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NBA Pre-Preseason Power Rankings Part 3

So here we are, the last 8 teams of my NBA preview. The league tips off tonight and with it comes the usual 7000 questions about the upcoming season. I will try answer some of them but the rest can only be answered by time and games played. Regardless of the outcome of this season it is in the running for being one of the most exciting, teams tanking for this “once in a generation” draft, Dwight Howard, can Kobe come back, are the Knicks done?, can the Nets buy a championship, can Jason Kidd coach?. There are so many questions and so many possible outcomes that any basketball fan should be drooling.

But forget all that for now. Let us talk the top 8 teams in the NBA, these to me are the teams that have a chance at making their Conference Finals.

8: Brooklyn Nets:

After Joe Johnson did this to Paul Pierce he felt so good he demanded that the Nets get him so he can train against him every day.

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The Nets owner has once again thrown his checkbook wide open and laughed heartily at the Capitalist notion of “tax”. The Nets who added Pierce, Garnett and Kirilenko this offseason will pay a reported $186 million in salary and tax. The Sixers this year will pay around $30 million in total. The russian owner cares little for our notions of penny pinching.
With the additions comes a pedigree of winning. Pierce and Garnett are winners and more than that they are leaders. The Nets were beaten in the playoffs by a Bulls team that had no Rose and a broken Noah. They had no leaders. Now they have 2 of the best. Garnett and Lopez are going to be a force together. Lopez plays down on the block and Garnett is top 3 in the league at mid range shooting. The spacing they will have naturally is a weapon that Jason Kidd will have whenever his first 5 are on the court.
Jason Kidd has never coached a full game before, think about that. Its not that I think he is not smart or knowledgeable but his first full regular season game will be his first competitive game ever.
Luckily his team is stacked with scoring talent and Deron Williams is in a year where he can have no more complaints. He is surrounded by talent and has the coach he wanted. This is his season. He needs a big one.

7: Houston Rockets

The Dwightmare is over in LA and he has landed in Houston. The best place he could have landed. Small market town that is football obsessed and a media that will not jump on him for every free throw missed. This is Dwights first time to play basketball in front of people that want him there in about 3-4 years. He should step back up to 90% of 2010 Dwight.
Their preseason MVP is their GM Daryl Morey. He stock piled assets and draft picks and for a long while he looked crazy. Then he turned it all into James Harden and Dwight Howard.

dwight howard james harden

 

Which has now become a great team on paper with a great coach..

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The Rockets this year have the best center in the NBA and the best shooting guard in the NBA. James Harden showed last year that any question of his talent obliterated. There were people that thought Durant and Westbrooks made him as good as he was. That we know is nowhere near correct.
The 2 main issues at this point are the PG spot and Omer Asik. Jeremy Lin who kind of struggled last season, lost a lot of  minutes to Patrick Beverely. Bev is a destructive defensive player, just ask Westbrooks knee. Lin is a player that can score and create. It is Ying and Yang. I would say that they will be subbed in and out to do with offense and defence. If you have 2 great players that play the same position then thank your lucky stars they play different ends of the court.
The Asik contract is the really interesting bit of business. I do not think him and Dwight can play together and he is too big a contract to be a back up. I see them trying to get Ryan Anderson from New Orleans to reunite him and Dwight and add another shooter to the outside of the Rockets offense. If that happens they are a much bigger threat but for now they are a very good number 7.

6: Oklahoma City Thunder

This is the first year that I have looked at the Thunder and not seen them really be a threat to the Heat. Durant is the second best players in the league, which is a much closer race than some people think. Westbrook who is injured is one of the most athletic players in the league and is just unstoppable when he is on form. Serge Ibaka is a brilliant role player on this team, he now shoots very well and protects the rim with the best of them. It is everyone else that makes me really worry for this Thunder team. Perkins is an awful basketball player, Kevin Martin was replaced with….. emmmm….. next question. Reggie Jackson is the back up point guard right now and will start the first 6 weeks of the season. Do not get me started on Derek Fisher. Haseem Thabeet is still in the NBA….
This Thunder team is going to need Durant to score 40 a game to win while Westbrook is out. Even though a lot of people think there is tension between Durant and Westbrook I dont see it. Westbrook took the most shots in the NBA last season and is very moody but him and Durant are like brothers. There is only love there and once he is back the 2 of them will dominate games and just flat out beat teams down. Still though GIFs like these are priceless

kevin durant russell westbrook

 

I am worried about the Thunder. The stink of the Harden trade is hanging over this team. He is now a superstar on a team that can only improve with an owner that does not mind the tax. This and next year might be the last year the Thunder are relevant if their owner does not open the checkbook. You can only draft superstars a couple of times.

5: LA Clippers

Doc Rivers jumped the Titanic for a passing yacht and now has to turn that yacht into a …..bigger yacht, ok bad analogy. The Clippers added exactly what they needed this season. Shooting. JJ Reddick and Jared Dudley. Dudley by the way is a player I thought just needed to be on a team that wins to succeed. He is a locker room guy and plays great defense and shoots. Doc Rivers will love him. Chris Paul held himself ransom if they did not get Doc Rivers and now they have him and it is time to see if Doc is the real deal or if he has just been the best motivator of great players. I think the real way to tell will be Griffin and DeAndre Jordans improvement.
All the hate thrown at Blake Griffin is outrageous. He is what he is. What he can improve on is his defense. Doc Rivers will bring in defensive schemes that will emphasis team movement and with that comes clear weaknesses. Blake and DeAndre will need to play hard and learn the system because if they dont they will be major holes in his system and then the media has every right bring up issues. What will the Clippers line up look like in crunch time is also a question. Jordan can not shoot free throws and Griffin is a terrible passer out of double teams and even just out of the block. It will be interesting to watch how Doc figures out his team. If he can figure out the system he will bring a top level defense to this club and the sky is the limit for a Chris Paul run offense.

