LaMarcus Aldridge

NBA Opening Night Review and Reaction

By Chuck Araneta

After four L-O-N-G months of Lebron, Free Agency, Lockout fears, Lebron, World Championships, Lebron and so much more in between, we’re finally at the start of the NBA Season! It’s safe to say that this season is one of the most hotly anticipated ones, with so many teams raring to prove themselves as more than pretenders. We just concluded Opening Night in the NBA with three quality games on tap for us to peruse, starting with the Miami Heat taking on the Boston Celtics. If we’re gonna start this thing, it’s best to go hard!

 

Lebron and the Heat couldn't quite catch the Cs

 

Boston beats Miami 88-80

Nope, the world didn’t implode; Lebron and co. didn’t spank the C’s by 50 points. If anything, this opening game showed how much work they still have to put in to be even considered in the same breath as Orlando and Boston. The Celtics played solidly all throughout, with Rajon Rondo planting himself as the go-to leader on the floor for his Celtics. In the first quarter he orchestrated the Celtics attack like a maestro, setting up Shaq for two monster dunks, Ray Allen for Sweet Js and Paul Pierce for his dynamic scoring. It’s safe to say that Rondo is the puppet master for the Celtics, and they are definitely in good hands. And while Miami is now 0-1, this definitely won’t last. They’re too talented and too powerful not to put things together. And when all else fails, they can just get the ball to Lebron and follow his lead. Wade’s gotta get his mind in the game though.

Portland rallies against Phoenix 106-92

It’s going to be a tough season for Phoenix. Heck, even Steve Nash admitted as much in a recent interview. But this team has shades of that overachieving 2006 season when they lost Amare to injuries, and would gut out wins by playing together and sniping from outside. So their first game against the Portland Trailblazers was a test of how cohesive they would be without a single inside presence to dump the ball into. It worked for 3 quarters, but the offense sputtered when Portland decided to small-ball against the Suns, inserting Nicolas Batum at the 4th. And from there, Portland gave them a taste of their own medicine, hitting trey after trey to rally and grab the victory. How good did Batum look? While Brandon Roy is unquestionably their best player, he may be catching up to LaMarcus Aldridge in the hierarchy for the Blazers. And he’s making me regret passing on him in my fantasy drafts! Phoenix will battle, but that may not be enough.

Lakers come from behind and take out Houston, 112-110

 

Sparkplugs

 

 

All off-season, Lakers faithful were talking how great Steve Blake would be for the bench of LA. I didn’t see it, and thought he would just be a nice piece to have but would wilt under the bright LA lights. Well for one game, I was completely wrong. Teaming up with Shannon Brown (really?!?!), LA stole this one from the Rockets with some timely shooting from outside, on championship ring night. Nice way for the Lakers to grab the victory even while sleepwalking through the first three quarters. Just goes to show how much talent the defending back to back champions have. Houston also showed how talented they are, now that they have Yao back to man the middle. At least for 24 minutes. Kevin Martin and Aaron Brooks will be a headache of a backcourt (for the opposition as well as Rick Adelman given their poor defense), and Luis Scola continues to be awesome. If the Rockets can learn how to finish games strongly, they may make some noise in the Playoffs.

So that concludes Opening Night in the NBA. Tonight is gonna be awesome with so many great games lined up.

Can’t wait to get things poppin’!

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2010-11 NBA Preview: Northwest Division

Oklahoma City Thunder (50-32 last season)

How could I not put up a picture of Kevin Durant? MVP? I think so.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Russell Westbrook

Shooting Guard: Thabo Sefolosha

Small Forward: Kevin Durant

Power Forward: Jeff Green

Center: Nenad Krstic

Key Reserves:

Guard: Eric Maynor

Guard: James Harden

Forward-Center: Serge Ibaka

The Thunder are still so young, yet so talented.  They can’t get ahead of themselves though.  This new success needs to be handled correctly and it cannot get into their heads or else they could possibly have a massive meltdown.  For example, take the 2008-09 New Orleans Hornets.  They are the perfect example of that.  They biggest concern I have for the Thunder is their shooting.  Other than Kevin Durant, it was an adventure for them last season.  Hopefully the additions of Daequan Cook and Morris Peterson can help in that department.  OKC is a lock for the playoffs and look for them to make a deep run.

