The Moonball Blog

Monday, September 28, 2009

Uh Oh

KG on Sheed:

"In the pickups we've played here, you already see it -- him and I on the same page -- we don't even have to talk a lot," said Garnett. "I can't even describe it, it's weird. And to be honest, it's just weird to see him here in the green, and see how our chemistry is without even touching the ball, just how we flow."

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Bird is the Word!

Do you like to rock but have no outlet? Are you looking for some new music? We interrupt this league preview to see if anybody wants to try a little music mixing at Euterpe's Bird. Something fun to keep your mind limber in anticipation of the rigorous moonball/NBA season. Andermiken, Jongo and I have posted about 2 CDs worth of tunes -- it's been fun, groovy and, at times, a learning experience. When it's your turn, you just follow someone's track with your own track. Many can play and...uh...everyone wins! Any moonballers or strangers who follow this blog (or strange moonballers) are welcome to post or follow along. Just leave your name in the comments of this post if you'd like to play, and we'll get started next week.

Friday, September 18, 2009

(a sorta) League Preview: Philadelphia 76ers

Detroit, Charlotte, Indiana, Golden State, Minnesota and New York are not the League’s sorriest teams. But they are looking at lotteryville unless they click on all cylinders. Same goes for the 3rd best in the East’s Atlantic Division.

Philadelphia 76ers

PG Louis Williams Royal Ivey Jrue Holiday

SG Willie Green

SF Andre Iguodala Jason Kapono

PF Thaddeus Young Marreese Speights Jason Smith

C Elton Brand Samuel Dalembert Primoz Brezec

By far the most talented team in this tier, Philly is very weak at the two positions that matter most: Point guard and center. Losing Andre Miller is really going to hurt the 76ers. I like Louis Williams as a third guard, but as a point needing to feed Iguodala and Young on the wings, and Brand in post? Williams will need to transform his game big time if Philadelphia is going to play in the post season. As for center, there is some debate of starting the 6’8 Brand in the pivot over the here-today-gone-tomorrow Dalembert. Miserable.

If small ball is the plan in Philly, they certainly have the juice at the wing position to make things exciting. Iguodala is in his prime. His athleticism is top tier, and he is proven as an offensive focal point. Young has the length and strength to play the quick four. Willie Green brings scoring and toughness. Though Brand will likely never regain his All-Star form, he is a polished scorer and rebounder. His presence on the offensive glass will produce easy baskets in the half court-something that may otherwise be in short supply for Philly.

The fate of the 76ers season is largely in the hands of Williams, and to a lesser extent Marreese Speights. Both players are just 22, and have shown plenty of NBA upside. Williams is a deft penetrator, and he knows how to get himself to the line. He has the potential to be a ballhawk on D. He is not a distributor. As a lead guard for an offensively talented team, that is a problem. Speights has been compared to teammate Brand, both in build and game. Until he matches Brand’s consistent intensity, the comparison is silly. Like many young players, Speights has struggled to produce night in, night out. For Philly to make it back to the playoffs, they need 25-28 minutes a game from Speights. Tall order.

Eddie Jordan has his work cut out. It will be interesting to see how successful he is at running those Princeton sets with this crew. Philly has a lot of guys who like to put it on the deck. If gets Williams plays well and the team sees success, the 76ers certainly have the talent to compete for the post season. But early struggles could lead to team disarray and a quick slide to lotteryville.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, September 17, 2009

(a sorta) League Preview: Detroit Pistons

You could argue that Charlotte, Indiana, Golden State, Minnesota and New York could be included in the sorriest. I might agree. I placed them together above the worst teams because, however improbable, I could envision one or two of these teams in the race for a playoff berth. The next three squads may be cut from a better cloth than the first five. Just the same, they are lottery likelies. We start with the 3rd best team in the East’s Central Division.

Detroit Pistons

PG Rodney Stuckey Will Bynum

SG Richard Hamilton Ben Gordon

SF Tayshaun Prince Austin Daye DaJuan Summers

PF Charlie Villanueva Jason Maxiell Chris Wilcox

C Kwame Milicic Ben Wallace

Wild times in Mo-Town. Gone is the stability and sense of cohesion that defined the Pistons for the better part of the decade. After the failed experiment with Iverson, Joe D. is paring Stuckey and Hamilton with Ben Gordon. Though younger (and currently better), Gordon presents many of the same challenges. He does not have the disposition of a point guard, or the size of a two guard. He needs the ball in his hands to be effective and is a volume scorer. Stuckey must be wondering if he still gets to hold the keys to the car. Hamilton must be wondering if Joe D thinks he needs help holding down the two spot. Who starts? Who finishes? Small ball, anyone?

