Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski reported tonight that there are “serious” talks happening between the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks that would send Tyrus Thomas and Jerome James to the Knicks in exchange for Al Harrington. As trade talks begin to heat up around the NBA, the first real proposal of the season seems to make sense for both parties.
Thomas is currently recovering from a broken forearm that has kept him out of action for the last month and a half. Since he was drafted by the Bulls in 2006, Thomas has been somewhat of a project that has improved every year, increasing his statistical performances in just about every category. At just 23 years old he still has plenty of gas left in the tank but his high energy, athletic game could surely improve if he was put into a higher tempo offense. His 6’10”, 225-pound body slots him at the power forward position, but in the Bulls half court offense he is undersized and can not be a full-time post player.
On the other hand, Harrington has done well for the Knicks, averaging over 20 points per game since he arrived in New York. The 12-year veteran has exploded for two 40-point games this season and would surely add instant offense to a Bulls team that ranks 28th in the NBA, scoring just 91.4 points per game. The bigger Harrington would take over the Bulls power forward spot and give Derrick Rose another offensive weapon to go along with Luol Deng and Joakim Noah.
From a money perspective, the Bulls would be wise to make this move as Harrington’s contract expires after this season. General Manager John Paxson is clearly looking to the 2010 “Free Agent Sweepstakes”, where he and the Bulls are expected to make plays for free agents Chris Bosh and hometown hero Dwyane Wade. With Harrington’s contract going off the books after the season, more cap space will be available for the Bulls to go after those free agents. Letting go of Thomas would save the Bulls approximately $13 million.
The Knicks currently have the most cap space allotted for 2010 of any NBA team with players like Larry Hughes ($13.65 million), Darko Milicic ($7.5 million), Cuttino Mobley ($9.5 million), David Lee ($7 million), Chris Duhon ($6 million), and Nate Robinson ($4 million) all coming off the books after this season. The Knicks have made it all but public that they will pursue LeBron James next summer, the clear prized possession of the free agent class.
However, one issue that has been talked about is that the Knicks will have to show James that they still have a foundation and that they will not sacrifice the rest of the team just so they have the money to offer him a maximum contract. Adding Thomas to the Knicks, who is under contract until 2011, along with up-and-coming second year forward Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and rookies Jordan Hill and Toney Douglas would be a start in showing James that a young core of players are ready to succeed under the leadership of James if he comes to New York.
As it goes for the 2009 season, Harrington would improve the Bulls’ front court immediately alongside the fully improved Joakim Noah. Last June, the Bulls drafted Wake Forest’s James Johnson and Taj Gibson from USC. While Johnson is more of a project, just as Thomas was coming out of college, Gibson has established himself as a contributor and has the potential to start for the Bulls in 2010. Despite being a fan favorite, the early emergence of Gibson makes Thomas expendable and also frees up the power forward position for Chris Bosh in 2010, presuming he decides on Chicago next summer.
Last week, Xavier’s redshirt sophomore Jordan Crawford was participating in an after-practice scrimmage at the LeBron James Skills Academy in Akron, Ohio. Crawford, formerly of Indiana, had an outstanding week of drills and games that NBA scouts alike were able to watch and take note of. The highlight of his week really came when he supposedly dunked on LeBron James who had tried to block Crawford on the flush.
The dunk occurred 20 minutes into the two-hour scrimmage, and after the dunk, the players continued playing their game as usual. The dunk came to light when it was revealed that Nike officials had confiscated two different tapes of the dunk and the rest of the scrimmage.
According to the Nike officials, the reason they took the tapes had nothing to do with the facial that LeBron received via the 20-year-old. The officials were quoted as saying:
“Unfortunately, for the first time in four years, two journalists did not respect our ‘no videotaping’ policy at an after-hours pick-up game Monday evening following the LeBron James Skills Academy.”
Ryan Miller, one of the journalists that was filming the game, claims that Nike never told him about the policy and he felt he had done nothing wrong. Whether Miller was confused by what Nike had told him or whether he was told something incorrect, the fact remains that no videotaping is allowed after the practices.