4: San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs can not come back this year and win it all, they cant get to the Finals, they are too old, Duncan is too old, Parker will drop off this year……. I legally can not make any of these arguments any more. I thought at least one of those things every year since they won in 2007 and I finally get it now, they are immortal. Pop is immortal, Duncan is immortal, Boris Diaw’s hunger is immortal. The Spurs will win 55-60 games and they will trot into the playoffs with little fanfare because people think they are boring. Which is not true in any way. I have them playing the Clippers in the West Finals. Why will they be there again? Well the only change this year, other than Marco Belinelli, will be Kawhi Leonard.
He is ready, he is following the plan that Paul George used. This is his 3rd year and this is the leap. He will become an 18 point 10 rebound player this year and will soak up every bit of productivity that the Spurs will lose from Duncan and Ginobli. He can be 3rd All NBA this year and will push for most improved.
Just incase you thought I was joking about the immortal thing, look at Duncan take 8 years off Ginobli’s age…

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3: Indiana Pacers

I love the Pacers, I love Larry Bird, I love Frank Vogel. It is all love from me. The team they have built is part misfit part genius. Roy Hibbert’s twin brother Playoff Roy Hibbert needs to take his brothers spot on the team. Roy Hibbert in the playoffs is a monster that plays most of the game. Regular season Roy is a guy that fouls himself to the bench and only 30 mins a night. Roy can score and defend. He is a game changer and needs to start to understand that about himself. If he can stay at playoff level then he is an all star and 2nd All NBA. Look at this picture of him during preseason, by the way that is Tim Duncan beside him.

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Indiana had a terrible bench last season and it cost them the Miami series. They needed a change and with Larry Bird coming back he swung the axe and has brought in a new bench. CJ Watson, Chris Copeland and Luis Scola have been brought in to right the bench that has got to play better to challenge the Heat.
What makes them the 3rd best team in the league? They can beat anyone in a playoff series. They have something that people can not guard in Hibbert and someone that can stop any wing player in Paul George. Then you have scorers off the bench in Scola and Copeland and I have not even mentioned the Granger return / Granger trade for Rudy Gay or someone else. This team in the playoffs will terrify everyone. You think Noah or Bosh is happy to see Hibbert warming up on the other side of the court? No, nobody is.

2: Chicago Bulls

Im Bullish on the Bulls

I think the Bulls are really really good at basketball. They are a team that got past the Nets in the Playoffs with Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli as there guards against Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Oh and Noah was injured. Oh and I forgot the former MVP was injured in Derrick Rose. Now Rose is back and he has some new toys at his disposal. Firstly I see Boozer being traded for anything this season but back to the team Rose is running. Jimmy Butler was a breath of fresh air last season. He came on slowly and finished with playing full games on the regular….in the playoffs….. while marking Lebron James. He was an animal. He guarded Lebron brilliantly and then went down the other end and played offense on a team that could not score in a normal set.

This season Rose will run the show and open up the offensive game of Jimmy Butler. We will see a healthy Noah again, which is a joy because he truly does everything on both ends. Taj Gibson will lead the bench which has added Mike Dunleavy and his brilliant range. The Bulls did not make many moves because they did not need to. They have Derrick Rose back and he will be as destructive as ever. Watching him in preseason he looks great. His stroke looks the same and he is jumping off both feet with the same anger and explosiveness we know and love.
I think this comeback year will bring them to the Eastern Finals and will allow them to really take it to Miami. I think it will be close but when they send Boozer packing for another piece to put around Rose they will close that gap even more. Boozer is the key and needs to be sent packing…

BoozerOpenMouth

 

….yes you.

1: Miami Heat

The Heat are champs because Tim Duncan was not on the floor to get a rebound in game 6. Oh and they were the best team in the NBA last season. Champions do things like that alot, they score baskets when they shouldnt and they punish mistakes. The whole “Miami didnt win the championship, the Spurs lost it” headline is pitiful. The Heat are balanced perfectly for their style of play. Their big men are systematically perfect with Bosh, Anderson doing things the other can not. Wade is much better than Wade’s body is allowing him to be but he will put in the effort one every 3 games and Chalmers and Ray Allen will contribute whenever they have their chance. Then they went this strange route and signed 2 players that are proven issues that walk. Greg Oden and Michael Beasley. I do not get the 2 signings, I think part of it is ego. These 2 guys are trouble, they can not really play basketball for physical(Oden) and mental (Beasley) reasons. I think the Heat might secretely think that they can gamble 2 roster spots away and still win just like they did with Birdman. Birdman was signed towards the end of the season and worked out perfectly for them, I fear these 2 signings are wastes.

Thankfully they have a guy names LeBron James. Who is the best player on the planet right now. He does it all and will do it all again. It is a joy to watch him and he is the face of basketball globally. I spent the summer with 4 guys that do not watch basketball and they either knew him or I explained that he was the Messi of basketball. That explains it all really. He is the King

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The Heat are the target for all of the basketball world and you have to aim at them to claim silverware this year.

Let the games begin.

Eddie Barron

NBA Pre-Preseason Power Rankings Part 2

OK OK OK I am sorry but it will need one more post to complete this. To say sorry I will give you my favorite basketball GIF of all time…. please enjoy Bill Murray blocking a kid
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Some slight changes I would make from the first part of my power rankings:

  • Lakers will not be the 29th team in the NBA is Kobe is as inhuman as he seems to be. He “shattered” his original timetable and if he is back within a month of the season starting he is worth 20 wins easy.
  • I would of put in more Pekovic GIFs. I love Pekovic GIFs

The First Round Fodder:

15: Cleveland Cavaliers

Oh Cleveland, you are the unlucky uncle of the NBA. From their creation in 1970 they have been a poor team (average win % of  .456). Then they have arguably their best team and make the playoffs and are a threat for the championship, only problem was Michael Jordan had just started to be Michael Jordan in Chicago. Then they win the LeBron sweepstakes and the home town kid plays for his home town team. That was like the uncle winning the lottery and you’re full sure his life will be good from now on. Then the accountant runs off to Miami with a briefcase filled with his money.
But now the Cavs can cautiously smile again. The brilliance of their new center piece is something every NBA organisation drools over. Kyrie Irving is your prototypical young point guard. He can do it all and will do it all consistently when he plays. Injury free season is not something Kyrie has had yet, missing a total of 38 games in his 2 years in the NBA. What makes this year different is what the Cavs have added. Injury stricken but uber talented Andrew Bynum was signed to a 2 year deal. What does this say about the Cavs? It shows a mentality switch. It has shown that the lottery is no longer good enough and that to even think about resigning LeBron in 2015 they have to show they are willing to put the money on the court.

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Celebrating the Lottery like a championship is not normal, but on Cavs it is

For this year though they are a team that, injury free, have to see the playoffs as a must. They are very deep at all positions, although the deepness at small forward still involves Alonzo Gee. The front 5 of Bynum, Thompson, Varejao, Zeller and Bennett is one that is talented but also hugely flexible. Other additions such as Jarrett Jack and CJ Miles strengthen a bench that was big-heavy. The Cavs need to have a injury free season and if they do they can maybe, just maybe be a threat to a 4-5 seed.