Considering their bigs, small ball may be a decent option. Prince could play the Marion role at power forward. The multi skilled forward is going to be called on like no time before to set the tone defensively. Villanueva at center sounds horrible. He has great skills, but where is the fire? His rebounding is uninspired and he does not protect the rim. Maxiell will give you the fire, but he is undersized and lacks an offensive game. Together Ben Wallace, Chris Wilcox and Kwame Brown equal a whole lot of nothing.

Instability in the backcourt. Clowns in the front court. Rebuilding is a painful process. Even including Dumars’ heralded draft selection of Rodney Stuckey, the past 3-4 seasons have not been his finest. Dumars simply could not plug the hole created with the departure of Ben Wallace in 2006. The Billups move was essentially for cap space: a poor deal for a very, very effective player. The Billups move also seemed to be a vote of full confidence for Stuckey as the pg of the future. But when you look at Stuckey next to young point guards in his age range--like Paul, Williams, Rondo, Rose, Westbrook, Chalmers, Aaron Brooks, and even Monta Ellis--he certainly does not stand out above the crowd. Retooling with Gordon, Villanueva, and rookie forwards Daye and Summers hardly inspires thoughts of better days. It does give Detroit some pieces. Rebuilding is all about pieces.

Perhaps Gordon, Villanueva and one of the rookies can join Prince, Hamilton, Maxiell and Stuckey to anchor a rotation capable of a run at the 8 seed. 36 wins and late lottery pick seems a lot more likely.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

(a sorta) League Preview: Charlotte Bobcats

Though not among the League’s sorriest, Indiana, Golden State, Minnesota and New York are all lottery likelies with the slight potential to make a run at an 8 seed. Add to that list the least of the Southeast.

Charlotte Bobcats

PG (Ray Felton) D.J. Augustin

SG Raja Bell Gerald Henderson Dontell Jefferson
SF Gerald Wallace Vladimir Radmanovic

PF Boris Diaw Alexis Ajinca

C Tyson Chandler Nazr Mohammed DeSagana Diop

Were you thinking that I forgot about the Bobcats for a couple teams there? That would be a fair assumption. Especially since last year’s starting p.g. Ray Felton is still dangling in the world of the unsigned. But as much as I am tired of the Larry Brown Right Way, you cannot argue that the man gets results when he has had the chance to pick and choose personnel. The successive acquisitions of Augustin, Diaw, Bell, Henderson and Chandler make the Bobcats Brown’s team.

Charlotte has a real good starting front line. Chandler is the archetypal Brown pivot: Long, defensive oriented, and willing to accept little or no offensive role. Though Charlotte was roundly panned for the Okafor-Chandler swap, if the 26 year old veteran of 8 NBA seasons can stay healthy, Tyson is about to go off anchoring the Bobcat D. Wallace and Diaw are a dynamic forward combo. Both are extremely well rounded basketball players able to compete in all facets of the game. Wallace’s energy, length and athleticism allow him to dominate in stretches. Diaw plays with a savy and ease that can elevate his teammates.

The Bobcat backcourt and bench are sketchy. Charlotte would not be messing around with Felton if they did not think that Augustin had the goods. But the young fella has lots to prove before he can hold down the starting job. Dude is 6’0. There have been smaller guys who were effective starters. Not too many though. Charlotte needs to re-sign Ray Felton if for no other reason than to have him as a trade asset. Raja Bell is well past his prime. Rookie Henderson is a Dukie. The bench is populated by established disappointments and long shots. Even if Augustin can rock it, Brown might need once again to use Felton as a two guard. Trouble.

The Bobcats could really use a high lottery pick next year. They may well earn one. The 8 seed in the East will require a winning record in 2009-10 season, a very high bar for a team with so many question marks. But the Bobcats will likely gel as a tough defensive team that plays together. The NBA season is long, and the teams that focus on the D are usually in the majority of games until the final few minutes. Get enough timely shots and stops and who knows.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The King Is Gone, But Not Forgetting

I have enjoyed some of the hype leading up to last nights Hall of fame induction ceremony. I watch portions of several classic Jordan games on the sports rerun channels. As marvelous now as it was then.

