After spending two days trying to stay dry amidst the “drought-ending storm” at Meredith Musical Festival, and the next five days trying to stay on the fairways in Yarrawonga, I’m now back in Melbourne town and life is kind of back to normal again (although my liver will never be the same). After being away from the Internet for over a week I’ve come back to learn the following about the National Basketball Association:
1) The Pistons Still Suck. Sure there was the little glimmer of hope when Stuckey moved into the starting lineup, Dyess came back, and we won three straight. But then it became clear that the Pistons couldn’t really beat good teams like Utah (who we always lose to, it’s just a rule) and Atlanta (almost makes me vomit to have to call the Hawks a “good team”), and that our wins were actually not impressive at all after struggling to put away the three shittest teams in the East (Bobcats, Pacers and Wiz… look it up). At the risk of sounding like a semi-suicidal Suns fan I will try to take some positives out of this, and that would be that Rodney Stuckey’s awesomeness is directly proportional to the amount of minutes you give him. Since being put in the starting lineup (six games ago) Stuck has had three double-doubles, lead the team in assists four times and averaged 15-8-4 with 2 steals shooting over 60% from the field (yikes!!) and over 50% from three-point range. It’s a pity the Pistons have sucked so much lately or else Stuck would be getting a serious amount of hype. It’s also a pity he has to play with Rip and AI or else Stuckey would probably be a 20-10-5 All-Star candidate.
Here’s the puzzling thing from a Piston fan’s point of view. Over the last six games (in which the Pistons went 3-3) Stuckey, Rip and AI have all played really well – like exceptionally well, shooting over 50% from the field, over 50% from downtown, and scoring heaps of points. While I knew the Stuckey-to-starting-lineup change would probably result in some short-term growing pains, I did not expect it to actually reap benefits for all three guards. Somehow Rip, AI and Stuck are all getting plenty of minutes and all playing in season-best form. I’d almost call it a genius move by Michael Curry, except that the Pistons have still sucked so it’s not a genius move. Where do we then point the finger? That’s easy. Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace – Please harden the fuck up! Despite averaging 40 minutes of the last six contests Prince has averaged a fucking fantastic 9 points per game! And Sheed, where do I start with Sheed? The guy is averaging a whopping 10-5 over the last five games while shooting a Hughes-esque 36%. I don’t normally award HTFUs for plain sucking, but in this case I feel I am truly justified in a Double Detroit HTFU.
2) The Lakers are not the team I thought they were. A couple of weeks back I said the Lakers had a higher ceiling than the Cavs or Celtics and that they were in a better position than either of those teams to win 70 games. Since then it’s become blatantly clear the Lakers will NOT win 70 games, and are really struggling to put away even the mediocre teams. Like I said back in late November, their defense isn’t actually that good and when they get caught in slower, grind-it-out games they seem to lack in execution and energy. The thing that struck me the most when watching the Miami game was how disinterested Andrew Bynum looks right now. Remember, Bynum defines the ceiling for this team – we all know how good they can be without him (Finals losers). But right now he is struggling. Perhaps he’s still unhappy about being benched in crunch time? Or perhaps he really is turning into Benoit Benjamin? My guess is that it’s the usual troughs and peaks any young player goes through (remembering he’s only 21), and that unfortunately for Bynum the expectations for the Lakers are so high he can’t afford to sit in a trough for very long or else he might be Waltonized like Radman and sent to the bench. If he turns in another sucky performance soon I feel an HTFU might be in order. More importantly (not to demote the importance of an HTFU) the Lakers will be in real trouble if AB can’t get out of this slump. Their lead on the rest of the West is sinking in more mud than my tent at Meredith.
3) The Celtics look reaalllly good. I honestly thought they’d come back down to earth by this time of the season, but they’ve done the opposite. Guys like Kendrick Perkins are stepping up (he had a career-high 25 points last week against the Bulls) and Rondo somehow has even bettered his Man of the Hour form – the question has to be asked, is this guy worthy of being an All Star? One blogger thinks so, and I’m not far away from being convinced. I’m also finding it very hard to be convinced that anyone else can beat the Celtics right now. I’m thinking the much anticipated Christmas-day showdown with the Lakers might be a complete anticlimax and the Celtics will whoop them. I’m thinking they could have an undefeated December. I’m thinking 70 wins is becoming a certainty.
4) Bogut and the Bucks are making a charge. Milwaukee has won 4 of their last 5 and it all started with a monster 20-20 game for the Bogey man prompting Coach Skiles to say this: “He was very good, and I didn’t run any more plays for him. He was just active like 7-footers should be.” Just imagine if Coach Skiles DID run plays for him? (hint to Coach Skiles: run some freaken plays for Bogut). Bogey then pounded the Heat for 20-11 on 10-12 shooting, only to follow it up with a foul-plagued loss against the Sixers. Against the Knicks AB turned in one of his better all-round performances of the season with 10 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks to hold the high-octane Knicks to just 81 points. The very next day the Bucks whooped the Clippers, Bogut turning in a tidy 12-8 game putting the Bucks back into the playoff hunt. Right now the Bucks are looking a lot better than the Bulls (8th) and Nets (7th) and would be a chance to steal a top 8 spot before the end of the year, but unfortunately for them they face the Jazz, Pistons, Spurs and Rockets over their next four games. Needless to say, this is going to be a big test for Bogut and the Bucks.
5) Jawai is back! This was really great news to hear. The big Aussie prospect drafted by the Pacers and then traded to Toronto was cleared to begin workouts after being diagnosed with a heart abnormality early in the season. Here is a video interview with the man himself, and you can see just how happy he is to be back on the court. We wish him all the best and hope he’ll be out on the NBA hardwood sometime early next year.
6) Kobe admits he is a ball hog. No really, he did.
7) Amare posterized the Vanilla Godzilla once more…
8 ) Lebron might re-sign with the Cavs after all. Hearing Lebron say “The direction we are headed is everything I expected and more” has got to put a smile on the faces of Cavs fans. And I think I just heard a Knicks fan poop himself.
9) My Chauncey-4-MVP idea has been given some credibility. Marc Stein over at ESPN put Chauncey as his Western Conference MVP and while I completely disagree with him (it has to be Kobe), it is nice to know I haven’t completely lost my marbles and some people agree Billups is a legit MVP candidate. Even that Race to the MVP idiot has him sixth.
UPDATE: Just saw this ridiculous put-back jam from Nate Robinson today against the Celtics. Cheers to Billyhoyle for posting it up on the TrashTalk forums.