foul trouble

5/17/10 Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers (Game 1)

Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers- 9 ET TNT

Why can't the Suns get any love?

On top of all the “you’re wrong” comments sent my way via Suns fans, I’ve recently been hit with a surge of Suns fans wondering why I and the majority of the sports media world don’t give the Suns any love. While I can stand here and think of a variety of different why that is, I think it’s much more significant to inform all Suns fans not to worry: Embrace it! The Phoenix Suns are at their best when there’s no expectations! The moment they’re expected to do something is when they fail….

Past Examples:

2004-2005 Suns Starters: Nash/Johnson/Richardson/Marion/Stoudemire= best Suns team since the 2000's

When were expected to dominate the NBA Playoffs as they did the 2004-2005 regular season= fail

When Shawn Marion is expected to be happy and remain a Suns player for his entire career= fail

When Shaquille O’Neal was expected to be the missing link to a championship caliber team= fail

Present Examples:

When Steve Nash is expected to play a little defense= fail

When Jared Dudley and the Suns bench are expected to provide a huge boost= fail

When the Suns have a early 15 to 20 point lead and expect to maintain it= fail

Suns may still regret not doing this

Future Examples in Question:

When Jared Dudley & Grant Hill are expected to slow down Kobe: _______ ?

When Amare Stoudemire is expected to resign in Phoenix this offseason: _______?

When Goran Dragic is expected to be the Suns everyday starting point guard: _______?

Goran Dragic might possibly be the best example that comes to mind when talking about the Suns and expectations. While there’s no doubt that Goran Dragic’s Game 3 performance in San Antonio was outstanding to say the very least, it was THAT outstanding because you didn’t expect it. The moment Suns fans come to expect Goran Dragic to do something (like me) you’ll find yourselves disappointed in the final product. Same applies to the Suns organization. Don’t have any expectations heading into the Western Conference Finals Suns fans, I’m looking out in the best interest of you all. Continue to enjoy the ride without worrying about what Bill Plaschke, Phil Jackson, and hell even what Ross Geiger says. The moment the sports world outside of Phoenix begins to believe in this Suns team is when it collapses.

The Lakers' Big Three

Now with all that being said, I got good news for the Phoenix Suns, I like the majority of the sports world have the Lakers in Game 1. It’s going to be interesting to watch the Suns try to stop the Lakers strong inside presence of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. The most important key of all is not allowing Amare Stoudemire to fall into early foul trouble. If at any point in this series, Amare sees foul trouble early into ball games, the Suns stand no chance unless they’re just hitting everything from the perimeter. Balanced scoring: inside and out, is something both teams need to solidify their success. The Suns must not count heavily on knocking down the perimeter threes against the Lakers, rather must attack the basket and try to draw some fouls down low on Bynum. If the Suns can get Bynum into some foul trouble, the game is pretty much an even battle.

How the Lakers decide upon approaching who defends Steve Nash is also something to watch for. We all know Derek Fisher will clearly start from tipoff, but I see Phil Jackson calling upon Shannon Brown to play that Jerryd Bayless/George Hill-type role against Nash. Jordan Farmar is another guy to watch out for. Any matchup that puts Steve Nash on his heels on defense is something I see Phil Jackson trying his best to exploit. Especially now after Steve Nash retaliated back by saying that Gregg Popovich is the best head coach in the NBA, I see Coach Jackson taking to Nash every and often.

A Lakers win will result in keeping Bynum out of foul trouble, solid play from Gasol at least matches the stat line of Stoudemire, and the no show productivity from the Phoenix Suns bench. Lakers take Game 1 at home.