His speech, however, was awkward, self-absorbed and more than a bit petty. Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski describes it well. Compare that to the goofy adulation from Disney's own ESPN.

Now the most prominent livin MJ, I hope the guy can find some peace.

Labels: ,

Friday, September 11, 2009

(a sorta) League Preview: Indiana Pacers

After a brief survey of the League’s sorriest, our attention is now on teams like Golden State, Minnesota and New York: Almost certain suckers that have just enough talent and potential team cohesion to make run at an 8 seed if EVERYTHING goes right. This group certainly includes the second weakest offering from the East’s Central Division.

Indiana Pacers

PG T.J. Ford Earl Watson Travis Diener

SG Brandon Rush Dahntay Jones

SF Danny Granger Mike Dunleavy

PF Troy Murphy Tyler Hansbrough Josh McRoberts

C Roy Hibbert Jeff Foster

Aside from blue chipper Danny Granger, Indiana clearly is not the most talented team. Troy Murphy’s offensive prowess is undone by his meager defensive presence. Lil Dun is coming back from a difficult surgery. Second year big Hibbert and the rookie Hansbrough will bring a good mix of skill, energy and youth. But for Indiana to play well, both young guys will need to be serious contributors each and every game. Same goes for shooting guard Rush. He will surprise a lot of opponents this season. His challenge will be consistency. TJ has always intrigued me as a floor leader. Unfortunately he is injured with regularity.

Luckily for Indiana, coach Jim O’Brien is known for making something out of nothing. His offense creates open jump shots for everyone on the floor. Granger is a serious player. His package of length, strength, agility and acumen is the stuff of stars. In O’Brien’s system, he has plenty of room to operate. Dunleavy, Murphy and Rush will also have ample opportunities on the perimeter. If Ford can stay healthy and Hibbert and Hanbrough can play, O’Brien could have this crew hummin in the neighborhood of .500. Lots of ifs.

This is an important season for a franchise that has still never quite shaken the bad feelings of the Malice in the Palace. Losing Donnie Walsh did not help much. Their respective win totals for the past three season are 35, 36 and 36. Quality. Indiana’s purge of talented bad apples has been executed horribly. The Pacers have repeatedly lost leverage in the potential dealings of the mal contents, usually because Indy got up on a moral high horse. What’s up, Larry? Drafting Granger was obviously a great move--though he did drop to the Pacers at 17. Yet unless some of GM Bird’s other young players blossom this season, the failure to secure enough talent is his. If the living lephracun Jim O’Brien can enchant his team into the playoffs, Larry lives for another day. If the Pacers stay in the doldrums, he is gonna get McHale’d.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Shaq Attack

Flipping through the channels last night, I caught Shaq VS - great show, I recommend it to everyone, this is what network tv should be all about.

Shaq is an amazing athlete and he's got some super cute footwork at about minute 28:30 in a boxing match with 5'10, 180-ish pound Oscar de la Joya.

I wonder how LaBron feels about the Cavs hiring him a circus act?

(a sorta) League Preview: Golden State Warriors

For Minnesota and New York, it is almost an accomplishment not to be among the sorriest. For many more of these fair to middlin teams, mediocrity is a sad door prize for being yesterday’s team on the rise. Meet the cast of Pacific Division’s second lowliest.

Golden State Warriors

PG Monta Ellis Stephen Curry Speedy Claxton
SG Anthony Morrow Kelenna Azubuike
SF Stephen Jackson Corey Maggette Devean George
PF Anthony Randolph Brandon Wright
C Andris Biedrins Ronny Turiaf

Golden State plays little or no defense, has no true star player, and is basically returning the same cast that went 29-53 last year. They are super small, and yet the have no point guard. On the other hand, the have plenty of guys who can put the ball in the basket, and a system that creates lots of shots.

As crazy as Nellie ball has been through out the years, this current concoction is among the zaniest. Captain Jack understandably has asked out, but if the Warriors’ front office holds tight, he is going to have another huge year playing the classic Nellie point forward. His ability to get folks involved could provide the cover that Ellis, Morrow, Azubuike and the rookie Curry need.

Biedrins is a young center entering his prime who knows the system. He is a top shelf shot blocker, a solid rebounder, and dunks anything around the rim. His back up Turiaf plays with a physicality and energy that make the combo a potentially formidable tandem. The fantasy world is drooling over the potential of an Anthony Randolph unleased. Young Randolph seems to have the skills and motor to be a do-it-all forward. But what do we really know about this cat?