Portland Trail Blazers (50-32 last season)

Will Oden ever last through an entire season?

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Andre Miller

Shooting Guard: Brandon Roy

Small Forward: Nicolas Batum

Power Forward: LaMarcus Aldridge

Center: Marcus Camby

Key Reserves:

Guard: Wesley Matthews

Guard-Forward: Rudy Fernandez

Center: Greg Oden

No team ever avoids injury, but no team is ever stung as bad as Portland was last season.  With a complete lineup, this team has the potential to be the best in the West.  They allowed the fewest points of any team in the West (94.8) and defense is definitely their calling card.  Wesley Matthews was brought in for his defense and also to provide a spark off the bench.  Marcus Camby is still a great defensive center, even at 36-years-old.  Nicolas Batum has the length to block shots and get a couple of steals per game.  The great thing about the Trail Blazers is that they are also very young as well.  I realize that Camby and Andre Miller are not, but the rest of the team is.  This team will be good for years to come, as long as Brandon Roy is still hanging around in the future.

Utah Jazz (53-29 last season)

I think Hayward has a potential to be another Kirilenko.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Deron Williams

Shooting Guard: Raja Bell

Small Forward: Andrei Kirilenko

Power Forward: Paul Millsap

Center: Al Jefferson

Key Reserves:

Guard: Sundiata Gaines

Guard-Forward: C.J. Miles

Forward: Gordon Hayward

Deron Williams might be the best point guard in the NBA thanks to last season.  His playmaking ability is getting to a ridiculous feat and with the players around him it could even get better this year.  Getting the additions such as Al Jefferson, Raja Bell and Gordon Hayward acclimated quickly is crucial.  Williams and Carlos Boozer were the second coming of Stockton and Malone (obviously not as good as these two) and I believe Jefferson can fill the shoes of Boozer and put up 20 points and 10 rebounds for the season.  Jefferson is also going to have to find chemistry with Paul Millsap.  Both will want to control the paint, but each have to pick and choose when to make their moves.  The Jazz will most likely be a middle of the pack playoff team, but I see them losing first round.

Denver Nuggets (53-29 last season)

Will he stay or will he go?

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Chauncey Billups

Shooting Guard: Arron Afflalo

Small Forward: Carmelo Anthony

Power Forward: Kenyon Martin

Center: Nene Hilario

Key Reserves:

Guard: J.R. Smith

Forward: Al Harrington

Forward-Center: Chris Andersen

Most people probably are wondering why I have the Nuggets finishing fourth in their division, and the reason is because Carmelo Anthony will either be gone from the team or not focused enough to lead.  Carmelo is an elite player, and if he gets traded the Nuggets will turn into another run-of-the-mill team not making the playoffs.  We all saw the breakdown this team had without head coach George Carl, and without their superstar, all hell might break loose.  J.R. Smith is a hothead and even though he is in a contract year, his play will still be very streaky.  Kenyon Martin is always getting hurt, so the play of Al Harrington will be a huge part to the success to this team as well.  In the end, with Carmelo or not, I just don’t see it this year for the Nuggets.

Minnesota Timberwolves (15-67 last season)

A world of potential and only 21-years-old

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Luke Ridnour

Shooting Guard: Corey Brewer

Small Forward: Michael Beasley

Power Forward: Kevin Love

Center: Darko Milicic

Key Reserves:

Guard: Jonny Flynn

Guard: Wayne Ellington

Forward: Wesley Johnson

The Timberwolves are going to be even worse this year.  With the loss of Al Jefferson to division opponent Utah, Minnesota has no “go-to” scorer.  Michael Beasley is their best bet, especially since in 2008, he was projected and considered to be a better prospect than Derrick RoseKevin Love is developing into a great player but he does most of the nitty-gritty work.  Rookie Wesley Johnson has the skill set to be great and he will definitely get ample amounts of playing time with this team.  Darko Milicic has ANOTHER chance and again it will be a failure.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this team finishes with less wins than they did last season.