It isn’t like Nike made up the rule after the dunk had occurred so that the tapes had to be taken away. Think about it: have you ever seen footage of college players and pro players taking part in a scrimmage? The Academy has been running for four years and no one ever misunderstood the rules or filmed during practice.
I’m not going to be blind in knowing that there’s a chance LeBron tried to save his behind by not letting the tape get out. Can you imagine how many views that footage would get on Youtube? However, from a legal standpoint, LeBron and Nike were also trying to save their behinds because Miller and the other camera man were breaking the rules.
Rules are rules and unfortuantely Miller broke them and was reprimanded for it. It just so happened that LeBron was dunked on during the rule breaking. In an era of Youtube, Twitter, and cell phones with video capability, recruiting violations can happen anywhere and at any time. With high school prospects in attendance, videotaping was taken very seriously by Nike and they acted on it.
Had this happened during a time when filming was allowed, there’s a great chance (can’t be positive) that LeBron would have gotten a chuckle out of it when he saw it air everywhere on ESPN.
The other problem I have with how this is all being handled is when LBJ is compared to MJ in this situation. Everywhere I have read and people I have talked to tell me that there is no way Jordan would have let something like this happen. That he would have taken his poster dunk like a man and wouldn’t have tried to hide like LeBron did.
I realize that wearing number 23 and number nine in the Olympics and just about EVERYTHING else has LeBron compared to Jordan, but there’s no way these two players can be compared in this stance. As was mentioned before, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and any other form of communication has made it possible for everything to be reported.
Had this happened to Jordan in 1990 in a gym in Akron, Ohio, it might have made the back page of the Akron Beacson Journal sports section.
Does a guy like LeBron really need to save his ego and rep? Did he think that when people saw this dunk they would put their Cavs jerseys on eBay in exchange for a number 55 Xavier jersey? I don’t think so.
Earlier today, I was reading an article on ESPN.com that paneled seven experts from the website and compared LeBron James and Kobe Bryant in 25 categories. You can read the article and results here, but here’s my take on each of the categories. (In parentheses after the question is the result of the ESPN vote).
1. Who Has Better Nicknames? (Kobe wins 4-3)
Kobe goes by “Black Mamba” while LeBron is called “The Chosen One” and “King James”. Personally, I can not figure out why Kobe won this one. Most reporters and analysts refer to LeBron as “King James” while the Black Mamba is much less known to most. My Take: LeBron
2. Who Makes Better Commercials? (LeBron wins 7-0)
I have to agree with the analysts here as LeBron has put out some very good commercials recently. “The LeBrons” are hilarious and I can not remember the last commercial that Kobe did for Nike. My Take: LeBron
3. Who Would Win A Spelling Bee? (Kobe wins 7-0)
Kobe seems like a smarter guy than LeBron to start with, but the fact that Kobe knows Italian gives him the easy edge here. He definitely has his languages down pat and would take the spelling bee. My Take: Kobe
4. Whose Tell-All Twitter Feed Would You Rather Follow? (LeBron wins 5-2)
LeBron is quite the jokester and, being younger, seems to have more fun off the court. He is very good friends with Jay-Z and I would love to see what the two of them do on a regular basis. LeBron is definitely a fun dude. My Take: LeBron
5. Who Will Have The More Interesting Life After Basketball? (LeBron wins 4-3)
LeBron may gain more maturity as he goes on, but right now he is all about being in the spotlight and making as much money as he can. While there is nothing wrong with that, I can see him being in the business world (somewhat like MJ) well after he is done on the court. My Take: LeBron
6. Who Would Win a 100-Meter Race? (LeBron wins 6-1)
Watching LeBron on the fast break leads me to believe he would take this category. Kobe plays outstanding defense and is very quick but James’ strides would take Kobe in this one. My Take: LeBron
7. Who Would Win A Marathon? (Kobe wins 7-0)