The health of Biedrins, and Nellie’s disposition towards Randolph may well spell the fate of Golden State. Health is something you cannot control. Perhaps the same could be said for Nellie’s disposition. His decades long commitment to perimeter-oriented teams that try and outscore opponents gets harder to admire when he starts playing psych games that stunt his team’s success. He has won a lot of games in this League. But if Nelson blows it with Anthony Randolph, and the kid actually turns out to be good, Warriors fans will call for his head.

If Nellie can get this young team on a roll things could get exciting. More likely, its another sub 30 win campaign in Oaktown.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, September 07, 2009

(a sorta) League Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves

New York is slightly better than the League’s sorriest because they have a team identity, a shared concept of what they are trying to accomplish. Sure, they lack the talent to really make much noise. But good, consistent team play has the potential to at least make them competitive. Such is also true for the Northwest Division’s worst team.

Minnesota Timberwolves

PG Jonny Flynn Chucky Atkins
SG Damien Wilkins Wayne Ellington
SF Ryan Gomes Corey Brewer
PF Kevin Love Brian Cardinal Oleksiy Pecherov
C Al Jefferson Ryan Hollins Mark Blount

The likely acquisition of Ramon Sessions to the T-Wolves is a potential season savior. The Wolves re-building effort has left the cupboard pretty bare in the Wolves backcourt. Jonny Flynn is a bit of an x-factor. But he is a rookie on a team without many shot blockers to clean up his inevitable mistakes. Not good. That where the Sessions as savior bit comes in: The stability and leadership he provides on the perimeter gives the T-Wolves a shot at respectability. Look for he and Flynn on the court together, as Wilkins and Ellington are easily the weakest tandem of two guards in the League.

I love the front line of the Wolves. Like those classic Bullets teams of the 70s and 80s, what they lack in length, they bring in brawn and brains. Not a bad way to roll. Jefferson and Love both possess a number of unique talents. Big Al’s feathery touch is poetry in the post. Love’s control of the space around him in the paint is nearly master level. Though under-sized, they will be formidable for all comers. Ryan Gomes is another short on length and long in game. Look for these three to play very well together.

I had the Wolves among the sorriest until the anticipated arrival of Sessions. They are slightly more talented than your full tear down rebuilding effort. But not much. With Sessions, the Wolves swim among the fair to middlin, with the lower half of the lottery still quite possible. If Sessions stays in Milwaukee, the Wolves are looking at 20 wins max.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, September 06, 2009

(a sorta) League Preview: New York Knicks

Having reviewed the League’s sorriest, we now examine a group of 8 whose fate is less clear. Yes, they sort of suck and will most likely populate the lottery. And yet, they have enough balance and potential fire power to get a sniff at an 8 seed if they gel as a unit. Back to the Atlantic Division.

New York Knicks

PG Chris Duhon Toney Douglas
SG Larry Hughes Joe Crawford
SF Wilson Chandler Danilo Gallinari
PF Al Harrington Jordan Hill Jared Jefferies
C Darko Milicic Eddy Curry

Looking at that sorry group of clowns listed above, you know I am assuming that reports of one-year deals for both David Lee and Nate Robinson are true. Without Lee AND Robinson, the Knicks could slip to the sorriest, no problem.

New York separates themselves from the suckers largely because of Mike D’Antoni. Once again, the Knicks are trotting out a team without the talent to be much more than mediocre. But the young guys found a bit of a flow last season. With Lee, Harrington, Chandler, Duhon and Robinson, they return a core that understands the system. Both Chandler and Gallinari have the potential for a break out season. Duhon is decent conductor. They can put up some serious points. Fun stuff.

The Knicks defense in horrible. Even with maximum effort, the team’s personnel simply is not up to the task. Lee has great energy and skill. But he is a 6’9 center. Harrington is a 6’8 power forward. Youch. Hughes at shooting guard is another red flag. With the ‘crossing our fingers for 2010’ plan in full effect, the Knicks are in the awful position of needing a good 65-75 games from the oft injured Hughes. Scary.

Likely lottery in New York, but there may be glimmers of hope until the All-Star break. And that is progress in Knick land.

Labels: , , ,

(a sorta) League Preview: The Sorriest




New Jersey

Labels: , ,

Friday, September 04, 2009

(a sorta) League Preview: Memphis Grizzlies

New Jersey
, Milwaukee and Sacramento are all gonna be bad. Same with the darling of the Southwest Division basement.