14: Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks are a team that have never excited me, they are like ham and cheese sandwich. A ham and cheese sandwich is never going to be the best food stuff in the world but it is a damn good snack and people constantly call it “underrated”. The Hawks have been one of the Easts best teams for the last 6 years but not once did I ever think they were going to win a championship. The panic Joe Johnson contract (which is one of the worst modern day contracts ever) showed that maybe it was not going to be possible to even come close to a champioship. So they have learned from their mistakes and have made huge changes in the last few years and now they are here…. In the middle of another run at being first round fodder. But there is some positives.
The Hawks lost Josh Smith but it was probably time for that to happen because he was the engine to a car that couldn’t get off the blocks. Joe Johnson was sent to the Nets (the only team with an owner crazy enough to think he is worth that money), leaving the only “star” on the team as Al Horford. They added Paul Milsap through a brilliant 2yr $19 million contract. Think about that, they get Paul Milsap who is undersized but still one of the best forwards in the league. Consistent and healthy are other qualities that he brings to the table. He is replacing Josh Smith and he is bringing maybe 90% of Smiths production for 50% the price. You take that offer all day.
The rookies taken by the Hawks are high potential and moderately low risk investments too. I watched Bebe (Lucas) in Spain last year and he was a bag of energy that rebounded and blocked shots all game and ended up tipping in the winning shot on the buzzer. He can be energy but is so raw offensively and very lightweight right now. Denis Schroeder is a hugely athletic and exciting point guard that will become a good player. He will get people out of their seat, the Hawks though may not. Teauge and Korver will be solid and were smart resigns but still the Hawks can not hurt a Heat or a Bulls.

13: Portland Trail Blazers:

Portland went about things the right way this offseason. Their interior defense last season was an embarrassment. They allowed the 47%  opposition shooting which is 2nd worst in the league. They located their issue and added Robin Lopez who can do very little other than play defense and rebound. I mean look at him catch an offensive rebound..

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Wow even when celebrating on the bench he boxes out…

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An awful lot of Robin Lopez I know but he is a surprisingly important addition this summer. He now gives Aldridge most plays off on defense. Robin can take the best big man on the other team and let Aldridge take what ever is left over. It is a simple idea but has been known to work, just look at the Celtics with Leon Powe, Glenn Davis and Jared Sullinger. Do you think they would produce the numbers they did without KG taking the defensive load every possession?
This offseason has been a bountiful experience for the Blazers with a draft that gave them the second coming of Damien Lillard in McCallum. Combo guard with a scoring and passing pedigree from a small college sound familiar? Thought so. If one is good, two is better. The Meyers Leonard experiment will also start to produce fruit with tutoring from Lopez. So the Blazers added more youth and a limited big man, so what right?
Well how about adding 31 years of NBA experience with 3 players that can still contribute right now? Mo Williams, Earl Watson and Dorrell Wright have also been added to the roster to round out a young core. Scoring from Williams and the range of Wright give them a new offensive edge as well as the decent back up Watson is to 2 young and inexperienced combo guards. Batum will continue to improve (hopefully on the defensive side) and the outragously good pick up of Thomas Robinson from the fire sale in Houston will be a great move within weeks of the season starting, you have my word.

12: Detroit Pistons:

DEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEETROIT BASKETBAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL. Love it or hate it Detroit is back to being a thing in the NBA. Since the golden age of basketball has come hard times. The hardest of times actually. Signing Ben Gordon to a 5 year contract is ridiculous thing to do, making it $55 million over those 5 years is even worse. That’s pretty bad. The signing of Charlie Villanueva to different 5 year contract is a sin. It may be the original sin but I am not 100% on that. Now that time is coming to an end and the once proud basketball city is back to being relevant. (The Pistons will look to trade Charlie but will not amnesty him.)
The Pistons urgency to get into the playoffs this year was underpinned by the moves they made. Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith are the big names that were added. Brandon Jennings is a polarizing player, you can love him and defend him to the hills or you can hate him and point at his shot selection and inconsistency and laugh. The end point is that he is a top 10 point guard in this league and that is a commodity that  you need to even sniff getting through a playoff series. He was awful in the playoffs this year, that could be down to the fact that the Heat were a defensive force that stopped him from being able to score or create (He shot sub 30% and only averaged 4 assists).
I do not think that is the real Brandon Jennings though. The pairing of him and Ellis always confused me. We really like Jennings so surely we would like someone who is just like him?! That experiment didn’t work and it is now over thank god. The Pistons have something the Bucks never had, a low post presence. Or in this case 2 presences. Greg Monroe is a stud that can do it all offensively. Defensively he could use some help and luckily for him he is receiving that help in a big way. Andre Drummond is my lock for most improved player of the year. He had that physical gifts (290 pounds at 6’11) last year but lacked the league knowledge you only get from time on court. His minutes will go up this year and so will his production. He has a great running mate in Monroe, who is one of the best passing big men in the game.
The rest of the team is made up of people that I would not mind playing at most stages of a basketball game. Billups is back, the Italian Luigi Datome is a rookie that jacks up 3’s like a Galinari, Kyle Singler, Will Bynum , Jonas Jerebko and Stuckey all return and make this Detroit team a possible Eastern Conference Finals contender. Oh and Rasheed is on the bench coaching for them now so technical fouls galore too.

The 2nd Round or Busters:

11: New York Knickerbokers

The Knicks won 54 games last season. They will  not do that again this year. I think the loss of Jason Kidd on and off the court is much larger than most people think. I have never rated Mike Woodson as a head coach, his career head coach record is sub .500. Rumblings from New York were that Kidd had helped run much of the training sessions and pretty much ran the game while he was in. Kidd getting a job straight from retirement means there is at least some raw coaching talent and the Knicks will miss that leadership that they are not going to get from Carmelo and Felton. Speaking of Melo…
I love Carmelo Anthony as a basketball player. He is the most entertaining scorer in the league and is undoubtedly in the conversation for the best scorer in the league with Durant. There were times last year when the conversation about him was all about defense and how poor he is at it. So what. He gives very little effort on defense but is probably the scorer in the league. I would be fine with that. This is also an fan base that loves JR Smith, a man who plays defense like it is court appointed. Let the man just play offense and try not to make his presence on defense make the team any worse.

The offseason was not too bad to the Knicks, they picked up Andrea Bargnani who has yet to find a situation that can really make use of his offensive talents. I hope he has found his home because him and Melo and a healthy Amare’s corpse could be an offense that will excite the NBA. But let us not get excited because defensively the Knicks will struggle with Chandler and Shumpert being the only players on this team that you could call defensively solid. It could be an exciting season but most likely I see a stuttering start leading into a solid season but anything more than the 2nd round would be a huge win for the Knicks this year.