Lakers- 107 Suns- 99

I Don’t See Channing Frye or Jared Dudley Being Able to Deliver Clutch Knockdowns Like This One, That Goes Down in My Book as the My Favorite Suns Shot of All-Time over Rex Chapman’s Prayer:

Advertisements

4/25/10 NBA Playoff Predictions

Boston Celtics at Miami Heat- 1 ET

Today could mark Wade's last game in a Miami Heat jersey or at the very least it could be his last home game as a member of the Miami Heat

The Miami Heat are down 3 game to none, no team in NBA history has ever come back from such a deficit. Today’s game could very much end up being a historic game for the Miami Heat as it has the possibility of marking franchise’s superstar Dwyane Wade’s final game as a member of the Miami Heat (or at the very least his last home game). Becoming a free agent at the end of the season, Wade could decide to move his career elsewhere, teams that may be ideal include: the Clippers, Suns, Bulls, Knicks, and Nets.

The Miami Heat don’t just look lost trying to find a win in this series, but they seriously look lost as a franchise. HoopsHype.com reported that the Heat may end up trading their future piece in Michael Beasley before the NBA draft if the right options seem to be available. With that being said, the Heat in all likely-hood could lose both their current superstar and their 2nd overall pick of 2008 in Beasley who was supposed to be their future star in the making.

Coach Doc Rivers & "The Truth" should seal the deal in Game 4

In Game 4, I see the Boston Celtics putting the final nail in the coffin. Up 3-0, there’s no reason to put forth a sluggish effort and have to close down the series at home in Game 5. With an aging team like the Celtics, it’s important for them to win series as quickly as possible so that they can rest up and be fully ready to take on their second round opponent. Celtics Head Coach Doc Rivers and the Big Three know and understand they have to take care of business; Celtics sweep the Miami Heat.

Celtics- 98 Heat- 85

Cleveland Cavaliers at Chicago Bulls- 3:30 ET

Vinny Del Negro himself predicting the final outcome of the series, Cavs win 4 games to 1

Everyone and their brother knows that LeBron James didn’t take his Cavaliers’ team loss in Game 3 very lightly. You can be assured that, King James will do a little talking in the locker room before hitting the United Center floor to square off against the Bulls. In the midst of all of this, according to HoopsHype.com, ESPN.com has reported that Bulls Head Coach Vinny Del Negro will not return next year as the Bulls coach. While that’s no surprise, it is surprising that this talks heated up right after a huge Game 3 win in Chicago.

Just as LeBron James didn’t take the Game 3 loss lightly, maybe this was the Bulls way of firing up their head coach for the remainder of the playoffs. Each of the Bulls-Cavs first three games the Bulls have been in striking distance of tying or taking over the lead in games. So I propose the question: What if Vinny Del Negro does the impossible and beats the Cavaliers in Round 1? While I’m just proposing the thought, go ahead call me an idiot, it’s okay because one things for sure, both Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah actually believe they can take down the Cavaliers.

The Bulls are title contenders if they add one of these guys or Joe Johnson

While I’m going to take the Cavaliers over the Bulls in 5 games, that isn’t to say that Game 4 and Game 5 won’t be interesting games. The Bulls will continue to demand respect in the series forcing the Cavaliers to play top notch basketball under the final buzzer sounds. Even if the Bulls end up winning just Game 3 in the series, they exceeded the expectations of the majority of the league. Having put up an impressive fight each game can only help their chances of snagging one of the elite free agents come this summer. Don’t try to tell me Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Dwyane Wade, and Joe Johnson haven’t been watching the Bulls fight in this one seed versus eight seed matchup.

Cavaliers- 102 Bulls- 95

Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs- 7 ET

Game 3 served as a wake up call for Caron Butler

There’s no doubt in my mind that the Dallas Mavericks will take Game 4. Nowitzki and crew have too much talent and fight to allow this series to go 3-1 heading back home, the Mavericks will force a split 2-2 series. In order to do so, Dallas will obviously have to make some adjustments, but luckily for the Mavericks they’re one of the most versatile teams in the NBA. Head Coach Rick Carlisle’s decision to only play Caron Butler for 14 minutes should be Butler’s wake up call heading into Game 4. I definitely think we’ll see improved play from him and from the Mavericks centers inside. In Game 3, Mavericks big men Erick Dampier and Brendan Haywood played a combined 45 minutes coming up with just 4 points and 8 rebounds. As Charles Barkley would say, “That’s just terrible”, Barkley himself could probably score 4 points and grab 8 rebounds if it weren’t for having to run the length of the floor each possession. Game 3 key to a Spurs victory in a nutshell was that the Spurs came out to play and the Mavericks (outside of Dirk Nowitzki) didn’t. We’ll see improved play by the entire Dallas Mavericks team today. Dallas takes Game 4 and momentum back home for Game 5.

