Friday, February 17, 2012

The Dilemma of the NBA Point Guard...

The NBA is exhibiting a renaissance at the point guard position. Whereas even solid, serviceable big men are a rare breed (I'm talking about cats 6'10" and taller) and the ones we do have are in dire need of basic low post skills like scoring and shot-blocking, the point guard spot hasn't been this flush full of talent since the early-to-mid 1980's. Chicago Bulls center Joachim Noah of Chicago wouldn't even get off the bench back in the day , but I guess Granville Waiters isn't walking through that door anytime soon, so he is a starter with a nice contract extension on a championship-level squad that boasts only one true standout star, and that is point guard Derrick Rose.

But he has to do EVERYTHING, which is the main reason he's sat out the last four games with back problems. He has to score, run the offense and, last but of tantamount importance, he is the go-to guy in the fourth quarter. You can only ask so much from a guy playing the most important position out on the floor. The one consolation is that his team is good enough to be mentioned amongst the NBA elite, which is more than I can say for a bunch of other as-talented ballers who must spend the best years of their careers on floundering teams.

As much crap as people from within the Boston Celtics organization have talked about Rajon Rondo over the years, they'd be nowhere without him. Watching them play this year, it's obvious they are a year too late with their "Big Three" experiment. They managed to get one title out of it, and if it wasn't for injuries and stupid trades like shipping off Tony Allen and Kendrick Perkins to replace them with Shaquille and Jermaine O'Neal they would have had at least two, maybe even three. They also depleted their bench of young, high-energy players like Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Nate Robinson for absolutely no reason. Those four would have made a difference this year, but instead they have retreads like Brandon Bass, Keyon Dooling, Marquis Daniels, Michael Pietrus and Chris Wilcox. Rondo is in trouble, because he's signed to a long-term contract and the team will become appreciably worse next year when guaranteed tow of their Big Three are gone next season, leaving a visibly aging Paul Pierce to lead them right to the draft lottery.

Deron Williams-has anyone seen him this year? Or last? Of course not, because he plays in New Jersey, when even when they had a squad that boasted one of the most exciting offenses run by floor general and serial wife beater Jason Kidd they still couldn't give tickets away. New principal Mikhail Prokhorov came in with typical Russian Oligarch bombast, posting billboards close to Madison Square Garden announcing The Nets were there to challenge the Knicks for the hearts and minds of NYC basketball fans. The buzz was they had the cash from Prohkorov AND the street cred with minority owner Jay-Z AND cap space going forward. Well, that didn't quite work out as well as they had hoped, and Williams is left having to throw under-the-basket alley oops to the Frankenstinian Brooke Lopez, who answers the question "what would Stephen Hawking play like if he were seven feet tall". Lopez is so uncoordinated he makes Joachim Noah, one of the most uncoordinated dorks in the NBA besides Lopez's twin brother Robin, look like Akeem Olajuwon. Somewhere, Chris Washburn, William Bedford and Roy Tarpley, leaders of the illustrious NBA All-Crackhead Draft Class of 1986, are kicking themselves in the ass for wasting their collective talent and leaving the league to these embalmed corpses.

Nobody wants to play in New Jersey, so they can't entice any quality free agents, even with the promise of a gleaming new stadium right in the heart of Brooklyn. And the Bling factor brought on board by the illustrious J-Hova never materialized. I never understood why this aspect was so overplayed in the media. Jay-Z has enough juice to get courtside seats (not hard to do with those promotional giveaways The Nets advertise on television) and hang out with the players, and that's it. And who the fuck would want to hang out with those losers? For the Nets to re-sign Williams to a long-term deal, they will HAVE to either make a trade for Dwight Howard, who has stated The Nets are a destination he's consider, or just wait until the off-season to get him with the assurance that Williams will be there.

Realistically, New York City isn't for everyone, and professional athletes have it rough under the bright lights and intense media scrutiny. Take a look at the crap A-Rod has to deal with. The ones that are here face challenges that an off-court nightlife and mega-deal endorsements can't make up for. Just ask Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, who came in with incredible hype, are getting paid big money and are enjoying the fruits of living in the Big Apple, yet have been eclipsed in the span of 6 games by an Asian overachiever from Harvard who was a pack of duck sauce away from getting cut before his contract was guaranteed earlier this year. Now he's the toast of the town and there is talk of actually trading one of the two previously mentioned superstars. But it goes to show you how, even with such a formidable front line, a basketball team cannot win without a quality point guard. I won't get into Jeremy Lin because he deserves his own post, which will be coming soon. I want to see how he plays against Dallas when Carmelo Anthony is scheduled to be back in the lineup.

Yes, but will she and the Garden fans love him long time?
*BREAKING NEWS-The New York Knicks have just signed former Denver Nuggets shooting guard J.R. Smith for the pro-rated mid-level exception. Yes, he is a head case, but Smith is one of the most athletic players they've had in years (Gerald Wilkens? I don't think so). If coach Mike D'Antoni can handle his attitude and get him to buy in, they have the makings of a very good team. Let's see how they play when everyone, including Baron Davis, gets healthy. Davis could be another weapon in the arsenal or could phone it in like he's known to do. He is due for a special performance because as reported on ESPN, Davis hasn't had a significant basketball moment in about four years.

Just look at the turnaround of the perpetually moribund Los Angeles Clippers. They sucked always and in every way possible, but now with Chris Paul they have been rechristened "Lob City", with hopes of challenging the top teams in the Western Conference, whose list does not include the Lakers. The glaring need for a point guard should have been addressed last year, but since they decided to give away one of their top trade assets in Lamar Odom for absolutely nothing, they will have to blow up their remaining front line to land a quality player. Trading for Dwight Howard will bring them no closer to a title because their bench has been napalmed into irrelevance with (just like the Celtics) bad trades and letting good role players walk. So instead of having three players they could trade for Howard AND a desperately needed point guard, now they have to for the immediate future, settling for one or the other.

The other glaring problem is they have maybe two more years after this one of Kobe Bryant at the top of his game before Father Time says enough is enough and puts paid to his little bullshit fadeaway jumpshot. And as we have seen from pro athletes, they have a tendency to lose it immediately when that day finally comes, and once that occurs it is final. So The Lakers have no time to rebuild what is an old, untalented and demoralized squad. Keep shooting 45 times game, Kobe. They have a front line demoralized by constant trade rumors, two aging, unathletic point guards who cannot their big men the ball because Kobe's always shooting it, and a bench reminiscent of Skid Row. Gasol and Bynam haven't responded to Bryant this year because they know he's a nutbox who only gives a fuck about getting his and his alone. And don't get me started on Ron Artest. His game is so putrid he has seagulls constantly encircling him the second he gets out of his car because they mistake his aura for that of a municipal trash dump.

Eric Gordon, the New Orleans Hornets guard who was part of the Chris Paul trade, isn't interested in playing there after this year. He declined to sign a long-term deal and wants out. So does Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings, who has told the press he's going to consider his options at the end of the year. Even though both players are undersized, shoot-first two-guards playing the point, they are extremely athletic and talented enough to make a difference on better teams. John Wall is another hyper-talented player whose stats have fallen off this year because he's playing in Washington, whose toxicity hovers over the nation's capital like the nuclear reactor in Chernobyl. He's still under contract, but he's going to run towards the door faster than a free cheese handout in the 'hood. And there will be a stampede for teams vying for his services. There are some interesting scenarios that will play out between now and the free agent signing period beginning July 1st. One thing is for sure-good players are tired of playing on bad teams, and I don't blame them.

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