HOOPSWORLD Week In Review
Six Pack: Knicks Stuck With Stoudemire?
By Tommy Beer
HOOPSWORLD’s Senior NBA Analyst Tommy Beer takes you through his most recent musings on the National Basketball Association in this latest installment of the NBA Six Pack:
1. Would New York Be Able to Move Amar’e?
With his mangled hand still wrapped in bandages, it remains unknown whether or not Amar’e Stoudemire will return for Game 4 on Sunday, quite possibly the final game of the Knicks’ 2011-12 season, which leads to a question some fans here in New York are already asking: Has Amar’e already played his final game as a Knickerbocker? When this rollercoaster ride of a season finally ends, the focus on the Knicks’ future will begin and that future is cloudy, as key roster pieces appear incompatible.
With just three players (Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, and Stoudemire) set to account for a combined $53 million in 2012-13 – and a combined $57.2 million the following season – New York’s salary concerns are glaringly apparent. It’s not that you can’t have two or three superstars clogging your cap; you just have to make sure those superstars are terrific two-way players, who can stay healthy and ensure that the team can find a way flesh out the roster with solid role players.
Where Do The Suns Go From Here?
By Jason Fleming
If there was a perfectly average team of the 2011-12 NBA season, it was the Phoenix Suns. After going into the season with playoff aspirations built around the final season of All-Star point guard Steve Nash’s contract, a dip at the end dropped them to 33-33 overall, three games out of the playoff picture, and facing major decisions in the months to come.
The Suns were the only team to finish at .500 on the season. The posted a scoring differential of -0.2, tied with the Houston Rockets – just above them in the Western Conference standings – for the differential closest to even (Houston posted a +0.2). Their longest streak of any kind was a five-game losing streak in early January. They turned the ball over the exact same amount as they forced, at 14.1 per game. Behind Nash they tied for sixth in assists per game, but fell well into the bottom third when it came to rebounding.
Most any NBA fan will tell that average seems like a good thing, but as a measuring stick it’s an indicator of being stuck in the middle between rebuilding and success. The good news for Phoenix is smart management could turn them back into a playoff team in short order.
Top 5 Most Devastating Playoff Injuries
By Joel Brigham
If you’ve wondered what 22,000 silent people feels like, all you would’ve had to do was attend Game 1 of this year’s first round series between the Chicago Bulls and the Philadelphia 76ers. When 2011 MVP Derrick Rose tore his ACL with 82 seconds left to play in the game, the wind was literally knocked out of the building because every single one of those 22,000 knew Chicago’s hope for another championship banner—at least this year—was all but shredded right along with that ligament in D-Rose’s knee.
It was a knockout punch, both for the team and the city, but was it the worst instance ever of a team losing a star player right in the midst of a legitimate postseason run?
That’s what this list intends to explore. I’m most concerned with how good a shot a team might have had at winning the ring had this particular guy not gone down. It doesn’t necessarily matter which round it happened in, just that the player being gone was enough to cause the team to lose. The more that was at stake, the more a team and its fan base lost, the higher on this list they will be.
Here they are, the Top 5 Most Devastating Playoff Injuries:
Are The Raptors A Playoff Team Next Year?
By Stephen Brotherston
After four consecutive trips to the draft lottery and two 20-win campaigns in a row, Raptors fans could be forgiven if they are having trouble finding reason to hope for future post season action in Toronto. A mediocre team featuring All-Star Chris Bosh quickly became a bad team after he left town two seasons ago, but things can and something do change quickly in the NBA and every person associated with the Raptors franchise has playoffs in mind for next season.
“We haven’t been to the playoffs for four years, so I am the first person who is very thirsty about making the playoffs,” said Andrea Bargnani. “It has to be next year. Everybody is very committed to do it next year. At this point, we have to do it next year.”
Raptors President and General Manager Bryan Colangelo was selling his plan for next season since before the current season had even started, but it has been new head coach Dwane Casey who pulled off the miracle that provides some glimmer of hope in Toronto. The Raptors had become easy pickings in the NBA and floundered at the bottom of every defensive category, but in one lockout-shortened season, Casey changed everything.
Coach: The Guile Of The Gasols, +1 Passes
By Anthony Macri
The Guile of the Gasols
Building a great NBA player goes beyond selecting the best physical attributes. If I were building a player, one place I’d go is to the Gasol brothers for their cunning and guile. The easiest way to describe their gameplay is to refer to them as playing, collectively, an “old man game.” Pau and Marc utilize a variety of methods to outsmart the more athletic defenders covering them. Three specific and transferable skills should be taught to players at every level, because an awareness of them (and full incorporation of the techniques into one’s game) will have immediate and significant dividends.
First, both Gasols (but particularly Pau) do an excellent job of changing speeds in transition. Most bigs are taught, at a young age, to sprint the floor rim to rim every chance they get: and this is good advice – sprinting the floor is never incorrect. But players miss out on certain opportunities when they simply sprint: they could set up their defender with clever changes of speed as well. The Gasols both run the floor, at around 80 percent, most of the time. Then occasionally they burst to full throttle just as their defender settles into a groove, leaving him a half step behind as they catch a pass and finish at the rim. This deception is invaluable – it keeps the opposing team off-balance and unprepared for whatever will come next.
The ability and propensity to shot fake constantly, changing the angle of attack and disrupting the timing of potential shot-blockers, frustrates opposing defenders. Marc is especially adept at using delays prior to shots near the rim. Many defenders know that athletically, they can soar above Marc’s highest finishing point, and therefore they look for opportunities to contest shots above the rim. To counter, Marc often brings the ball up to a spot where he would shoot, then delays for a half second. That half second delay is all he needs to get that defender out of position and unable to contest – and Marc finishes the shot with relative ease.