Mavericks- 99 Spurs- 91

Denver Nuggets at Utah Jazz- 9:30 ET

Carmelo continues to battle foul trouble issues

The Jazz won in commanding fashion in Game 3 at home against the Denver Nuggets. Carmelo Anthony yet again ran into foul trouble and for the past two games that’s really been a big key to the Jazz success. Foul trouble for Carmelo Anthony limits his aggressiveness and all the intangibles that makes him the offensive threat that he is when not in foul trouble. When the Jazz are able to contain that aggressiveness, the Denver Nuggets flow on offense suffers greatly.

I don’t know if it’s just me or if Nuggets fans would agree, but I never quite know what to expect from this year’s Nuggets team. While their personnel are uniquely charismatic (to say the least) and are fun to watch, I don’t know how I’d feel if I were a Denver Nuggets fan. Is this group of guys, really a team that you can put your trust in? While I really want to go with my gut feeling and predict a Nuggets win tonight, my logic behind why not to pick the Nuggets seems to be holding me back from doing so.

My logic tells me to take D-Will & the Jazz at home

The Utah Jazz are surprisingly clicking on all cylinders despite the key injury losses. Behind their home crowd at home, I see it hard from them to lose Game 4 and see Head Coach Jerry Sloan leading his team to a commanding 3-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets as the series then heads back to the mile high city. I’m going with my logic over gut feeling on this one.

Jazz- 109 Nuggets- 107

Milwaukee’s Cinderella Project Continues

The Cinderella Project Continues for the Bucks...This Time on the Floor....

As the Cinderella Project Milwaukee, a Milwaukee Bucks charity event created by The Gadzuric Foundation, came to a finale Saturday night, the team unfortunately was forced to open up another Cinderella-like project on the court. Whose going to be fill the role and the shoes of Andrew Bogut? Quite frankly, the Bucks roster doesn’t have one player that can even partially answer that question. The loss of Andrew Bogut will of course limit the Bucks chances of success come playoff time, but if there’s one NBA team that could find a why to be successful through such an devastating loss, it most certainly is the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks are far too familiar with key losses and aren’t a team that’ll change their mindset or make excuses. As the Bucks continue to move forward, here’s the Bucks personnel that’s has to step up in order for the team to further exemplify the “Fear the Deer” slogan.

The Bucks Starting Center for the Remainder of the Season

Kurt Thomas: The 37 year old veteran will be primarily be the one asked to contribute more than the usual 10 to 20 solid minutes he’s been giving mostly all season. To Thomas’s credit, it’s important to stress solid minutes because that’s exactly what he’ll give you each and every night. Having been a variety of different teams throughout his 14 year career, Thomas has always been a quick adapter to change and I see this change in role being no different. Many night’s should look close to identical to his numbers against Phoenix adding 10 points and 7 rebounds in 30 minutes of play. For the remainder of the year look for Thomas to be a regular 10-12 point, 8-12 rebound, 1-2 block type guy averaging a little over 30 minutes of action.

Spot Minutes Likely for Primoz....