10: Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are a great playoff team. They play their basketball throughout the season and pretty much nobody pays attention. It is not their fault and most likely they do not care. They power through the regular season and trod over smaller teams and welcome in teams to Memphis only to punish them with big bodies all night. Gasol and Randolph are one of the top 3 big man tandems in the NBA and they probably have a 23 inch vertical between them. They are so interesting to watch but only for people that like basketball, only the people that can say “their high low threat really lets Z-Bo bully more athletic big men and get to better positions”…..it is kind of boring.

Yet the Grizzlies are a great playoff team that will make the playoffs easily and nobody in the West wants to play them. You need defense to win a playoff series but you need something that a team cant stop to challenge for the finals. The big men loaded, slow ball that Memphis can throw at teams makes them something not all teams can beat. It is like Roy Hibbert vs the Heat. It is just something that other teams cant deal with. That is Memphis basketball. Bully and work hard. They feel like the only team that actually work, they get up and do a 9-5. Grind is a great word to describe them but I think they already knew that.

9: Golden State (soon to be San Francisco) Warriors

Golden State are such a great club, the crowd is loud and the basketball is quick and entertaining. They will move down the road to San Francisco soon enough but for now they stay in Oakland. They got Andre Iguodala and even better than that? They got rid of Biedrins and Richard Jefferson, who in the last year played about as well as 2 people who do not care about basketball anymore could. Shedding those contracts and dead weight allowed them to get Igoudala which makes them a much better team this year. They reacted just as they should have…
draymond-green-kent-bazemore-reax-harrison-barnesThe Warriors can and will beat anyone at some stage. Steph Curry is a total star after his coming out party in the playoffs last season. His surrounding cast is brilliant. David Lee, the offensive giant and defensive sieve, can play for any team. Bogut when healthy is a game changer. Harrison Barnes is a much better player than anyone really thought he could be. I could go through the whole team and explain why I love them but it would sound too gushy and sad. So I will just let you know the Warriors are a damn good team and will be one of the most watched teams on League Pass and national tv. Warriors at MSG will be an extremely entertaining moment in all NBA seasons for the near future. Iggy will add defensive stability but other than that their defense will be mediocre unless Bogut can play 70 games this season. Look just strap yourself in and enjoy the Warriors this season and watch as other teams try to sort out how to stop them.

Ok that is it for this sector of the preview. I will do that last 8 teams in the last post.

NBA Pre-Preseason Power Rankings Part 1

nba_power_rankings_576With only Mo Williams, Tyrus Thomas, AJ Price, Roddy Buckets as the only free agents that could even get a garbage time 30 seconds on a championship team, I think rosters are about as set as they will be. So lets start with the first group:

The Tank4Wiggins Crew:

30: Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers were a solid team last year and that’s without Andrew Bynum so this year they should really be something special. Oh they didn’t attempt to resign Bynum? That is fair enough, he is a big contract and a big risk. They still have the talented and young Jrue Holiday though so that’s a bonus. Oh he got traded? They probably got something great in return. They only got an underweight rookie center? He can’t play for a year? Knee injuries? Oh lord.

Thank god Doug Collins is still there, he could coach any team to being decent. Oh he got fired? Well they better have had a great backup choice. They didn’t? THEY STILL DON’T HAVE A COACH? Tank4Wiggins is real and it is not being taken lightly. The Sixers as of right now are worse than the Bobcats of 2011-12.

29: Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers best player is Kobe Bryant. He has a torn Achilles tendon which is one of the hardest injuries to come back from. He is however an alien made from a different fabric than us humans. I expect him to be back sooner than was scheduled but that does not matter. By then it will be December or January and with the best draft in a very long time just around the corner I don’t think the lakers will be pushing too hard. Tanking now will give Kobe the best opportunity at another ring. Something I think he can see himself.
Pau and Nash will need a tonne of help early this season and they are not going to get it. Unless Robert Sacre takes 50% of the energy he spends on bench celebrations and uses it to become a post scorer.
Side note: There is only one greater celebrator on a bench in the NBA and that is Chris Duhon.

chris duhon

28: Sacremento Kings

The Kings are a team that have talent but also suffer from a historic and laughable lack of chemistry and teamwork. Bill Simmons called them “The Pickup Team from Hell” and he was sp0t on. The main question that the whole organisation needed answering was it’s future. It’s future is now secured and the little issue of playing basketball is the only problem left. Boogie Cousins is a big talent but also a headcase. McLemore has star potential but has possible off the court distractions.
They are the worst defensive rebounding team in the NBA and I don’t see that getting any better. Though I  really like Greivis Vasquez but I think that is because he sounds like a comic book villain of the Latin variety. It will be a long season but one thing it will not be is boring. Oh and Jimmer is going to make a cool 2.5 million while being the 3rd string 2 guard, but is he happy?

jimmer2

27: Utah Jazz

The Jazz are in transition, which is funny for the 11th slowest team in the NBA. They have decent pieces, mostly the long awaited starting pair of Favors and Kanter. They also picked up the best college player in Trey Burke. He is undersized but he is no kid and should be able to play right away. So it is all positive right? Well no, their best offensive player? Gordon Hayward. Now I like Hayward, I think he is a promising swingman that has improved every year but this year he is the man. That is a large problem. The offensive load certainly can not fall to Biedrins who may be the worst offensive player of our generation. The Jazz won’t call this tanking, just rebuilding.

26: Milwaukee Bucks

So the Bucks traded Brandon Jennings for Brandon Knight, 2 other players (one is Khris Middleton who I think could be good). That is the final nail in the Tank4Wiggins coffin the Bucks are building for themselves. The team lacks scoring big men. Larry Sanders best chance at a basket is if the Bucks find a way to make blocking an offensive art. John Henson is a talented second year man who had his first year messed up by injuries. His summer league was good and the organisation must be happy to see they could have something, but again he is offensively limited. OJ Mayo is a good pick up with other pieces around him and Ilyasova is the same. They just lack those pieces. With my favorite rookie, Giannis Antetokounmpo, there now I hope he gets some game time to develop cause he is talented in a Kevin Durant way. (He is not, nor will he ever be Kevin Durant but let me dream). Plus I really look forward to people trying to say his name.. AN-TEK-O-KUMPO?

25: Phoenix Suns

Phoenix got a great piece to build around in Eric Bledsoe. He is fast and super aggressive. He fits the Suns ethos to a tee. It helps that he is one of the top 5 NBA athletes too. He just needed more court time that he was never going to get behind Chris Paul. What is a bigger plus going forward is their new coach. Jeff Hornacek blew away the interview panel for this job with a brain that most ex players don’t have. He just knows what the Suns want and how to get it. Exciting basketball is more possible now than ever with the re-introduction of smallball.