Ross Geiger’s 2010-2011 Don’t Overlook the Small Names Team

The Buzzer Beatin' Follow Through by Lester Hudson

Lester Hudson, NBA Free Agent

After having a very impressive Las Vegas Summer League showing as a member of the Washington Wizards, Lester Hudson is on the verge of making another NBA roster this season. Averaging 11.2 points,  2.8 assists, and 2.8 rebounds per contest, Hudson made sure John Wall wasn’t the only impressive Wizards point guard. In fact, Hudson played a key role during the last stretches of close games. Wizards’ Summer League Head Coach Sam Cassell turned to both Wall and Hudson as the primary ball handlers with the game on the line. In the Wizards last summer league game, Hudson took over as the Wizards elected to sit out Wall. Hudson dropped 19 points to go along with 9 assists, and delivered the dagger from  connecting on a game winning, step-back buzzer beater. That’s not a bad way to finish off a successful summer league appearance and it definitely left a lasting impression on the entire league.

SG: Dominique Jones, Dallas Mavericks

Jones has a lot to offer at the NBA level

This year’s 25th overall pick by the Mavericks showed plenty of good signs during his inaugural summer league performances. Dominique Jones went onto to average 16.6 points per game with 3.4 assists and 3.8 boards. Not only did Jones lead his team in scoring throughout their five matchups, but Jones absorbed much of the hype that was supposed to surround Mavs second-year man, Rodrigue Beaubois. By the end of summer league, the word around the press row was looking forward to watching Jones, not particularly just Beaubois as expected. Jones must improve upon his consistency from the floor, but can indeed help next year’s Mavericks team if called upon.

Rolle was on a roll producing during his time on the floor in Orlando Summer League

SF: Magnum Rolle, Indiana Pacers

While I decided to transform him into a small forward for the sake of showing love for the hungry Pacers rookie. Magnum Rolle made the best of each and every opportunity he got to show the Pacers what he has to offer and it paid off. Rolle is a guy, you’ll be hearing about for years to come. He won’t blow you away with his skill but he’ll instead do it with his hustle and energy. At 6’10 with a very long wingspan, Rolle is very versatile and can guard multiple positions. In Orlando Summer League, Rolle averaged 13.4 points, 7 boards, and 2 blocks a game. Having not played basketball until his freshman year of high school, I’d say Rolle still has a lot of room to grow as a player, especially if he continues to work as hard as he has thus far in the league.

Brackins should become CP3's new best friend on the perimeter

PF: Craig Brackins, New Orleans Hornets

Ok, so maybe Brackins isn’t really a “small name” having been a highly touted recruit coming out of Brewster Academy, but entering the league I’d say many still aren’t buying in. While I doubt Brackins ever becomes a borderline star in the NBA, I do think he’ll be a very solid, respected NBA pro in the near future. It all starts with his size and his ability to stretch the defense with his touch. Brackins is a tremendous shooter with range often times compared to LaMarcus Aldridge, but I’d argue there’s a bit of a “in his prime version of Brian Cook”. He definitely showed me a lot in his summer league games averaging 10 points and 4 rebounds. Not to mention he shot 47% from the three-point line connecting on 10-21 total attempts. While he won’t provide much in other categories his shooting consistency will find him minutes. With Chris Paul leading the charge in New Orleans, Brackins will be a perfect complimentary piece. He doesn’t clog up the lane, prefers to float around the perimeter, and can step into a shot from anywhere on the offensive end. Watch out NBA fantasy basketball, this could be your new favorite three-point specialist since you’ll be able to place him in your power forward slot.

