLemore who is emerging as a scoring threat while they have also proven veteran scorers in small forwards Caron Butler and Marco Belinelli. But the Kings have a huge question mark at the point guard position.

In 45 games with the Kings last season, point guard Darren Collison averaged 16.1 points and 5.6 assists. But the Kings still went out and signed point guard Rajon Rondo who has been known to clash with head coaches; regardless of their credentials in the NBA. And this is something that Karl will have to find out the hard way for himself.

It won’t be an overnight turnaround for the Kings, but as the season progresses, Karl will begin to mold this team in his own image or get fired trying.

Los Angeles Lakers 34-48

The start of a new NBA season means that hope will spring eternal for the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers coming off of their worst two-year span in franchise history as they’ve combined to win just 48 games over the last two seasons which typically represents just one down campaign for them. The Lakers must find a way to be more competitive under head coach Byron Scott this season as en route to losing a franchise worst 61 games last season, they lost 9 games be 20 or more points.

Kobe Bryant

Unfortunately for the Lakers they are pinning their hopes on the return of shooting guard Kobe Bryant. Bryant only appeared in 35 games last season due to injury. Bryant is the Lakers all-time leading scorer, but it is hard to expect him to return this season at 37-years of age and be the player that he was several years ago when he was one of the top scorers in the NBA. Scott also intends to limit the amount of minutes that Bryant plays this season, but is there another viable scoring option for the Lakers behind him?

Like Bryant, Lakers small forward Nick Young missed significant time last season due to injuries and he also clashed with Scott. Young is a proven scorer in the NBA as he has averaged 12.3 points per game over his eight-year NBA career, but will he be able to remain within in the realm of what Scott wants from him?

In 2014, the Lakers made power forward Julius Randle the seventh overall pick of the NBA Draft, but he suffered a fractured right tibia in the first game of the season as the book is still out on him. This summer, the Lakers had the second overall pick of the draft and they used it on point guard D’Angelo Russell. Russell is only 19-years of age and it will be a steep learning curve as far as him getting adjusted to the professional game. The Lakers entered the 2015 NBA Draft with a pair of first-round picks as their second choice was used on forward Larry Nance Jr. If the name sounds familiar it is because his father Larry Nance Sr., played in the NBA with the Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers and he was the winner of the league’s first slam dunk contest. Like father, like son as Nance Jr. has tremendous athleticism which led him to being named as the Mountain West Conference’s Player of the Year in 2015 during his senior season at the University of Wyoming.

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak signed guard Lou Williams in the off-season as he’ll be looked at as far as providing scoring off of the bench while Los Angeles also acquired center Roy Hibbert from the Indiana Pacers. In seven season with the Pacers, Hibbert always had instances where he would flash potential, but he’s never been consistent and the Lakers are hopeful that a change of scenery will do the trick for him. And in a surprise move just before the beginning of training camp, the Lakers signed veteran small forward Metta World Peace aka Ron Artest, but you just have to wonder if the NBA game has passed him by at the age of 35?

Early on in the season, the Lakers will have a five-game road trip which is a good time for this team to bond with so many new parts. Bryant will be eager to reclaim his post as one best players in the NBA, but whereas in the past he has dished out tough love to his teammates, this is a young team that will need that big brother to put his arm around them. And if Bryant doesn’t adjust, his time in Los Angeles this season will be very frustrating for him.

Source: Basketball-reference.com

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2014-2015 NBA Coach Of The Year Candidates

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Mike Budenholzer-Atlanta Hawks

http://matchbin-assets.s3.amazonaws.com/public/sites/624/assets/IBY1_rgbhawks1.jpgLast season the Atlanta Hawks won 38 games for the entire NBA campaign. This time around the Hawks have already won 35 games and the month of January has not even concluded. Mike Budenholzer is in his second season as the head coach of the Hawks and his team has bought into his system. Budenholzer was an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs before taking over the Hawks and he brought with him the team first philosophy that has propelled the Spurs to being one of the best run franchises in all of professional sports. While the Hawks were riddled by injuries last season, they have been durable this time around and each of their five starters is averaging in double figures in scoring. The Hawks have the best record in the Eastern Conference and they are thinking about their first trip to the NBA Finals since 1961.

Jason Kidd-Milwaukee Bucks

http://www.sikids.com/sites/default/files/pages/images/cms/imce/users/dantec/2014/06/jason-kidd-nets-bucks-header.jpgJason Kidd shocked the basketball world last summer when he left his post as the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets to join the struggling Milwaukee Bucks. But Kidd is showing everyone that he knew what he was doing as he is turning around the Bucks. After winning just 15 games last season, the Bucks have already surpass that win total as they are 21-21 and they are currently in possession of the sixth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Kidd and the Bucks are doing this without small forward Jabari Parker who was the second overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft. Parker was lost early this season with an ACL injury and the Bucks have not skipped a beat which is a credit to Kidd.

Steve Kerr-Golden State Warriors

http://cdn.fansided.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/41/files/2014/11/steve-kerr-stephen-curry-nba-san-antonio-spurs-golden-state-warriors-850x560.jpgSome people may say that first-year Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr inherited a good team, but he is doing a terrific job of not messing things up. The Warriors won 51 games last season under head coach Mark Jackson which made it surprising to some people when Golden State decided to part ways with him. Kerr has stepped in and made a good team better. The Warriors are currently 34-6 which is the best record in the NBA. Kerr knows where his bread is buttered and he has simply stayed out of his team’s way and allowed them to play basketball. This is a philosophy that Kerr hopes to ride to the first NBA Championship for the Warriors since 1975.

Jeff Hornacek-Phoenix Suns

http://www4.pictures.zimbio.com/gi/Jeff+Hornacek+Phoenix+Suns+v+Los+Angeles+Clippers+8-j_Q9OeM1pl.jpgLast season was the first one for the Phoenix Suns under head coach Jeff Hornacek and his team overachieved by winning 48 games. In spite of going 48-34, the Suns were denied a trip to the postseason as they play in the tough Western Conference. The Suns played over their heads last season and it would have been easy for them to take a step backwards, but that hasn’t been the case as Phoenix has improved off of last year’s close call. The Suns are currently 26-18 which is currently good enough for them to own the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and under Hornacek, they are seeking their first trip to the NBA Playoffs since 2010.

Dave Joerger-Memphis Grizzlies

http://memphisport.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/jeorger3.jpgWhen Dave Joerger took over last season as the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, he inherited a team that had won 56 games in the previous campaign and they made a trip to the Western Conference Finals. But Joerger was able to keep the ship afloat last season as the Grizzlies won 50 games for a second consecutive season. However this time around the Grizzlies have jumped out of the gate with a record of 30-12 which is tops in the Southwest Division. The Grizzlies are eighth in the NBA in points allowed and they are known to make their opponents grind it out for four quarters. Joerger is attempting to lead the Grizzlies to their first division title in franchise history.

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