I have to go ahead and agree with the analysts here that Kobe would take the cake in a marathon. The guy seems to never get tired down the stretch, regardless of how many minutes he has played. My Take: Kobe
8. Who Would Be The Better Football Player? (LeBron wins 6-1)
This is really interesting because I don’t know what position LeBron would play. Wide receiver makes the most sense, but at 6’8″, is he too big? I am going to take Kobe here because I think he would play wide receiver and dominate. He’s the perfect size (6’5″) and at this point is probably a little more agile than LeBron. King James is a physical freak, but Kobe is no slouch. My Take: Kobe
9. Who Would Be The Better Soccer Player? (Kobe wins 7-0)
Not too fond of this question, but the agility and endurance factor that Kobe has makes me believe he would be the better soccer player. He can also speak Italian, so yeah. My Take: Kobe
10. Who Would Win In The Octagon? (LeBron wins 6-1)
Both of these guys have the heart of a champion but LeBron’s size advantage has to give him the nod here. He is a physical specimen and has close to 60 pounds on Kobe. No one can stop LeBron as he goes through the lane, so I’d hate to see someone have to stop him as he does the same thing without a basketball. My Take: LeBron
11. Who Had The Better High School Years? (LeBron wins 7-0)
This is a tough one for Kobe who was absolutely dominant in high school. Unfortunately, LeBron was just as good and had ESPN in his high school every waking moment. He went undefeated his senior year and won a state title with four of his best friends. My Take: LeBron
12. Who Was Better At Age 24? (LeBron wins 6-1)
Kobe did have a pair of rings when he was 24 years old, but having Shaquille O’Neal on his team will always make people wonder. LeBron has done everything on his own and is poised to make a championship run this year with absolutely no help. Tough call here but I have to go with King James. My Take:LeBron
13. Who Has Had The Better Career So Far? (Kobe wins 7-0)
Kind of an unfair question as there is no argument for LeBron. Kobe has been around much longer and has the three rings that LeBron does not. At 30 years old, Kobe is still performing at such a high rate that LeBron is not even gaining that much ground on him. My Take: Kobe
14. Who Will Finish With The Better Career? (LeBron wins 7-0)
Just because LeBron took home all seven votes does not mean it was by that much. Stat-wise, LeBron will surpass Kobe in just about every category but the verdict is still out on whether or not LeBron will win three (or more titles). I’ll give it to James by a hair. My Take: LeBron
15. Who Is A Better Leader? (Lebron wins 6-1)
Everyone knows about how the Cavaliers bench has more fun than any team in the NBA and how LeBron can corral a team and make them all believe. However, I am one of the few that believes Kobe gets the short end on how good of a teammate he really is. Ballhog or not, Kobe makes everyone around him better and is great on the bench and off the court. Give me Kobe all day. My Take: Kobe
16. Who Has Had Better Dunks? (LeBron wins 6-1)
This was one of the easier ones for me to pick as LeBron has some of the most amazing dunks that I have ever seen. It’s not just on the fast break that he does it, either. He will drive to the hoop where two defenders are waiting and still throw it down. He elevates like no one else I have seen and can get the crowd going with a slam home. My Take: LeBron
17. Who Will Finish With More MVP Titles? (LeBron wins 7-0)
Considering that LeBron has already tied Kobe I will have to go with him in a landslide here. Steve Nash has more MVP awards than Kobe and he has gotten hosed on a few trophies, but that is neither here nor there. I will go out on a limb and say that LeBron will have at least five MVP’s when it is all said and done (same as MJ). My Take: LeBron
18. Who Will Finish With More Rings? (LeBron wins 4-3)
I believe that Kobe will add another ring to his collection this year, giving him four. I can not see LeBron ending his career with more than four so I will give this one to the Black Mamba. A lot of people do not understand just what it takes to win a championship, let alone three. My Take: Kobe
19. Whom Would You Rather Have On Your Pick-up Team? (LeBron wins 4-3)
ESPN analysts Henry Abbott made a great point that changed my mind on this one. I was going to take Kobe, but his comment:
“Whom would you pick? The super intense guy who often reams out his teammates … or the freakishly big, strong guy who passes willingly and loves a good joke?”