Lawal could end up being "The Steal" of the 2010 NBA Draft Class

C: Gani Lawal, Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns getting some love? You better believe it, they got an absolute steal in this year’s draft, grabbing Gani Lawal with the 46th overall pick. Although they didn’t even have a first round pick this year, the Phoenix Suns came out of the 2010 draft as one of draft night’s winners. Much like how Eric Bledsoe played in the shadow of John Wall at Kentucky, Lawal did the same at Georgia Tech as the focus and media attention was on Derrick Favors. If one were to ask me how good Lawal could end up being? I’d surprise many with this: at the end of the day, Gani Lawal may very well be just as good, if not a better pro than Derrick Favors. Bold statement? Yes, very much so, but entirely out of the question? Absolutely not. In Las Vegas Summer League, I was not at all surprised at Lawal’s attention grabbing stat lines throughout the Suns’ five games. Lawal completed summer league averaging 15.4 points, 7.4 boards, with 1 block a game. It’s nearly impossible to predict how the Phoenix Suns handle Lawal’s rookie year and whether or not he ever gets a real chance to shine. But one thing’s for certain if Lawal continues to develop his game on the practice floor and can show the Suns coaching staff he can rebound, he’ll play. Both Channing Frye and Hakim Warrick are terrible rebounders, plus it’s also clear at this point that hustle-man and fan favorite Lou Amundson isn’t returning. Knock, Knock…Who’s there? Gani Lawal.

Last But Not Least, I Bring You The Most Exciting NBA Summer League Finish I Was In Attendance For, Which Includes 2 of the 5 Players That Made This List: Lester Hudson & Craig Brackins. Take a Look:

This is the last and final part of Ross Geiger’s 7-part Blog Series covering the NBA’s most prominent young players. Thank you for following the series and we hope you enjoyed it! Be sure to follow Ross Geiger on Twitter: @RossGeiger.

NBA Playoffs Game 2’s 4-20-10

Milwaukee Bucks at Atlanta Hawks -7ET

In large part to help promote the great BucksProductions videos, I’ve decided to take a different approach in previewing Game 2 between the Bucks and Hawks.

The Architecture: Any good architect can tell you that if there’s even the slightest chance that a foundation’s structure could collapse, you need to make adjustments to the plan. Despite the fact that he doesn’t like making adjustments, Bucks Head Coach Scott Skiles must make a starting unit adjustment in order for the Bucks to have a chance. Josh Smith had his way all game long with Carlos Delfino guarding him and to make matters worse Delfino wasn’t even contributing on the offesive side of the floor. Skiles must change his starting rotation to Jennings/Salmons/Mbah a Moute/Ilayasova/Thomas. That limits the amount of mismatches and help side that will present out there on the floor.

The Rotation: Giving Ersan Ilayasova the starting nod does risk early foul trouble and obviously diminishes Skiles reliable big man scoring option but it’s a roll of the dice the Bucks need to take. If and when Carlos Delfino wakes up and starts to be the aggressive shooter he’s been all year for the Bucks, we have a nice new addition to the bench scoring output alongside Ridnour and Stackhouse. The Hawks themselves don’t really have a solid big man off the bench so starting Ilayasova seems very logical to me. Are the Bucks really trying to tell me that Dan Gadzuric can’t do a somewhat decent job defending Joe Smith or Zaza Pachulia? Please…At least test the waters of the idea. The Bucks aren’t in a position in which they can play it safe, it’s time to take a chance at a new look and see if it pays dividends.

In Our House…Playoff Party: Brandon Jennings was phenomenal in Game 1 proving yet again that the young rookie steps up in big time games. Jennings should already be expected to see some of the Hawks defensive adjustments come Game 2. With the Hawks high intensity switching defense look for the Hawks’ guards to force the ball out of Jennings hands, trapping him whenever the opportunity presents itself (Screen & Rolls) in particular. So the Bucks will need solid offensive contributions from those surrounding Jennings, Kurt Thomas must hit the open 15 footer off the screen and roll (he’ll get tons of those looks if the trap Jennings on the screen). John Salmons must do a better job putting the ball in the basket assisting Jennings, in Game 1 the Bucks relied way to much upon Jennings and help was nearly non-existent on offense.

Can the Bucks find the right ingredients to keep the chef from cooking?!