I may be the only one that thinks the Morris twins have a place in this league but I think the undersized twins have the ability to score in a good smallball system. I also think Gortat has a chance to get one last decent contract if he plays well. Alex Len is the rookie built in Gortat’s image. Big, athletic, soft hands and Eastern European. Hopefully his injury does not hold him back for too long. Also lets pray the Suns rebrand soon and get rid of the 2nd worst logo in the NBA (behind Washington of course).

24: Charlotte Bobcats

The lowly Bobcats would probably celebrate being the 5th worst team in the NBA.  A streak as the worst team in the NBA will do that to an organisation. Michael Jordan is as good as a GM as he is a loser. They went out and got a fairly large free agent in Al Jefferson, which they needed to do to show that it is in fact possible for people to go to Charlotte without being drafted. Big Al will be useful as the Bobcats can’t do offense and Al only does offense. He could theoretically take every shot while he is on the court and this would improve their offense. I think Cody Zeller is a great rookie with a very high ceiling for potential. I also like Biyombo and his defense and utterly adorable drunk kitten type offensive abilities. They will suck at times but hopefully for the franchise they can avoid being the absolute worst.

 

The Too Good to Tankers:

23: Orlando Magic 

I had a very soft spot for Orlando last season. Most of this softness was for Nikola Vucevic who I had picked as most improved player before a ball had been thrown and if it was not for that pesky Paul George he would have been my pick at the end of the season too. He had one of the best stat lines of last season (20 points, 29 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks). It was not against the Bobcats which would void the stat line but it was against the Heat.
The Magic have a very young team but that youth is plentiful. Tobias Harris came on a huge amount after he got traded to them and add him to Nicholson and Harkless and you have a big 3-4 combination no matter who is playing. The biggest trump card though is Oladipo. The 2nd overall pick in a terrible draft is usually not much but he is the best player in the draft and has the ability to come straight into this league and lock down whoever is in front of him. The Magic were the 6th worst defensive team in the league last year and I expect that to change……slightly.

22: Boston Celtics

The Celtic’s Danny Ainge is an axe wielding maniac. This is both a good and bad thing. He decided on cutting his loses with the Pierce and Garnett trade. The team is too old for another realistic title push and that’s all the Ainge cares about. Focusing on a title is not a bad thing though. What he got in return is pieces to rebuild ie, draft picks galore. The Celtics received the Nets 2016 first round pick and the ability to switch picks with the Nets in 2014 and 2017. (The Nets have the same deal with Atlanta though so the Celtics will be switching with whoever has the worse pick in 2014). What does this all mean? Well the Celts will suck this year.
Some bright points are the fact Rajan Rondo is a freak and will probably be back for the opening game from his ACL tear, new coach Brad Stevens is intreging to say the least. Loved at Butler by all basketball fans, he now has to step up to a stage much brighter than he is used to. He gets rave reviews from other NBA coaches but that means nothing in the win column.  If the Celtics can find a hypnotist that can convince Jeff Green that if he misses his first shot it IS possible to have a good game and that he doesn’t have to call it quits on that particular game, it would be great. Oh and try convince Gerald Wallace that it is 2009 and he is still a Bobcat.

21: New Orleans Pelicans

Yes we PeliCAN…… no you PeliCANT. Not this year anyway. Look I love the rebranding, I think the logos and crests are brilliant and you do not mess with Pelicans. The team however is lacking a certain…how do I put this, Greg Stiemsma is their starting center and last year he averaged 7.6 fouls per 48 minutes. I like Greg but he can’t start. Luckily they have Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson that will soak up all those minutes he will miss.
The Pels went out and got 2 good players in Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday (Any player signed that keeps Austin Rivers off the ball is a good signing). Tyreke is covered in the mist of Sacremento which is to say we dont know if he is actually any good. Was he good for the Kings of was everyone else just so bad he looked good. You know that trick of standing beside unattractive people so you look better? That is Tyreke….
Jrue Holiday got out of Philly just in time as they set up their new venture into bath tubs with plugs installed.

20: Dallas Mavericks

What I like:

  • Shawn Marian
  • Dirk
  • Jose Calderon in a new system
  • Dalembert
  • Vince Carter’s defensive revival

What I don’t like:

They are all over 31.

The Mavs are a solid team but they are an injury away from facing serious issues at pretty much all positions and that is not great when your starting 5 is over 31. Resigning Brandan Wright is a good piece of business but resigning him for 5 million a year is a strange piece of business. He averaged  8 points and 4 rebounds last year. Is that worth 10 million over 2 years? I don’t think so.
Monta Ellis is a big upgrade over Roddy Buckets and will give them firepower when Dirk sits much like Jason Terry did.

8th Seed Chasers:

19: Washington Wizards

As a Wizards fan you have to be happy, John Wall is near signing a max extension. With Kyrie Irving he is the best young point guard in the league. The Wizards biggest off season deal right now was the resigning of Martell Webster. It was a big deal, 22 million over 4 years, but if it is what the team needs to win right now then it is a good deal. He, Wall and Beal played well together when the Wizards went small.
Beal may be the key right now though. He must improve and stay at the level he finished the season with. He tore up the rookie rankings towards the end of the season. Why did he get better as the season went on? John Wall returned. John Wall needs to stay healthy this season and give the Wizards 70+ games. Okafor and Nene are solid players that do not hinder the Wiz offense. The Wizards need the playoffs maybe more than any team in the East.

18: Toronto Raptors

The Raptors are a very deep team. They are 2 deep at all positions.
PG: Lowry, Augustin
SG: DeRozan, Ross
SF: Gay , Novak, Fields
PF: Johnson, Hansborough
C: Jonas Valanciunas , Jonas Valanciunas , Jonas Valanciunas

I have a strong male crush on Jonas. He runs the floor like he hates the ground so much that it should be punished by pounding it with his feet harder than anyone else. His post moves improved all year and he showed at the summer league that he is getting a hook shot. His 8 points 6 boards a game will improve drastically this year as he learns to not foul opposing guards, forwards, fans, refs, or anyone else in the building. His ceiling for this year is 14 points 10 boards and just under 2 blocks a game. Look at his willingness to stop a sideline pass.

jonasvalThe Raptors rid themselves of the Bargiani stank that had followed them since he arrived and made it very clear that he thinks defense is that antichrist. It is time for them to make a real push for the playoffs as their window with Gay is closing quickly.

