I woke up late Saturday morning to find the following message on my phone from Tizzle:

To one and all. Let this be the day remembered as the day the Knicks basically signed Lebron James. Save this msg for 2010. New York basketball is back!

I find it amusing that Knicks fans can rejoice “New York basketball is back!” when essentially it translates to “We are going to suck for the next two years!”. But then again I find Knicks fans amusing in general. It is true though. Yesterday should be remembered as the day the Knicks made it 1000% clear they want a piece of Lebron, if it wasn’t clear already. The scary thing for the rest of the league is that they’ll be positioned to buy a lot more than just Lebron. As Adrian Wojnarowski over at Yahoo said, “The Knicks won’t just have the cap space to sign James, but give him his Scottie Pippen, too.” So now Danny Ferry doesn’t just have to live with the fear of losing Lebron to the bright lights of one of the NBA storied franchises. Now he has to live with the very real likliehood (I would say certainty) that the Knicks can surround LBJ with championship-winning ingredients the Cavaliers can only dream of.  Even Joe Dumars would have to concede that. As drooling as the possibility of teaming Lebron with the up-and-coming Stuckey, Maxiell and Johnson, it doesn’t compare with him pairing with a Chris Bosh, or a Dwyane Wade, or an Amare Stoudemire. “When I decide to make the decision, it’s going to basically put me in a position where I feel like I can win multiple championships”, Lebron said. I’m no Nostradamus, but few teams are better suited to fulfill Lebron’s criteria in 2010 than the Knicks right now.

Is it really worth practically mailing in two whole seasons for the mere possibility of signing a player of Lebron’s stature? I’ve debated this with a few people over the last couple of days, and let me give you my honest answer: HELL YES. The NBA has always been a sport where team success is very dependent on the one (or two if lucky) superstars on that team. At any one time in the league there are only a handful of guys who can truly carry their team to a championship, provided they’re surrounded by the right people. We already know who those guys will be over the next 8-10 years. Chris Paul, Amare Stoudemire, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, and leading the pack is of course Lebron James. You do not hesitate to mortgage your immediate future if there is a chance that one of those guys can give you the best 5-7 years of their career. You don’t hesitate one bit, especially when we’re talking about Lebron James. The scary thing for the Knicks is that Lebron is so good there’s a very real chance he could win a title with the Cavs before 2010, and if that happens can you honestly see him wanting to move town? It’s going to be a fascinating couple of years.

The long awaited (well for me anyway) new Machine video has been released, and it’s probably the best one yet. Check out all the Machine videos at Lakers-Fan.com.

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The Lakers continue to cruise, still the only team in the league with one loss and holding a ridiculous +13.5 differential. Interestingly it’s almost the exact same differential the Celtics had last season after their 11-1 start. And just as I said about the Celtics last year, the Lakers will soon have to start enduring talk of 70 wins and that comparison to the 95-96 Bulls team that will no doubt pop up on ESPN soon. It’s very early days yet, but unlike the Celtics of last season and the Mavs the season before and the Pistons the season before that, you get the feeling that 70 wins is easily achievable with this team. The reason they are making it look so easy at the moment is that unlike last season, they are winning games on defense alone.

After their Finals loss to the Celtics it was clear that the Lakers needed to become a much tougher defensive team, so Lakers fans would be pleased in hearing comments such as Coach George Karl’s after yesterday’s Lakers win: “They have a lot of offensive weapons, and they’ve turned themselves into a pretty good defensive team. They’re much improved defensively from last year, and they haven’t had a close game”. Here are some of the numbers behind why the Lakers are such a defensively improved team from last season:

  • Andrew Bynum second in the league in blocks per game with 2.64 per game (last year the Lakers leading shot blocker was Ronny Turiaf. Enough said)
  • Third in the league in opponents points per game with 91.3 (compared that to 101.3 from last season)
  • Third in the league in opponents FG% with 41.2% (down from 44.5% last season)
  • Third in the league in defensive rebounds per game (they actually lead the league in this last season)
  • First in the league in team steals per game (10.4 compared to 8.0 last season)
  • Fourth in the league in team blocks per game (6.6 compared to 5.3 last season)
  • First in the league in opponents turnovers per game (18.2 and way ahead of the pack)