Game 2 Overview: The Bucks chances of success will obviously start on the defensive end of the floor. Getting stops early would really be the difference maker in the Bucks giving themselves a great chance to come out on top in Game 2 starting with limiting amount of points in the paint. The Bucks can’t play from behind like they did and Game 1 if they want to give themselves a chance to head back to Milwaukee tied up. A win in Game 2 for the Bucks puts them in a very good position to force a Game 6 or even series deciding 7th game.

Hawks-109 Bucks-105 OT

Miami Heat at Boston Celtics-8 ET

Will O'Neal step up his game for Game 2?

As Paul Pierce would say sometimes The Truth Hurts and to be honest, I truthfully feel the Celtics are fine without Kevin Garnett. While I’ll be the first too admit I haven’t been high on Garnett ever since leaving Minnesota, I think the Celtics have adapted to playing without him at this point. The only big issue that becomes a concern is relying upon the play of Rasheed Wallace who has been a complete waste this season. But you can be assured that Rondo and Pierce will come out an pick up the scoring slack left in Garnett’s absence. For the Heat, Jermaine O’Neal’s 3-14 shooting performance just won’t cut it. Clearly they’ll need him to start finishing around the basket and Tito Jackson must also step up his play. Quentin Richardson did a sufficient job aiding Dwyane Wade for the perimeter tallying 15 points in Game 1, but on a nightly basis the Heat must have “a big three”. Clearly Wade will always be a permanent figure in the Heat’s “big three” but between Richardson/Beasley/O’Neal, two of them must step up on any given night for the Heat to find success. In Game 1, only two were present (Wade & Richardson), if the Heat can compile a “big three” tonight they win Game 2.

Heat- 97 Celtics- 94 OT

Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns- 10 ET

Phoenix is all too familiar to this face...But can the Suns ruin his homecoming?!

While I’d like to say that the Phoenix Suns learned a valuable lesson in Game 1, I very well know they haven’t. Even if they have come out and win in Game 2, I’d be very concerned if I were a Suns fan:

-How bad are the Suns on defense? They’re as bad as allowing Andre Miller to score 32 points allowing him to replicate Brandon Roy in Blazers’ offense.

-How good is Amare Stoudemire? He’s great until he decides to take a defensive possession off allowing Aldridge to follow tap in a missed Bayless jump shot.

-Does Bayless explode yet again? Yes, especially with Brandon Roy out, Bayless will continue to contribute 10-15 points nightly maybe even 20 a night if the Suns aren’t careful.

-How do the Suns respond in Game 2? The Suns will take Game 2 at home, but that’s fine, the Blazers got what they wanted, a split on the road heading back to the Rose Garden. Going into the series I never thought I’d say this but Portland’s in control of the series.

Game 1 was The Tale of Two Jared/Jerryd’s one was a DUD one continued to be an Arizona stud….

Game 2 will be should be another great battle till the final buzzer. It seems as though the Blazers know what to expect on the defensive side of the floor and if they can continue do exactly what they did in Game 1, they’re in good shape. The Suns must get out on the break more frequently and find their touch early. Particularly, Jared Dudley must step up off the Suns bench. Dudley is the team’s spark plug and crowd favorite must drill his open shots, helping swing the momentum in the Suns favor. He was nonexistent in Game 1 which I truly feel was a big reason why Portland stole the opener. Hopefully Dudley watched the Cavaliers’ Jamario Moon’s play last night because the Suns need the same time of contribution. While Dudley’s not a proven NBA player in the league yet, this year’s he’s shown me enough to confidentially say he’ll come out ready to play in Game 2. With that being said, I’m going with a Suns win at home tonight in Game 2, this is Ross Geiger reporting on behalf of JMZ/JSPN (haha just kidding!).