17: Denver Nuggets

George Karl was the identity of the Nuggets, he was the reason they pushed tempo like it was going out of fashion. He was liked by most NBA fans for this very reason. The Nuggets were always great to watch and now they have a new face. Brian Shaw is a name that got thrown around for every head coach job in the NBA since about 2011. He has been in great organisations like the Lakers and Pacers in the last years. The transition the team needs to make is going to be huge. Will the tempo stay ramped up to 11? Probably not to 11 but Shaw has said they will keep running but their half court offense will be more focused. Sounds pretty good to me.

So the roster, how does it look? It looks like a George Karl roster which I am not sure is a Brian Shaw roster. The lack of a star is not a brilliant start for a rookie head coach. That said it is a talented team. Ty Lawson, Andre Miller, Nate Robinson, Randy Foye will share the ball and all do different jobs well. Wilson Chandler will have to play big while Galinari is sidelined until December. The frontcourt has potential and ability. Faried is an animal, JJ Hickson broke out last year and so did Anthony Randolph (to a lesser degree.). Then there is the center position where you have 2 of the most different players of all time. McGee can win you a game by himself with his defense and rebounding but he will lose you 5 games for all the ones he wins. They you have Mozgov. Solid and reliable. It is up to Shaw who he plays more. I want Denver to make the playoffs but only because we need more Italian celebrations in the NBA.

nuggetscelebration

 

16: Minnesota Timberwolves

Ah the Timberwolves. They shed the biggest cancer of all the NBA teams this season. Goodbye Kahn and fair the well. He was the one who drafted 3 point guards in the first round. He didn’t even take the best 3. He left Steph Curry and Jrue Holiday on the board. Lets not get stuck in the details. Flip Saunders is now head of basketball operations and that should help with decision making. Oh they gave up Trey Burke for Shabbaz Muhommad? Crap.

The Wolves have one surprise this season…
rubio surpriseRubio needs a full season, his career arch shows all the promise and all the ability. He is the best passer in the league and came second in steals last year. He just needs 82 games with Kevin Love. It is projected that they will both be fully healed by the start of the season. They could be a pair of stars together and would be a must watch on league pass.
The rest of the squad is talented too. JJ Berea backs up Rubio, Kevin Martin plays in front of the talented Shved. Budinger and Brewer make up the small forward spot, both can jump out of the gym and Brewer has a renewed jumper. Of course the key to the squad is Kevin Love. If he could rebound from injuries as well as he actually rebounds he would be a superman…. that pun felt forced…sorry. Behind Love is draft flob extraordinaire Derrick Williams and largely improved Dante Cunningham. Then comes PEK.
Nikola Pekovic is to basketball what Sylvester Stallone is to the movie industry. Simple, brilliant, brilliantly-simple and looks like he is seconds from fighting everything made of atoms. He will be resigned by the Twolves and it is the right move. He has improved every year and spelled Kevin Love better than anyone could have thought.

pekmeat

 

The Wolves will be in the hunt for the playoffs and I suspect they will make it.

That is the end of part 1. 15-1 will be in part 2 including a big surprise as to who number one is. It rhymes with Cryhammy Sleet…. but shhhh the slow people might still be working it out.

 

O’Neil’s Gambit Pays Off as Killester top UCD

Killester as a team were ruthless

The starting 5 for Killester was 4 kids and Michael Westbrooks. Players like Al Casey, Puff Summers and Eoin Chubb all sat at the start while young players like Ciaran Roe got the early start. It looked bad from the start with Killester and UCD meeting the weekend before. That game would finish a blowout to UCD. Killester needed to change things up and that is what they did.

UCD started as they usually do with the ball getting inside to american John Galvin on most possessions  Killester went to their veteran on the court in Mike Westbrooks and he did work early with a layup and a trip to the line. The quarter dragged on with very little action in front of the Setanta Sports cameras that were there recording the match for their now weekly basketball show. As things were nearly slowed to a grind the substitutions started for Killester with Al Casey coming in, then Puff Summers and then Eoin Chubb. The strategy of changing the tempo and quality on the floor worked for Killester as too a 4 point lead on the back of an and one from Al Casey only to be pegged back by a jumper from Conor James. Conor then took a charge and throughout the quarter was the sole (and more than capable) defender of the bigger Westbrooks.

The 2nd quarter started with Killester up by 2 and Galvin and Matt Kelly providing the early quarter scoring. Then another bench contribution from Killester in the form of Robbie Clarke and Jody O’Neil combining on back door plays to open up UCD and give Killester the easy baskets they needed. At the half there was only a point in it but with Killester playing the better basketball. Galvin’s 16 carried UCD through a tough first half.

Summers took over in the 2nd half

The 3rd quarter was the important one. The refs took control of the game in the 3rd and never looked back. Liam Conroy had started the game timidly, not taking open shots in lieu of passing to another shooter and when he did get involved it was the refs that forced his hand. An intentional foul was called on and Killester capitalized ruthlessly. They made the free throws and then scored on the possession. Conor Meany responded with a 3 before my favorite moment of the match. Al Casey Hakeem’d the UCD bigs inside. It was the exact move that is first in that video. UCD took a time out and came out executing, Kevin Foley scoring despite getting fouled. Through the 3rd though it was the Puff show as he tore the guards of UCD apart getting to the rim and to the top of the key for simple jumpers. Killester led by 9 at the end of 3.

Galvin worked hard but did not have enough help from the outside to get the win

The 4th brought more misery for UCD, more cut throat ruthlessness from Killester and more refereeing.  UCD cut the lead to 3 in a frantic start with fastbreaks the key for the resurgent Marian squad. Then, daggers. Summers got an and 1 off a long rebound, Galvin was called for an intentional and Killester did not let up. Another intentional was called as UCD tried to foul late on to stop the clock, rounding off a performance the officials will not want to look back on. Killester ran out 10 point winners, avenging the loss of the week before.

Match Notes:

  • UCD missed an injured Dan James very badly
  • Al Casey had probably his best game of the season so far with 12 pts , 5 rebs, 4 steals
  • Puff Summers dominated the game and finished with 25 points
  • UCD shot terribly from the free throw line and had no presence from the 3 either.
  • Killester shot a much better 77% from the line to capitalize

Thanks to SportShots for the images.