made me change my pick to LeBron. He knows when to laugh during a game but can also turn that switch and take over a game. Regardless of who I pick, my team has a pretty good shot at winning this pick-up game. My Take: LeBron
20. Who Is The Truer Heir to MJ? (Kobe wins 6-1)
I fully believe that Kobe is the closest player we will ever see to MJ. LeBron is flashy, gets the crowd involved, and has some pretty cool basketball shoes, but the way Kobe handles himself and acts on the court is very much like MJ. I do not think either will ever be considered better than MJ, but Kobe is closer. My Take: Kobe
21. Who Would Win A One-on-One Game? (Kobe wins 5-2)
Kobe has the best mid-range jumpshot in the NBA and that would be key for him winning a game against LeBron. Bryant does an excellent job guarding James when the two meet in games so I do not think the size factor would come into play as much as one would think. My Take: Kobe
22. One Game, One Guy: Whom Would You Pick? (LeBron wins 4-3)
Just because of what Kobe has been through in his career, I give him the nod today. In six years, I probably go with LeBron but he just is not experienced enough. Sure, he has been to the Finals but look how he fared in that. Kobe is as clutch in big games as they come. My Take: Kobe
23. 24 Seconds to Play, Down Two: Who Gets The Ball? (Kobe wins 6-1)
The way I looked at this question was who is going to give me the best chance of tying the game up for my team. That guy is LeBron. No one is better than A) winding down the clock and pulling up from 25 feet out and B) driving to the hole and drawing a foul. Because of those two factors, I’ll take LeBron getting me two points at the end. My Take: LeBron
24. Who Gets The Last Shot? (Kobe gets 5-2)
Now this question is different from the last. For a last second shot, outside of MJ, there is no one else’s hands I would want the ball in more than Kobe. He is as clutch as they come and has the experience to take the last shot. It would probably go in, too. My Take: Kobe
25. Who Is Better? (LeBron wins 4-3)
Ugghhh, they would ask this at the end, wouldn’t they? At the beginning of the year, I would drop everything to watch LeBron and within about two minutes of watching, he would have my jaw on the ground with something amazing he did. However, the more I thought about it, being flashy does not make you better.
Don’t get me wrong, LeBron is right at the top of the list and you can clearly make a case for him as the best player basketball in the world. The point is that even though LeBron can jump out of the gym and resurrect a franchise in five years, Kobe still does it all.
He has been through SO much in his career and still perseveres through it all. Maybe he has me fooled, but I believe he is a great teammate and even better person that has everything you look for in a superstar. My Final Take: Kobe
*It was interesting to note that of the 25 categories, LeBron had my vote in seven of the 11 non-basketball related questions.
When it came to basketball related questions, Kobe had seven of my votes compared to six for LeBron. The two most important questions, in my opinion, also went to Kobe (more rings and last shot).
It seems as though every sports writer and their grandmother have put the Cleveland Cavaliers into the NBA Finals to face the Los Angeles Lakers. The West has a few people torn, but the general consensus is that the Lakers will come out on top. Whether or not the Denver Nuggets will give them a series remains to be seen, but back in the East there is a team that has a very good shot at giving LeBron and the Cavs a run for their money: The Orlando Magic.
The Magic did not have any of the big storylines on the year like the Heat did with Dwyane Wade’s MVP-type season, or the Celtics did with Kevin Garnett’s injury, or the Cavs did with the can-do-no-wrong LeBron James.
Sure, Dwight Howard was a key contributor to the team this year as he picked up Defensive Player of the Year honors, but the award seemed to come and go this year unlike last year when Garnett won it. Maybe it was the “under the radar” mentality that the Magic had despite winning 59 games, or maybe it was Dwight Howard’s big smile during every game.
It might have even been that they were not flashy at all this year. Whatever the reason, the Magic are here to stay and are going to do some serious damage in the playoffs.
In the first round, the Magic overcame a few hiccups to take four of the last five games, including three straight, against a talented but injured Sixers team. They did not look like world beaters in the first three games of the series.