Primoz Brezec: Not much has been asked or expected upon Brezec since coming over in a trade with Philadelphia, but now it seems Brezec may see the floor depending upon the matchups. Brezec hasn’t really seen the floor all year and I doubt the Bucks depend upon him for much. Spot minutes will be key though, being able to throw him out there if any foul trouble occurs (which it will if Gadzuric becomes the primary backup). But Primoz doesn’t offer much outside of a big body, he’s slow in every way imaginable: both in transition and laterally. What’s been my concern with him since coming over is his lack of aggressiveness when he does catch/rebound the ball deep into the paint, he often times elect to kick the ball out than taking the ball up strong and drawing fouls. That’s got to change, the Bucks will need to stress getting their opponents bigs in every foul trouble each game from here on out.

Gadz Provides a Defensive Presence

Dan Gadzuric: Ahh, where to start, where to start, that’s always the hard part with good ole’ Danny G because we’re all just counting down to the days to when it ends as his huge contract finally comes off the books. But suddenly Gadzuric has found himself another bright opportunity to gain some floor time and he’s by far the best option to throw into the fire of a game off the bench with Thomas now starting. Looking at the positives, Gadzuric can run the floor, jump, and last but not least he can block shots while committing fouls. While that sounds like a horrible idea of attempting to block everything and committing fouls, it’s what the Bucks need from him. Gadz can offer a presence that sends a message to guards that they better prepare to get hammered when coming into the lane, every shot that goes up is going to be contested. At the end of the day, if Gadzuric can run the floor (making his defender run it with him) and can add some time off defensive presence in the paint, I’m content.

Ilayasova will continue to take charges just as Bogut would

Ersan Ilayasova: Putting Ilayasova in the center slot of the lineup can only mean one thing, push the tempo. While I don’t necessarily seeing Coach Scott Skiles changing up any of his game plans, I do hope he does give this a whirl for a variety of different reasons. 1) It’d allow the Bucks to run and gun a little bit, change the pace of the game, always keep the defense guessing 2) Ilayasova to the 5, almost always means a Ridnour & Jennings tandem in the backcourt 3) Ilayasova’s ability to knock down the long range three can help stretch the defense against a team like the Celtics, forcing Kendrick Perkins to hold his man on the perimeter offers lanes for penetration and cutters that keep the offense moving at all times. Not saying it’s the right solution, but I hope Skiles gives it a try sometime before the playoffs.

Darnell may get out of the formal attire, but probably won't see the floor too often

Darnell Jackson: Even with the need for a big man to step up, I don’t see Skiles giving Jackson an opportunity to show what he can do. While he may suit up and at least offers the coaching staff an option if need-be, I think it’s wise to work with the bigs that will be able to help you come playoff time. Like I’ve mentioned with most of these guys above, many of them haven’t seen the floor in quite some time, they’ll need minutes to get back into the groove and gel. Also, keep in mind a lot of them haven’t yet played a in-game situation with John Salmons. Giving both Brezec and Gadzuric time to do that will be important in order help them get onto the same page with one another. If Jackson were to have been picked up earlier and eligible for the playoffs, then there’s no question that Skiles would use him as one of his top choices off the bench.

What this means for the rest of the rest of the rotation:

Even more of a scoring load will be put on Jennings's shoulders

Brandon Jennings: The loss of Bogut means more touches, more touches leads to more opportunities to score for Jennings. Whether or not that’s a good thing with the way Jennings has been shooting the ball is one thing but Jennings will be counted upon to produce. Last game against Phoenix he did a great job attacking the rim, drawing fouls, and getting to the free throw stripe. That should continue to happen and should even become easier. Jennings almost always needs a on-ball screen in order for him to get a quality look at the basket and Kurt Thomas has always been a guy able to open up opportunities for his point guard (doing so with some of the best in recent past: Tony Parker and Steve Nash). Thomas will set a solid screen for Jennings to rub off of and 9 times out of 10, he’ll pop rather than roll. That gives Jennings just another direct angle/route to attack the basket. Jennings has been much more effective on the offensive end when he gets it going early inside and working his way out after getting into a rhythm. Getting to the foul line to knock down a few free throws is an easy way shooters can find a rhythm early.

