ONE: It’s a shame that the first Sunday Six Pack of the year has to be written in such depressing circumstances. Our Aussie NBA hero has once again gone down with a serious injury, this time as fractured left ankle. “It’s like someone has a voodoo doll of me and is putting pins in it”, said AB after the game. It sure feels that way. We’ve got more to say on Bogut and what it means for the Bucks in the next couple of days. For now, it’s just an incredibly frustrating time for Bucks fans and Aussie NBA fans in general. We know that this guy at his best, is an All-NBA player, but injuries just keep getting in the way of Bogut sustaining that level of play for long enough.
We hope AB gets back to full health as soon as possible and that he can play a part in the Buck’s playoff campaign – based on how they performed against the Lakers today, I certainly wouldn’t give up on that possibility.
TWO: Did you hear the one about Dwight calling out his teammates after their loss yesterday against the Hornets? Here’s what the big man said:
I look at guys and they don’t look like they want to play. I told them at halftime, ‘If you don’t want to play, just stay in the locker room, because it don’t make sense for a team who we should beat to just demolish us”
I also like the bit where he denied calling them out while calling them out…
It hurts to get out there and you play your hardest and you expect everybody to play the same way, and I’m not calling anybody out by no means because we all have to get better”
It’s been an amazing turnaround for the Magic over the past week, and I mean that in a bad way. A week ago they were cruising, having beaten the Lakers comfortably and winning 6 of their last 7 (which included 4 on the road). Then they get whooped in Boston, smashed in Indiana, and then lost again to Boston at home in one of the most incredible comebacks I have ever seen – only scoring 8 in the fourth, in what ended up being a 35-point turn around.
People, these types of losses do not happen very often in the NBA. Proof of that is that it was Orlando’s biggest blown lead since 2001. And when it happens to a supposed “title contending team”, it’s even rarer. So I read a lot into that game, into how the Magic completely wilted under pressure, and how none of them tried to make a firm stand against the one-way Boston avalanche that buried them. To me, it looked like a team with no pride to defend. That is alarming.
It turns out the loss was so deflating that the Magic didn’t even show up against the Hornets yesterday. Losing to Boston at home is one thing, but getting whooped by the worst team in the Western Conference (Hornets were 3-15 before yesterday) is an entirely different matter. So yeah Dwight had to call out his teammates, there’s just no where else to go after a series of woeful performances like that. He is their leader and he has to make them accountable. How his teammates respond is going to be fascinating – how would YOU respond after your best player calls you out knowing that he has requested to be traded? Folks, this could get a lot uglier before it gets better.
THREE: If you didn’t see KG’s post game intereview after the above-mentioned game, here tis. Classic KG.
FOUR: Yesterday I watched parts of the Heat-Knicks game. You know, just enough to be confused by how the Knicks managed to keep it close going into the fourth, and enough to then fully realize how damn good this Heat team is when its out and running and when Lebron and Wade are healthy. Parts of yesterday’s game looked like the Harlem Globetrotters vs the Washington Generals. This is what I’m talking about…
It’s still hard to get a good reading on this Miami team because I don’t think they’ve fully integrated the likes of Battier and Curry, and their defense is still a work in progress. They’re ranked 22nd in the league in points against, and while their differential is a healthy 7.8 (good for third), I always believe that opposition PPG is a really good read for playoff success. Let me put it another way – the Bulls give up 10 points less per game than the Heat. Sure, they play a different style and have more defensive minded strategies, but 10 points is a really big gap (for some perspective, last year it was a 3-point gap). Especially when Lebron, Wade and Battier are the premier wing-defending tandem in the league. So when will you know the Heat are truly hitting their straps this season? Not because of highlight reels like the above, but when those defensive numbers improve and opposition teams find it tougher to score against them. After all, defense wins championships.
FIVE: On the subject of Miami, can I just say that right now there is absolutely no question of the season’s MVP thus far. It is Lebron James. No one is playing better or more efficiently, and those few shaky fourth quarters you probably heard about are more than made up for by the bunch of fourth quarters he has simply dominated. By his own lofty standards, Lebron is playing better than ever. With that, here’s my breakdown of the leading MVP candidates thus far:
#1 Lebron – Lead the team superbly without Wade, continues to shoot the ball well, and continues to get his teammates involved. There’s just nothing bad I can say about Lebron right now. The only thing that affects his MVP chances is the play of Wade, because when Dwyane is at his best it’s really hard to tell who is more valuable to that Heat team. Lebron is the better player, but Wade is still The Man in Miami.
#2 Kobe – Was the front-runner during that amazing streak of 40+ games, but we all knew that couldn’t last. Recently he’s looked to get Pau and Bynum more of the ball, but the Lakers keep losing. So it’s a catch 22 for the Mamba at the moment. Still, for all the drama in Lakerland, let’s not forget Kobe is putting up career-best numbers (30-5-5 ain’t shabby, even for Kobe). If he keeps this up, and if the Lakers can finish with a respectable record, Kobe might have the best MVP story of anyone. And we all know how much that counts for this award.
#3 Rose - Has been on fire since coming back after that 4-game lay off, and with the Bulls sporting the league’s second best record, it’s hard to deny Rose’s spot within the Top 3. I think Rose is better positioned than most people realise to go back-to-back with this award. The Bulls can very easily finish #1 again, and Lebron and Kobe can slip for reasons mentioned above. This could very well be a Bradbury MVP season for Rose.
#4 CP3 – I did have Dwight here, until the Magic’s horrific streak of late. So Chris Paul sneaks in, and with the Clippers 3rd in the West his MVP chances are very much alive. I’m still tipping him to win it this season, and I’ve seen nothing yet to change my mind. It all comes down to the Clippers record – if they can finish Top 2 or 3 out West then the W/L turnaround from last season will be enough of a story to get Paul over the line, a la Steve Nash in 2005.
#5 Dwight – With apologies to Kevin Durant, Dwight deserves to be on this list for the way he has lead the Magic so far this season. I actually think he’s in career-best form on the offensive end, having watched him quite a few times this season. It’s no coincidence his assist numbers are up; he’s recognizing the double-team – and the open shooters – so much more effectively than in recent years.
SIX: By now I assume you’ve heard of the new Kobe System ads where Kobe lectures a crowd of the super famous and rich. If you haven’t, go check them out – some of them are quite amusing.
And then go dominate breakfast.