Memphis Grizzlies

PG Allen Iverson Mike Conley

SG O.J. Mayo Marco Jaric

SF Rudy Gay Sam Young DeMarre Carroll

PF Zach Randolph Darrell Arthur

C Marc Gasol Hasheem Thabeet Steven Hunter

As crazy as it sounds, signing Allen Iverson may have been the one thing Memphis could have done to avoid the seemingly unavoidable train wreck of 2009-10. I know, I know: The Grizzlies central problem is too many guys concerned about getting their shots. But if somehow AI comes in with an attitude of rallying this band of misfits by demonstrating by example the benefits of mutual sacrifice, this team has the talent to do some business. Mayo, Gay, Gasol and Conley are a decent young nucleus. Randolph has skills to contribute. If they could get on the same page, just imagine.

Actually, if AI is the secret savior of the Griz, it will be the crazier than it sounds. Iverson's decision to suit up for Memphis is a bad idea. He has had a marvelous career--one of the best ever for a little man. But he has not really been able to guard for several seasons now. If he was going to a good team to play a limited role, I would be all for it. Memphis?

The Grizzlies are doomed to implode sometime before mid January. Too many players with too many agendas, none of which involve defense. The younger Gasol showed some decent promise in the pivot. Though a lesser to his brother, he is beefy and he knows his way around the paint. Good thing. Thabeet is a big gamble, and I would be very surprised if he contributed much to winning this season. Old friend Zebo is nurturing his reputation as a numbers guy for the League’s worst teams. Yuk. I cannot imagine how he will blend with OJ, Mayo and AI. I can imagine those all four of those guys starring at each other after opponents glide in for uncontested lay ups. Cheering for your team against the Griz will be big fun this year.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

(a sorta) League Preview: Sacramento Kings

New Jersey and Milwaukee down. Staying stinky, but switching Conferences, I bring you the least of the Pacific.

Sacramento Kings

Depth chart:

PG Beno Udrih Tyreke Evans Sergio Rodriguez

SG Kevin Martin Francisco Garcia

SF Andres Nocioni Donte Green Omri Casspi

PF Jason Thompson Kenny Thomas

C Spencer Hawes Sean May

Perhaps slightly more talented and well rounded than its fellow Eastern cellar dwellers, Sacto is more a victim of the talent at the top two thirds of the West. To their credit, the Kings have several exciting perimeter players. Martin is a super efficient scoring machine. Nocioni and Garcia have proven they can answer the bell. The ability to get to the rim of young rookie Evans was the talk of the summer league. Even Udrih brings some veteran savy.

Up front is where picture gets a lot more hazy. Both Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes have displayed big time pro potential. They are long, young and athletic. But defend well they do not. Subs Kenny Thomas and Sean May offer little help on that score. If you cannot defend the paint, you lose a lot of games. Sacto has the grit that the might offer a fight to about anyone on the right night. Problem is that there will mostly be wrong nights.

Labels: , , ,

(a sorta) League Preview: Milwaukee Bucks

I am going to attempt to wind my way through the League’s 30 teams in time for the season. So far, I have done New Jersey. In the spirit of a better tomorrow, I will continue with other cellar dwellers, this one of the Eastern Central variety.

Milwaukee Bucks

Depth chart:

PG Luke Ridnour Brandon Jennings
SG Michael Redd Carlos Delfino Charlie Bell
SF Luc Richard Mbah a Moute Joe Alexander Ersan Ilyasova
PF Hakim Warrick Kurt Thomas
C Andrew Bogut Dan Gadzuric

These guys are screwed. Tough financial times for owner Senator Herb Kohl resulted in the outright losses of Richard Jefferson, Charlie Villanueva and (likely) Ramon Sessions. Losing talent on a talent strapped team is a sad thing. Milwaukee’s season is a Bogut injury from total lottery-ville. With a healthy Bogut and a healthy Michael Redd, the Bucks have enough scrappers to remain respectable. Ridnour is a legit NBA starter, so if Jennings can actually beat him out, Milwaukee may even generate some occasional excitement.

Milwaukee’s problem is that in a forward rich League, they have a bunch of maybes, has beens and nobodys. Perhaps somehow Ilyasova will surprise, but I expect very little from Alexander at this point. Mbah a Moute may earn the starting job on hustle points. Not a good sign. Look for a Michael Redd fire sale leading up to the trade deadline.

Labels: , ,