Against the Toronto Raptors on Thursday Dwyane Wade went for a ridiculous 40 points, 11 assists and 5 blocks. Since blocks became an official stat, the only other player to have a 40-10-5 effort was Alvan Adams of the Phoenix Suns, who had 47 points, 12 assists and five blocks against Buffalo on Feb. 22, 1977. But if you think that is ridiculous it’s only scratching the surface of what D-Wade is doing right now. Right now Wade is second in the league in scoring (28.2 ppg), 2nd in the league in steals (2.5) and 5th in the league in blocks (2.0 per game WTF?!). Needless to say, there has NEVER been an NBA player to average 28-7-5-2-2 in the history of the universe. He’s even leading all players in John Hollinger’s bullshit PER stat with 33.25 – yes, even better than Lebron. Today Wade battled the death flu to produce a 38-8-4-1-2 performance to carry the Heat passed the Pacers and back into +.500 territory. Right now he is the Man amongst men, and I thought it only fitting to hand him NBAMate’s first ever Luke Hodge ‘Man of the Hour’ Award – given to the player most embodying the all-round manliness and awesomeness that is Luke Hodge. Posterizing Jermaine O’Neal with a no-look dunk also helps the cause.

Funny how much things change in a year

From the most manly to the least manly, it’s now time to hand out HTFU of the week. In a rare occurrence, this week the award goes to a coach. You would think this is pretty hard to do, after all, how exactly does a coach deserve to be told “harden the fuck up!” when its his players that are out there battling on the hardwood? Well Cavs Coach Mike Brown has found a way. Somehow, Coach Brown “suffered a pulled hamstring retrieving a loose ball” in a game against New Jersey earlier in the week. I’m not making this up. This has to be one of the most retardest things I’ve heard happen to a coach, or to anyone for that matter. Injuring yourself by picking up a ball – our no-brainer HTFU of the week.

Bogut Watch: Wow! The Bogey man has gone nuts the last few games. After inhaling 20 rebounds (equal-second career high) in a disappointing loss to the Jazz, Bogut continued his form with back-to-back 17 rebound games coming in two wins against the Knicks and Bobcats (OK not the greatest opposition, but after playing Boston, @Utah and @Denver the Bucks will take it). Against a very depleted Knicks team Bogut went for 14-17 in just 25 minutes – my calculator tells me that equates to a monster 26 point, 33 rebound game over 48 minutes, or a ridiculous 32-39 in a double OT game. The very next night against Charlotte the Bogey Man went for 12 -17-4, including a massive dunk on Okafor’s head (only place I’ve found this clip is in the ESPN game recap) – heeding the advice I gave him last week. While AB is still not getting as many shots as I think he should, he’s made up for it recently with his rebounding, now putting him 5th in the league in that category. The Bucks are one of those teams in the East hovering around the .500 mark, but unfortunately for them they have a tough week ahead – games away at Orlanda, Atlanta and Detroit, then at home to Cleveland. Remember though that they’re doing all this without Michael Redd who figures to miss at least another week.

Other happenings around the league:

  • Raptors fans are still in agony after watching Captain Carter sink them in OT in what was probably – sadly – one of the greatest games of Vince Carter’s career. One Raptors fan chooses to blame the incompetent coach.
  • What happens when you put Charles Barkley and Dwyane Wade in a Chinese restaurant and then throw in Yao and some gigantic shrimp? Comedy of course! Awful Announcing have the clip
  • Free Darko and Hardwood Paroxysm both agree – these Knicks/Clippers/Warriors trades make no damn sense. It’s almost like Donnie Walsh blinded them with the Chewbacca Defense.
  • Sheed Wallace is the nickname generator.
  • All is seemingly not OK in OKC – coach Carlesimo has been given the boot. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say I don’t think too many coaches could have squeezed more wins out of this team over its first fourteen games. If the OKC front office decide to fire the coach after every 1-13 stretch of fourteen games then they will probably have another five changes of coach before the season is out.
  • Coach Karl does not miss Allen Iverson
  • The Washington Wizards are officially fu**ed. I wanted to wait till they played the Heat (twice in two nights), Hawks and Knicks before I rushed to that conclusion. But they lost all those games (it shouldn’t be legal to lose to the Heat in back-to-back games) and now they’re fu**ed. God bless Gilbert Arenas though, always looking on the positive side: “I don’t want to see them struggle, but if this is one of those years where we don’t make the playoffs or we finish in last place … that’s what happened to San Antonio and that’s how they got Tim Duncan and look at them now … and that’s for the better.” I don’t know where to start with that comment so I’m not going to bother.
  • I remember reading a couple of weeks ago an ESPN article on the impact of Obama on black athletes, and a quote from Ray Allen in that article. I was reminded because last night my friends were naming our All-Smooth Team (which Ray Allen is of course the captain of) and we all agreed that President of Basketball Operations for that team should definitely be Barack Obama. If that jump shot isn’t smooth I don’t know what is (check it for yourself below). So of course Ray Allen is going to be a Barack Obama supporter – it’s not because he’s a black athlete, it’s because Barack Obama taught him how to shoot! And if that doesn’t make Obama the coolest president ever, then putting a basketball court in the White House surely does.

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