Jared Dudley must step up in Game 2

Phoenix Suns- 104 Portland Trail Blazers- 96

Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Lakers- 10:30 ET

The Battle Continues Tonight in Game 2

The Thunder had a very impressive hard fought Game 1 loss in Los Angeles this past Sunday. So impressive that I believe they actually just might win a game this series. Durant and Co. showed their young side with their playoff butterflies during the first quarter of Game 1. But after that, they settled down and played real solid against the contending NBA champions. This series also features one of the best (if not the best) defensive matchup in the first round, Kevin Durant guarded by Ron Artest. Watching Durant and Artest go at it is a thing of beauty, a chess match for the ages. This matchup should only get better as the series moves along as both players begin getting a better feel for one another’s tendencies. If the young Durantula can continue to create space, opening himself up for good looks at the basket, the Thunder will win a game this series. Tonight won’t be that night, but will be another step towards figuring it all out.

Lakers- 98 Thunder- 85

NBA Playoff Predictions 4-18-10

Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Lakers

A Must-See First Round Matchup

The matchups at every position are intriguing to say the least, but can a young team like the Thunder really compete in big game situations against the team that knows how to do it best? While I’d like to think they can, past history would prove otherwise. Despite the Lakers struggles to put all the talent together on a consistent night-to-night basis along with battling injuries they’ll prevail in Game 1 at home and carry forth as the series moves along. But don’t sleep on the series, this series offers the rest of the league and it’s fan a glimpse of the future in the NBA.

Lakers- 106 Thunder- 98

Charlotte Bobcats at Orlando Magic

The Owner & His Captain: Can they lead the movement?

With one of the best regular season home records in the NBA, the Magic shouldn’t disappoint in Game 1. With that being said, taking a quick look up and down the Bobcats roster that task will be far from easy. The Bobcats will come out ready to play and will make this a very exciting series to watch. It’s also valuable to note that the Bobcats have a variety of SEASONED big men to throw at Dwight Howard. If “Captain Jack” can rally the crew behind his long range three pointer, this series could easily forced a heated Game 7. Center & Point positions are my favorite matchups to watch Dwight/Gortat vs. Ratliff/Chandler & the matchup of two very similar point guards Jameer Nelson vs. Raymond Felton (similar style of play & physique).

Magic- 101 Bobcats- 93

San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks

Mountain Dew is also refreshing but drinking 2 liters before games is just insane

Wait…shouldn’t we typically see this series in a later round? The answer to that question makes me feel so ancient but nonetheless life goes fast. This series will be quite the sight to see and I believe the term “refreshed” sums up the matchup. The Mavericks “refreshed” their roster with the late additions of Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and DeShawn Stevenson. On the other hand, the Spurs decided to “refresh” their roster before the ’09-’10 campaign even began adding two important pieces for the playoffs in Antonio McDyess and Richard Jefferson. But despite the preseason additions, the Spurs are just now feeling like a “refreshed” roster. They’ve battled with injuries of Parker/Ginobili while also battling the sluggish play of Jefferson. The return of Parker/Ginobili is scary one-two punch and with the drastic performance improvements Jefferson’s made lately, this series will be as interesting as it always has been. This year the series is just delivered to NBA a bit early, but hey it’s kind of refreshing!

Mavericks- 94 Spurs- 88

Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns

Umm...yeah self explanatory: Just another day at the office for STAT

Without Brandon Roy, the Blazers will get manhandled in Game 1 in Phoenix but it’s definitely too early for me to commit to a Phoenix Suns sweep. The Bucks and of course the Blazers are two teams that unfortunately seem to always be forced to adapt to key losses but they do so very well. I see that being no different, even if that Blazers loss is the team’s leader and best player. This is a prime opportunity for Aldridge to step up and I’m sure that’s an overused statement that’s dragged on around the city of Portland for years now. Aldridge will continue to be a often forgot about player until he can prove that he should be mentioned along with the league’s best power forwards. Coincidentally, he’ll have to prove that by matching up against arguably the league’s best power forward in Amare Stoudemire. The Suns power forward is on a mission and has his eye on the prize, that prize….(drum roll please)….is a new contract (NOT a championship, sorry Phoenix). But Amare will be an ultimate beast this series and if you don’t believe me just ask Dante Cunningham!

Suns- 112 Blazers- 102