He's Done It All

John Salmons: I don’t know how much more of the load we can put on Salmons than we already do. The guy’s been incredible since coming over and there’s not much else we can ask of him. Without Bogut, Salmons will definitely be counted upon even more so in clutch situations down the stretch of close ball games with the ball in his hands but that’s never a concern to Salmons, he lives for those moments. Scoring outputs from Salmons may slightly go up, but don’t expect much more from the guy, to think ask more from him is ludicrous, he’s given the Bucks everything he’s got since day one, not much will change with Bogut out.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute:

Mbah a Moute will continue to battle with the best of them down low

Down the stretch of close games, we commonly see Coach Scott Skiles pull Mbah a Moute due to his lack of offensive abilities but now Skiles will be put into a position where he may have to leave him out there on the floor. While I got nothing but praise for Mbah a Moute’s ability to guard bigger players at the power forward position this entire season, he’s really got to try to limit his early fouls. More times than not, he’s gets into early foul trouble adjusting to each particular big man down low. Being a good defender during my playing days, I know this task is much easier said than done. When you’re assigned to guard a bigger player on defense, you really have to feel him out on his abilities and his tendencies on the offensive end, that can often times lead to early foul trouble. I got nothing but love for Mbah a Moute and it’ll be important for him to stay out of foul trouble, and hopefully he can pose as a good mid-range shooter by knocking down some of his first shot attempts.

Carlos Delfino: Delfino’s above average ability to rebound the basketball just became that much more important for the Bucks. Look for Delfino’s rebounding numbers to go up a bit without Bogut inside, the Bucks will count on Delfino to crash the boards a bit harder on defense. While this will ultimately slow down the offensive break, it’s going to be necessary if the Bucks plan to limit their opponents second shot opportunities.

Ball Movement Will Be key

Luke Ridnour: As I mentioned above, Ridnour will most likely see more time being paired with Jennings in the backcourt. This tandem worked very well together earlier on into the year and definitely helped promote ball movement on the offensive end. This ball movement will become that much more important for a postman like Kurt Thomas whose going to struggle battling for position, but with a few quick ball screens, it’ll allow Thomas to seal off his defender and hopefully lead to some close looks down low.

Jerry Stackhouse: With Thomas replacing Bogut as the everyday starting center, the Bucks bench production will become limited which means Stackhouse’s production off the bench will be that much more important from here on out. Thomas, Ridnour, Stackhouse are typically the big three bench contributors that provides that instant spark and have been relied upon to do so all season long. With the departure of Thomas into the starting role, Stackhouse along with Ridnour have a much bigger task at hand. They also are going to be the lucky ones that have to deal with playing with Gadzuric and Brezec for their spot minutes. Luckily for the Bucks, both Stackhouse and Ridnour have been guys with the ability to bail the Bucks offense out as the shot clock winds down.

Bucks fans wouldn't let down these two guys, would they?!

The season is far from over folks, don’t give up on this Milwaukee Bucks team, they’ve come this far, it’d be a shame if the city didn’t rally behind them even during the toughest of times. Need some motivation not to give up? Look no further than Jerry Stackhouse, here’s a veteran who was looking to put himself in a position to make the playoffs. As he considered his options and Milwaukee called, the Bucks looked no where close to destined for a playoff berth, embarking on that rugged west coast trip during to being the new year. But as Redd went down with the season ending injury, Stackhouse didn’t count out giving Milwaukee a shot, he wanted to be the guy that could come in and step up, rather than declining the Bucks offer and maybe calling it quits. Back when the Bucks were well below the .500 mark, Jerry Stackhouse had hope for Milwaukee this season and didn’t throw in the towel. Same applies to Bucks fans, guys like Stackhouse, Salmons and even our fellow rookie Jennings have uplifted a Bucks team not expected to do a damn thing this year, yet here we are early April sitting in the 6th spot of the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Bucks have lived up to this season’s motto and have worked hard and played hard all year long, Bucks fans must continue to cheer hard and believe in this team in return.

FEAR THE DEAR CONTINUES....