 

NBA 2012-2013 Season Preview: Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics:

Coach: Doc Rivers

Key Additions: Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Jeff Green (basically a new signing)

Key Departures: Ray Allen

Star Player: Rajon Rondo

Player to Watch: Jeff Green

2011-2012 Record: 39-27 – Lost in Game 7 of Eastern Conference Finals

The Celtics roster avoided the wrath of Danny Ainge’s off season axe. It could have been a very long season if Danny had decided that it was rebuilding time all over again but instead he decided that the core of the team still represents a strong enough challenge and built on them. This has been the best off season for the Celtics since the initial formation of the

HMMMM I COULD FIRE EVERYONE….

original Big Three. Ray Allen left and his replacements, to me anyway, are better. Having the defensive ability of Courtney Lee and the explosive way Jason Terry can put points on the board gives the Celtics a deeper roster that last year.

The rookies this year are similar to how the C’s have drafted before. Take a chance on an undersized big man. Glen Davis, Jared Sullinger, Leon Powe, they have always done this and it has usually worked. Jared Sullinger is a fantastic basketball player. If he was 3 inches taller and a tad bit more explosive he would be a world beater due to his basketball IQ (something the Celtics have always held as an attribute needed to pull on the green shirt). Fab Melo is a project. Defensively strong but has a the offensive range of about 2 feet. Garnett could turn him into a defensive leader if Fab takes his notes and shadows the Big Ticket.

This is the last year of the reign of the Big Three (Peirce,Rondo,Garnett). Even if they stay together after this year it is too late. Pierce is starting to break down (that happens when ever single drive to the basket involves smashing into someone). Garnett is being put in bubble wrap after every game and this is the last year of his defensive dominance. I can not see the Celtics being relavent next year but…

Predicition: I see the Celtics as the only team with the ability to push the Heat in the East. I have a Celtics Heat Eastern Finals.

Brooklyn Nets:

Coach: Avery Johnson

Key Additions: Joe Johnson, Andray Blatche (maybe, if he stops being Andray Blatche)

Key Departures: Gerald Green (more the loss of youtube views than a great basketball player)

Star Player: Deron Williams

Player to Watch: Mirza Teletović

2011-2012 Record: 22-44

The brand spanking new Brooklyn Nets will be starting this brand new season in a brand new stadium. Everything is so new and fresh that a part of me hopes these Nets completely forget they are the New Jersey Nets. They were a team shrouded in losses and poor management. I would have loved if Mikhail Prokhorov renamed the team The Brooklyn Vodka Tonics and moved the entire organisation away from their past.

Moving forward it looks great, really great. When your owner will throw money at anything needed you can only

BROOKLYN LOOKS GREAT

improve. Williams, who is probably the 3rd best point guard in the league, is the key. He is surrounded with talent, there is no doubt about that. Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks are a supporting cast worth of a deep playoff run. Wallace will be the defensive leader to me. He does everything and can mark anyone from 1-4. The Nets were not a great defensive team, in fact they were awful last season. Only the Bobcats and Kings allowed a higher field goal percentage. So realistically they were the worst because the Kings and Bobcats are barely basketball teams. Wallace will have to set the teams tempo from the start of the season and hope defense is contagious.

Teletovic is a very exciting prospect. He is a power forward in the Dirk mold. He can rain threes and do little else but in an offense run by Deron Williams you are going to get your shots and he will take them. He does not defend well or rebound well but either did Dirk until he had a few years under his belt. I would expect him and other rookie Tyshawn Taylor to get their minutes. Especially after the eruption of MarShon Brooks last year.

Prediction: Playoffs. If they don’t make the playoffs it is a catastrophic loss. They could make the second round but a first round exit is not off the cards.

New York Knicks:

Coach: Mike Woodson

Key Additions: Raymond Felton (not Jason Kidd)

Key Departures: Jeremy Lin

Star Player: Carmelo Anthony

Player to Watch: Amar’e Stoudimire

2011-2012 Record: 36-30

The Knicks are floating in obscurity. I hate it. They have Carmelo Anthony, one of the best scorers in the league. They have Amar’e Stoudimire, one of the best scorers from the power forward spot in the league. They broug

YOU GO OVER THERE, ILL HAVE THE BALL

ht these two in to try build a league winning dynasty. Then the literally fell into a superstar in Lin last season and they let him go for a back loaded contract. That is the bit that annoys me. If you want to build a dynasty you put the money in. You can not half build a house, build it all or don’t build anything.

So the Knicks are stuck in a regular season limbo. They need a boost from somewhere. This is where the new recruits come in. Felton had his best season as a Knick and now he is back. Can he get back to that level? Statistically no, he was in a D’antoni offense then and he will be in a Woodson offense now. He can however make the impact he made before. As a point guard with the likes of Carmelo all you need to do is be a platform and set everything up. Amar’e is second fiddle and has yet to actually accept and embrace that role. He is a fantastic scorer and a pick and roll expert but with Carmelo on his team he is yet to figure it all out. Woodson has had an entire off season to try and find a way to make Amar’e the consistent 20 point player he is while also giving Carmelo his 25-30 points a game. It is a headache but it is a headache every coach would love to have.

Prediction: The Knicks will be a much better team after January when Iman Shumpert is back in the squad and no team will want to play them in the playoffs but a second round exit in the playoffs is the ceiling that the Knicks management has enforced on themselves.

Philadelphia 76’ers

Coach: Doug Collins

Key Additions: Andrew Bynum

Key Departures: Andre Igoudala

Star Player: Andrew Bynum

Player to Watch: Thaddeus Young

2011-2012 Record: 35-31. Lost in Eastern Semi Finals

Philly has a new brother to love, Andrew Bynum. He is the biggest signing Philly has made in….well forever. He is a superstar only hampered by injuries. He is going to transform this team from the plucky underdog to a team you do not want to see on your fixture list. Why? A superstar center is a rare commodity. So rare that the team that lost an Olympian is better now.

HE IS GOING TO NEED ALL THE BROTHERLY LOVE TO STAY

Doug Collins is an x-factor. He was my Coach of the Year last year by a country mile. He gives Philly an identity like few other coaches can do. I would worry about a team that lost its core in Igoudala and a seriously good back up point gaurd in Lou Williams but with Doug Collins I do not worry for this sixers team. The defense Collins instills in his team is a top 5 caliber defense. The only teams that held opponents to a lower points tally and field goal percentage were the Bulls and the Celtics. If you are second only to Kevin Garnett and Tom Thibodeau in a defensive ranking you are doing something very right.

The loss of Iggy and Lou Williams are big but it gives more of the reigns to 2 players I think are ready for the step up in minutes and the responsibility that comes with it. Thaddeus Young is ready, the left handed swingman was under the tutelage of Iguodala for 4-5 years and it should show in his stats this season as he has to pick up the slack left by Iguodala’s departure. That slack is in every stat category as Iggy was one of those guys that did everything. Lou Williams loss is easier to handle as he was backing up Jrue Holiday anyway. Jrue is a fantastic player who will have to play outragous minutes this year as his back up is Royal Ivey, a defensive journeyman that could never find a home.

