This is a 2015 NBA Preview: 30 things I KNOW about this season, Part Two

Back for part two of our trip ’round the (NBA) world. Part one can be found here, so find it already.

“Trevor Ariza only plays well in contract years, will be a disaster with Houston” in a bogus statement

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Really, this is the kind of stuff that annoys me to death. It’s a lazy narrative, started by lazy people.

Trevor Ariza spent the first three years of his NBA career sparingly, til he found a home (and a role) in Los Angeles as a wing guy who could defend, get buckets in transition and hit some wide open three which, as luck would have it, is the extent of what he is capable of doing on a basketball court. Shockingly, he flourished in said role, especially in the 2009 finals, and was a valuable cog in the Lakers championship machine.

Alas, that summer the Lakers decided to court Ron Artest, leaving Ariza to leave his hometown and seek his fortunes in Houston, to the tune of about 5 years/34 million. Problem was, Ariza was signed to play a similar 3 & D role in Houston, but all of the Rockets stars got hurt at the same time, which meant Trev had to be featured in the offense beyond his capabilities.

Makes sense, don’t it? Role player is forcing into leading man spot, suddenly goes from 46% shooting on 8 attempts per game to 39% on 14. And so went the next to years in New Orleans after being traded there.

After that, he ended up with the Wizards where, surprise, he was asked to play some defense and stand in the corner and wait for John Wall and Brad Beal to find him, wide open, for three pointers. And guess what? His stats got better again (!), peaking last year when he shot 46% and made almost twice as many threes as he’d ever made in a single season, and on a career high .404 percentage.

It’s simple, brother. Put the guy in a position to succeed, and chances are good that he will. Well, Houston is a good fit for him, since Dwight Howard and James Harden command plenty of defensive attention. All Ariza has to do is play defense and knock down open looks, and he will, even though he is a guy who supposedly only plays well in contract years and just signed a new contract this summer.

It’s not a miracle, it’s just common sense.

The Kings are appointment viewing

Yep. No typo here. The Kings are a proud member of my League Pass 5. Guess what else? I’ve got at least 5 reasons why.

Actually, I lied. I only have one. Shit, I only need one. He is Vive Ranadive, or as I like to call him, “damaged Rick Pitino”.

Seriously. It’s fucked up.

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Looking like a ghastly, somewhat more frail version of Pitino is bad enough, but it gets better.

Pitino has enjoyed a Hall Of Fame coaching career by employing the 40 minute, non-stop full court press and run and gun attack, all the while being charismatic enough to recruit great players to implement said system. Ranadive was introduced to basketball by teaching his young daughters’ youth basketball team to an undefeated record by…having them press full court for the entire game. No shit dude, I swear. Here’s an article about it, in the New Yorker, no less. Both did so to great success, in the relative sense. I mean, Pitino has multiple NCAA Titles and Vivek has a neato ribbon from the Menlo Park recreation center.

Buoyed by his experience, Ranadive took some of his leftover internet bajillions and bought the Sacramento Kings, which would be just fine if he didn’t insist on becoming the new sort of GM and basketball omniscient, but fucking A you knew he would, right? This is what I’m constantly trying to tell people about Jerry Jones. If the guy wants to take all of his hard earned money and play fantasy sports with a real live actual sports team, who is to stand in his way? I just know I don’t want to waste my time rooting for such a team.

Ah, but I digress.

As the laws of nature and Darwinism dictate, the world needs the weak. By this token, the new Lakers will flail around wildly with Jerry Buss’ halfwit son at the helm and the 76ers will lose on purpose, etc. Still, no other shitty team will be as fun as Vivek’s bunch. This, after all, is the team that is attempting to build around DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. The team that jettisoned 20 point scorer and replaced him with Darren Collison, a guy who has been thoroughly exposed as a shooting guard/track star in a point guards body. The team that drafted a player whose only skill is long distance shooting with the 8th pick in one of the most loaded drafts in recent history.

And yes, the team whose owner actually suggested that the team try a 4-on-5, cherry-picking strategy on defense. During Games. That Count.

Again, I ain’t making this shit up. Read, and rejoice.

In last night’s opener, the Kings made 24 field goals and turned the ball over 26 times. They shot 30%. They had 13 assists, or more than Rajon Rondo had all by himself against Brooklyn. They scored 78 points, in total, despite being built to score. They lost by 18, at home.

If you like bad basketball the way you like bad movies, this is your gang. Enjoy the show.

The Cavs aren’t ready to contend*

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The new Cavs uniforms…brought to you by McDonald’s hot mustard sauce.

This is a brand new roster featuring a bunch of guys who are unfamiliar with each other. An entirely new coaching staff with an entirely new system. History tells us that in this wonderful sport of basketball, most teams (with the notable exception of the 2008 Celtics) simply aren’t capable of winning a title in their first season together.

Now, factor in this. Two-thirds of their star triumvirate has never even been to the post-season.

Maybe Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love will conquer the NBA playoff learning curve in ways that few others have, thus silencing the haters (and there are many) who claim they are nothing more than empty-calorie stat chasers. Or maybe they won’t. Actually, at least for year one, I’m guessing they won’t.

Of course, you might have noticed the asterisk in the title of this post. Allow me to explain. By my logic, this team won’t be ready to challenge for titles this year, or maybe ever, but that is assuming that the Bulls stay healthy and the western conference isn’t wiped out by Ebola. Laugh if you want, but the league has had a funny habit of falling by the wayside in the last three years while LeBron James-led teams skated through the playoffs with little or no resistance. In that span we saw catastrophic injuries to Kobe, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and about a half dozen other superstars. In the last two playoff runs, LeBron’s Heat didn’t even have to play a single 50 win team in the Eastern draw until they played that wretched lottery team masquerading as the Indiana Pacers in last years’ ECF. Think about that for a second.
Alas, it’s better to be lucky than good.
So, do you see my point about the asterisk? If Derrick Rose managed avoid another leg boo boo, the Cavs should get their asses handed to them. If not, the next best team in the eastern conference becomes, um…Washington? Toronto?
Exactly. Given recent history, don’t be surprised to see Cleveland in the Finals.
The Milwaukee Bucks are going to blow many, many leads this year
milwaukee-bucks-logo

Still the bestest logo.

I got this wisdom straight from chapter 16 of the “winning in the NBA handbook”, whereby it is explained that although you may have enough talent and effort to take leads on tired, distracted or otherwise unmotivated teams, closing them out is an altogether different matter, and usually revolves around have a go-to guy, capable of getting buckets consistently down the stretch of games.
Well, if you watched the Bucks take (and cough up) a 24 point lead over the Hornets last night, only to lose in overtime, you might have noticed that the player they relied most heavily on in crunchtime was, uh, some dude named Khris Middleton.
So yeah.
Not to worry, though. This is how the maturation process goes. Once upon a time, Kevin Durant was going 20-62. Milwaukee has some nice young pieces, but unless someone steps into that crunch time role (sadly, O.J. mayo is the most viable candidate), they are going to have a ton of forgettable 4th quarters.
-John Hathwell
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