Their defense was struggling and the Sixers had the swagger of a team looking to knock off Howard’s third-seeded squad, especially after two buzzer beating shots to take wins in the first three games of the series.
However, the thing to note was that even in the two losses, both games were close because of Orlando’s capability to step up and play critical defense when necessary.
In the second round, the Magic will match up against the most tired second seed in NBA history. After seven overtimes and one of the most exciting (not best) playoff series of all time, many wonder what, if anything, the Boston Celtics have left in the tank.
Whatever they have left, they might want to get some more as they go up against six feet, 11 inches, and 265 pounds of rested, hungry Dwight Howard starting Monday. I am going to make the prediction right now that the Magic and the Cavaliers will advance in their respective matchups, and that is where the fun starts.
Is it just me, or do the Orlando Magic have a striking resemblance to last year’s Boston Celtics? Wait, hear me out! They are not last year’s Celtics because they do not have potentially three Hall of Famers and are not the favorites in the whole league to win it all. What they do have is the Defensive Player of the Year in Howard, who was arguably more efficient this year than Garnett was last year as he led the league in rebounds and blocks.
For a comparison’s sake, let’s call Rashard Lewis this year’s Ray Allen. Lewis was stuck in Seattle forever, not only being hurt by the fact that he played for the Sonics but also because he played second fiddle to Ray Allen.
If you go back and look, Lewis’s stats this year are almost identical to Allen’s last year. Despite Lewis playing more of a forward position (an added bonus), he is more than capable of playing shooting guard on the Magic and is the sharpshooter that does a little bit of everything.
Hedo Turkoglu, aside from percentages, matches up even better with Paul Pierce from last year and plays the same style of basketball that Pierce does. While the leadership qualities might not be there for Turkoglu, the stats and performance are.
In Rafer Alston, you have a shoot-first point guard who takes care of the ball extremely well. While Rajan Rondo was much more of a pass first point guard last year, the roles that each player had on their teams were more of the court general, making sure things were running smoothly as the “big three” took games over.
If anything, Alston is more valuable because he does what Rondo does and adds a few more points over the course of a game. His field goal percentage, always a point of scrutiny for Alston, jumped over four points with Orlando while his attempts went down. That’s always a good combination for a point guard.
Because of matchup combinations, Courtney Lee matches up with Kendrick Perkins as we round out the starters. However, the more I think about it, the two of them matching up makes a whole lot of sense.
Lee is a rookie that has given big minutes, 25 per game, and produced with about eight points per game. Last year Perkins was also the young gun on the team, in his fourth year seeing decent minutes and first year starting. He averaged 24 minutes and poured seven points per game. The similarities between the two are striking.
As we all know, one of the biggest reasons that the Celtics were able to take home last year’s crown was because of bench play. James Posey was the unheralded star off the bench in the playoffs for the Celtics, and Mickael Pietrus is the closest thing to him.
While Posey was much more efficient last year, Pietrus offers versatility off the bench and is really capable of playing three positions on the court. Also, being on Golden State really hurt Pietrus’s stock on defense but was one of the main reasons that he received minutes in Golden State.
As J.J. Redick proved in game six, he is more than ready to take on the role of Eddie House this year. Despite the attention that House got last year, he only averaged 2.4 points per game and made less than one three-pointer in the playoffs.
Redick did not play in two of Orlando’s first round games, but had to start in game six due to Courtney Lee’s injury. He finished the game with 15 points and drained five threes. There is no reason why Redick can not come off the bench when a big shot is needed or Orlando is looking for shots.
Tony Battie is capable of giving the team good minutes, just like P.J. Brown did last year and the veteran Anthony Johnson has given the Magic quality and efficient minutes, just like Sam Cassell did last year.
While Marcin Gorat is hardly equal to Leon Powe and Glen Davis, he is still going to give good minutes for the Magic, as seen with his double-double in game six when Dwight Howard was suspended for his elbow on Sam Dalembert.
