Celtics

London to Host Sixers and Celtics

After much rumours and speculation the NBA announced today that NBA London will this year host a game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics.

The 2018 game is set to be one of the biggest to ever come to London with both the Celtics and 76ers having a wealth of talent on their rosters. The Celtics, the NBA’s most successful franchise with 17 Championships, come into this season having finished first in the Eastern Conference and have a host of stars who will be coming to London including two-time NBA All-Star Isaiah Thomas, 2017 NBA All-Star Gordon Hayward and four-time NBA All-Star Al Horford. The 76ers boast one of the best young teams in the league and will bring the number one picks from 2016 and 2017, Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons, alongside established star Joel Embiid.

The Philadelphia 76ers will host the Boston Celtics at The O2 on January 11;  to sign up for early access to tickets, exclusive offers and the latest team news, please visit www.NBA.com/London

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.

 

The Nets go back to the future?

The big news from Thursday night wasn’t so much the surprising NBA draft where the Cavs took UNLV’s Anthony Bennett with the first overall pick and Nerlens Noel, the hopelessly over-rated Kentucky beanpole, dropped to sixth overall before being traded to Philadelphia, but the proposed – and we have to say proposed because no trades can be approved until mid-July – trade between the Brooklyn Nets and the Boston Celtics.

 

How many years do you guys have left?

 

Boston had just lost talismanic coach Doc Rivers to the LA Clippers, a year after losing “big three” sharpshooter Ray Allen to the Miami Heat in free agency.  Rivers clearly recognised what most of the rest of us had; that the three year plan that began in 2007, won a title at the first attempt, and extended in credibility until about a year ago, was over.

The Celtics, to their credit overcame injuries and trades to make the NBA finals a second time in 2010, but they were well beaten in the Eastern Conference finals by the Miami Heat in 2011 before, again, coming back the following year only to lose to an inspired LeBron James performance in 2012.  This past year they were very unconvincing against the New York Knicks, losing 4-2.

 

Now THAT is a big three

 

Danny Ainge has been on record saying that he believed that legendary Celtics patriarch Red Auerbach had waited too long before moving on the last great Celtic’s “big three” of Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale.  That Celtics team lost to the Detroit Pistons in consecutive years of 1988 and 1989 – ECF and first round respectively.  Ainge was conscious that he faced the same dilemma.  Garnett and Pierce probably have another couple of years left in the tank, but was it going to be worth it from the Celtics point of view?  Garnett is due $11.5M next season and $12M the season after that.  Pierce is only under contract for one more year, but at $15.3M.

The Celtics, as they were composed last season, were clearly not going to get that much better with the return of Rajon Rondo.  Ainge’s decision was to blow it up.

Garnett and Pierce have, provisionally, been shipped to Brooklyn along with Jason Terry for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans, Marshon Brooks and Brooklyn’s first round pics in 2014, 2016 and 2018.  Player-wise, that is horrific for Boston, Brooks aside.  Wallace is a decent enough player, but is overpaid.

 

The most interesting thing about Humphries?

 

The trade doesn’t look too bad from a rebuilding standpoint in Boston.  They’ll be able to be bad enough to be in the running for the no1 overall next year, particularly if Rondo is allowed to continue his career elsewhere.  Some rumours on sports radio in the US this week suggested Phoenix might be one place for him – the Suns actually drafted Rondo before trading him to Boston, an understandable move when you remember that they had Steve Nash at that time, a stupid move when you put it alongside just about any Phoenix draft move since Amare Stoudemire.

Tanking isn’t totally new to the Celtics; they were after Tim Duncan back in 1997 and ended up 15-67 in their pursuit of him, the 16.7% winning percentage their worst in franchise history.  They ended up with the third pick and Chauncey Billups.  It wasn’t a great historical draft, to be fair to the Celtics, and if Rick Pitino hadn’t failed to come to terms with Billups’s playing style, the selection would have been about as good as it got for any team – Duncan and perhaps Tracy McGrady aside.

 

Swing and a miss for the Celtics

 

The key for the Celtics will be to be as bad as they can all season long.  Gerald Wallace is exactly the sort of player who is used to tanking, after spending many seasons in Charlotte, but is good enough to bring the Celtics into the high lottery – picks that wont really do them any good in the long term.  If you’re going to tank, you need to tank properly.  If I were in charge at Boston, I would use my amnesty clause now  – the only eligible players left are Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo – and try to shift Wallace, possibly trade Rondo for picks, try as hard as I could to get shot of some of the other clowns they’ve acquired and just cruise to the lowest possible finish I could muster.  It wont be nice for the fans and, of course, there’s no guarantee you actually win the draft lottery – only three worst-placed teams have ever won the lottery – but the Celtics have an opportunity to become a young and exciting team only one year removed from the Garnett and Pierce era and I think they should take it.

There is also the question of whether the trade really any better for Brooklyn?  The Nets are clearly adopting a “win now at all costs” strategy, one that many had assumed Boston had adopted back in 2007 – one that worked surprisingly quickly for the Celtics.  The Nets, unless they are able to acquire picks via trade, won’t be selecting anyone in the first round of next years “greatest draft since sliced bread” (let’s not be too hasty here, Andrew Wiggins might be legit but a year is a long time, just ask Shabazz Muhammad…that’s not a joke about him lying about his age, either!) but they do currently have their own picks in 2015 and 2017’s first rounds.

 

How old? Are you sure?

 

The real question is: can the Nets win now?  The answer for me is no.  I don’t see Pierce and Garnett really contributing at all that high a level for another full season.  The Nets don’t have anything outside of their starting five, as impressive as that now is – and you could debate the merits of Joe Johnson vs, say, Danny Green given their respective salaries (Johnson gets $21.5m, $23.2M and $24.9M in the next three seasons, Green is due $3.8M and $4m in the next two) and what they really give a team.  Is Joe Johnson really six-seven times better than Green?  Then there’s the question of how a scoring and egotistic point guard like Deron Williams fits with Pierce.

 

 

For me, the Celtics are the winners in this trade, but it will take one long painful season to realise that fact.  It is also crucial that they recruit well at head coach.  Former Irish international Jay Larranaga has been mooted as one possible replacement for Rivers, but they will need to think very carefully about who is the right man to rebuild.  They can basically give their new coach a free pass for a full season, so why not bring in somebody for the long term?

It will be a long season for the Celtics, but it could be a long four or five seasons for the Brooklyn Nets.  The only benefit they will definitely get is increased ticket sales and increased jersey sales.  Perhaps that’s all they really wanted in the first place?