Predicition: A regular season that will be a learning experience and 6-8 seed playoff birth.

Toronto Raptors:

 

Coach: Dwayne Casey

Key Additions: Landry Fields, Kyle Lowry

Key Departures: Jerryd Bayless

Star Player: DeMar DeRozan

Player to Watch: Jonas Valančiūnas

2011-2012 Record: 23-43

The Raptors are doing everything right. They are on the cusp of becoming relalvent again. DeRozan is a scorer that keeps growing, Kyle Lowry is a fantastic pick up as he provides competition for Jose Calderon (this was needed for the last 2 years). Jose Calderon is a very good point guard but he got lazy, no other guard was good enough to compete with him for his place and it showed as his stats declined along with his desire. Now Lowry is here and is already ahead of him on the depth charts.

JONAS LIKE RAPTOR STADIUM MWAHAHA

Jonas Valanciunas is a mountain. A mountain with great hands and a serious leap. He could become a center that the Raptors can build around for the next few years. With Bargnani lurking outside and all that room inside for Jonas to make himself a presence  it could be a great rookie season for the Lithuanian  Helped of course by his compatriot Linas Klieza. Jonas should have very little problem holding the center position for the entire season.

Terrance Ross is the other rookie in Toronto and he is no second fiddle. He is a monster and will stuff stat sheets in the NBA for a long time. He will back up Landry Fields for the season. Landry having to play up to his contract. He was given a very big contract to come to Canada and I initially thought it was a crazy contract. I still think it is but he is such a well rounded player than on a team with no stars you need people to hold everything together. He plays both ends well and can hit a three when asked. Will he live up to that money? No, but he can give them what he has to give and that is a modern do everything swingman.

Predicition: The Raptors this year will be one of the teams chasing the playoffs at the end of the season but they are not ready. They will play well this year but not consistently enough to make the playoffs.

 

DCU Saints Handed Victory By UCD

With both teams coming off back to back wins this game was billed to be a closely contested affair. The Dublin rivals have always been apart of fierce rivalry games and this did not disappoint.
UCD started the match as they have every game so far, with intense defense that forced an experienced starting Saints lineup into poor offenses and turnovers. Marian took advantage of this with a pair of baskets from John Galvin and a pair of corner jumpers from Matt Kelly. As Saints settled into the first quarter it was man-mountain Martins Provizors that ignited the mini comeback towards the end of the first. Keith Anderson’s fancy fastbreak dish for an easy layup and the foul for Martins meant the first quarter finished tied at 13.

John Galvin showing his dynamic finishing ability

Second quarter started as it finished with Provizors grabbing 2 early offensive boards to give DCU the early edge. As soon as it appeared DCU had a foothold two 3’s from Cathal Finn quickly put Marian back in front. Saints offense could not get going and only a bail out jumper from Michael Chubb could end their scoring drought. The referees choked the life out of the whole game and Saints frustration boiled over with a technical foul on Saints coach David Donnelly. Marian missed 3 out of the 4 free throws, setting the tone for their own downfall later in the game. DCU trailed at the half by 10.

Matt Kelly at the line for one of his and one free throws

Matt Kelly opened the 3rd with 2 quick baskets including an and one, he had taken Pat Glover out of the game with stifling defense throughout. Though UCD’s defense was still strong fouls stopped the game too often to build up any rhythm on either side. Once the play opened up a little it was Saints that took the initiative. Martins’ layup and a Keith Anderson 3 cut the lead to 6. UCD pushed the lead back to 9 by the end of the 3rd.

The 4th started as the rest of the game had done, fouls and turnovers for both sides. A clear path foul by Conor Meany and no good offences for the first 5 minutes of the final quarter gave DCU the lifeline needed. The lead was down to 3 and Marian were in team fouls with 5 minutes to go. The go to offense of John Galvin was completely nullified by DCU’s Eoin Quill who shut down the american big man through hustle and beating the big man to the spot every time. Saints took the lead after UCD coach Sasa got a technical foul after a foul was called that he cared very little for. Saints made all 4 of the free throws. Breakaway layups and free throws closed the game out for Saints and eventually ran out 62-53 winners.

DCU ran out easy winners in the end

With Marian in control for the entire game it was early fouls in the 4th and indiscipline that cost them the game. That said Saints still had to win the game and that they did by hitting their free throws and converting on turnovers. Eoin Quill’s defense on John Galvin was the big turning point allowing Marian nothing simple through the entire 4th quarter.

UCD Secure Home Opener Over Neptune

UCD Marian welcomed Neptune for their first home game of the new Superleague season. After the disappointment of their loss to Killester last week UCD were looking to bounce back with a win. Though they got it, they did not have it all their own way and in the end it felt like Neptune lost the game rather than UCD winning it.

UCD win first home game of the season in front of a packed Belfield crowd

UCD win first home game of the season in front of a packed Belfield crowd

UCD’s new coach Sasa Punosevac was the most exciting entity on the court for the first few minutes of the game as Neptune ran out to an early 5 nil lead. Though they lead Neptune did not run a single set offense for the first 6 minutes, early full court guard pressure and the shot clock dictated the tempo of Neptune’s attacks. A big block from Darren Townes announced the Neptune american’s arrival and he kept the visitors scoreboard ticking when they appeared to be out of a comfortable rhythm. The UCD american John Galvin was the center point of the offense all game. His post play was unstoppable all game and even the outstanding shot blocking of Neptune’s Paul Stapleton could not stop the 6’10 center from dominating around the rim.

 

Conor Meany scratching his sidies

The first half ended with UCD up 3 and the second half started in a scrappy mood with early fouls on both sides choking the life out of the quarter. Neptune captain Ger Noonan got called for a technical foul when he thought the ref was wrong and offered his opinion. Townes picked up his 4th foul and sat for the remainder of the 3rd and start of the 4th quarter, this left a hole offensively that they could not fill to keep in touch with UCD. Conor James drilled a bail out 3 on the shot clock buzzer to start the 4th quarter and then with 4:20 left Townes gets called for a silly over the back foul forcing him out of the game and effectively handing UCD the game.

The match finished 70-64 with John Galvin leading all scorers with 26 points. Do-everything forward (and captain for the day) Dan James was very good throughout and Liam Conroy was assured in possession of the ball all game giving UCD a solid platform to work off every time down the floor. UCD should improve throughout the season and for Neptune I hope Darren Townes can shoulder a serious load for an entire season.