It’s true that Orlando is not nearly as deep as Boston was last year, but then again no team in the East is. Not even the Cavaliers. While you can make the argument that some of the comparisons are reaches and that Boston’s talent was better last year, the stats and situations do not lie and it is possible that Orlando makes the run Boston did last year.
Standing in Orlando’s way of an Eastern Conference Championship, barring a miraculous upset from Miami or Atlanta, will be the Cleveland Cavaliers. Breaking down this potential matchup only gives me more confidence that Orlando will be standing tall at the end of the series.
Yes, I am writing this piece based on more than the fact that the Magic have defeated the Cavaliers twice this year against just one loss. In the first game, Jameer Nelson was still running the show for the Magic and J.J. Hickson was getting decent minutes for the Cavs, with the Magic running away with the game in the second half led by Dwight Howard’s 22 points and 18 rebounds.
In the second matchup, the Magic went into the Quicken Loans Arena and hung with the best home team in the league until the final minute, when King James took the game over to take the 97-93 win. Rafer Alston had been successfully traded after Jameer Nelson’s season ending injury took place, and starred in the game with 23 points to go with four rebounds and four assists.
In the finale of the season series, the Magic led by as much as 40 points as they coasted to an easy 116-87 victory, having seven players in double figures for the game.
In these three games, we saw that the Magic are able to, at the very least, hang with the Cavaliers on any given night. More importantly, their play on the road shone brightly in Cleveland in a game that it took the eventual number one seed down to the final minute.
From a regular season standpoint, the Magic looked great in their games against Cleveland and were as competitive as any other team in the league, but an even stronger sign to Orlando’s potential success against Cleveland lies in the man-to-man matchups in the series.
First off, no one on the Cavaliers, or the NBA for that matter, can match the brute strength of Dwight Howard. His size and quickness just add to his arsenal of lethal attacks that he puts on defenses every night.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao will get the daunting task of matching up with Howard, but how they will stop him remains to be seen. In three games this year, Howard has averaged 18.3 points and 14.7 rebounds to go along with 3.7 blocks. His field goal percentage against Cleveland was higher than his season average and his turnovers were down.
Howard will have his way with the Cavaliers defense and get most any shot he wants. Everyone talks about Cleveland’s stellar defense, but as it has been all year, Orlando seems to go unmentioned. LeBron James lives on driving to the hoop and finishing a one-on-one matchup at the rim or dishing off to an open teammate if help comes.
James will face the toughest matchup of the playoffs if he is matched up with Howard, and by not needing much help defense, Howard is more than up to the task of taking on James. James is going to get his points, rebounds, assists, and Sportscenter Top 10 dunks.
Any team that tries to stop him will get beaten by Mo Williams or Delonte West as they watch LeBron, with three defenders on him, laugh at his wide open teammates shooting threes. Howard can contain James and make sure someone else beats them, but not without a fight.
While Hedo Turkoglu will give up strength to most power forwards in the NBA, Anderson Varejao averaged just a little over nine points per game in the three meetings. Because Cleveland’s forwards outside of James are not big scorers, Turkoglu’s matchup problems mean less than they would against other teams.
Rafer Alston is by no means an All-Defensive player, but he has stepped up his play on defense since joining the Magic, as most teammates of Dwight Howard could attest to. Shutting down Mo Williams is second on the list to containing LeBron James and Alston will have to take on that task.
Having Courtney Lee back from injury might be the single most important ingredient, but thankfully due to the NBA’s ridiculous playoff system, the Magic would not play the Cavaliers for about two weeks. That should be plenty of time for him to get healthy, but they will need it because while Lee is a great perimeter defender, his replacement Redick is a liability on defense.
While it remains to be seen whether someone can knock out the current Beasts of the East, the Magic are the most prepared team to take the job. While getting past the Celtics will be no easy task, defeating the Cavaliers in a seven game series means that you would have to win a game on the road.
Only one other team (not counting Philadelphia) has done that: the Los Angeles Lakers. It should be an interesting series and hopefully the games can continue to be as exciting as they were in round one.