And So It Begins ……….. The NBA Playoffs Are Here …….

And So It Begins ……….. The NBA Playoffs Are Here …….

The NBA postseason is almost upon us and the first round of games beginning this upcoming Saturday the 16th April . But on a side note it cannot have escaped the latest incident whereby NBA Commissioner David Stern had to impose a severe $100,000 fine on the Los Angeles Lakers’ guard Kobe Bryant for using a derogatory homophobic term towards a referee during the Lakers’ game against the San Antonio Spurs . I’ve always felt that far too many of today’s athletes are nothing more than a bunch of entitled primadona self absorbed idiots who think themselves above the law and above the rules that govern their game ! Bryant seems to be no different and his less than contrite apology speaks volumes as to the player’s immaturity at this juncture .

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Slide show for your perusal .

The Lakers’ season has now become all the more tenuous when it was announced that their center Andrew Bynum has a recurring knee injury that could very well sideline him for initial part of the first round of these playoffs. A match-up against the New Orleand Hornets has all the semblance of a potential upset if the Los Angeles Lakers aren’t fully prepared for their task against the Chris Paul and David West led Hornets . This will be a match-up of styles and though many feel that the Lakers are the more athletic of the two teams I personally believe that the Lakers’ Achilles’ heel is that their bench lacks real depth ! The likes of Joe Smith and Theo Ratliff on paper may well look impressive but in actuality , do they actually strike fear into anyone much less you as a fan ? Admittedly , the Lakers may well this season’s potential Sixth Man of the Year in Lamar Odom but beyond that the roster in terms of its bench has nothing . The team’s greatest strength is that of their duo Pau Gasol and Bryant himself who leads the team in scoring .

Courtesy of NBA.com

NBA fines Kobe $100,000 for apparent slur toward ref

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The NBA fined Kobe Bryant $100,000 on Wednesday for using a derogatory gay term in frustration over a referee’s call.

NBA Commissioner David Stern issued a swift disciplinary ruling after the Los Angeles Lakers’ five-time NBA champion guard cursed and used the homophobic slur when referee Bennie Adams called a technical foul on him Tuesday night in the third quarter of a victory over the San Antonio Spurs.

“Kobe Bryant’s comment during last night’s game was offensive and inexcusable,” Stern said. “While I’m fully aware that basketball is an emotional game, such a distasteful term should never be tolerated. … Kobe and everyone associated with the NBA know that insensitive or derogatory comments are not acceptable and have no place in our game or society.”

Stern’s action drew praise from gay-rights organizations that had demanded a fuller apology from Bryant and condemnation of his words by the Lakers. Bryant, the sixth-leading scorer in NBA history, issued a statement earlier Wednesday saying his words came strictly out of anger and shouldn’t be taken literally.

“We applaud Commissioner Stern and the NBA for not only fining Bryant but for recognizing that slurs and derogatory comments have no place on the basketball court or in society at large,” Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said. “We hope such swift and decisive action will send a strong and universal message that this kind of hateful outburst is simply inexcusable no matter what the context.”

Bryant’s words and actions were captured by TNT’s cameras during the network’s national broadcast of the Lakers’ regular-season home finale.

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A patron (JW aka Dubs) of my site had posed the question to me who amongst the teams in the Western Conference would simply be good enough to derail the hopes of the Lakers in the off-season ? My response to him ___ was , that should the Lakers and Spurs meet in the conference finals it would not be beyond the realms of possibility to see the Lakers succumb to Gregg Popovich coached Spurs . The equalizing factor may well be the two head coaches in Phil Jackson and Popovich who between them have won nine of the last fifteen NBA titles since 1996 . If that’s not accounting for the dominance of these two coaches and their respective teams , someone needs to explain to me what is.

The seedings within the Western Conference has worked itself out coming into the last week of the regular season schedule with the San Antonio Spurs sewing up the number one seed followed by the Lakers , Dallas Mavericks , Oklahoma City Thunder , Denver Nuggets , Portland Trailblazers , New Orleans Hornets and finally the Memphis Grizzlies .

The Eastern Conference played itself out with the Chicago Bulls taking the number one overall seed much to the surprise of many who may well have felt that Tom Thibodeau’s young team led by MVP candidate Derrick Rose weren’t yet ready to be viewed amongst the elite teams within the conference. Instead we had the inconsistency shown by the Celtics , Heat and Magic all thought to be potential leading candidates for the conference’s number one seed. But the inconsistency shown by those trio of teams over the course of the season opened the door for the Chicago Bulls their successful regular season.

Rose for his part ably abetted by Luol Deng , Joakim Noah , Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer have all played their part resurrecting the fortunes of the ball-club from those lofty days when Phil Jackson was the coach and Michael Jordan was leading the organization to their numerous triumphs . The question now being asked by the faithful Bulls’ fans who’ve attended the home games at the United Center is whether or not this team is actually capable of winning this season’s NBA title. This postseason may well go a long way in answering those questions and a great deal more not only about the Chicago Bulls also as to the aspirations of several other teams within the Eastern Conference. Undoubtedly the coaching acumen of Tom Thibodeau as coach of the Bulls has to be admired and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him being rewarded with the NBA’s Coach of the Year Award as he’d be thoroughly deserving of the award !

It goes without saying that while the Miami Heat were obviously viewed as the prohibitive favorites within the Eastern Conference merely because of the Pat Riley off-season engineered moves amongst the free agents on the market _____ many felt that the Heat would walk away with the conference. You even had the asinine notion being raised by none other than former coach Jeff Van Gundy and former Knicks’ point guard Mark Jackson that this incarnation of the Miami Heat would be able to challenge the Bulls’ single season record of 72 wins . In essence both Jackson and Van Gundy were enamored with style over substance rather than what was tangible and in front of their very eyes. And hence ,it’s one of the primary reasons why I tend not to take anything that they have to say about the NBA with any sense of intelligence. Because it’s as if duo had a man crush on LeBron James and this team rather than looking at their body of work over the course of the season . Gullible and unintelligent would simply sum up their knowledge and the asinine prognostications that they’ve made about this team and what they thought was actually possible.

Now while I believe that the Heat stands as good a chance as any of the deemed favorites within the Eastern Conference , I firmly believe that if they’re to prevail then the play of their main trio of James , Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade will have to be at a heightened level with the role players on this roster also stepping up their game . If they’re able to do that then it’s my belief that they can prevail within the conference but given the relative postseason inexperience of the team’s coach Erik Spoelstra it could well be that in part that they will struggle along the way as the team’s postseason efforts evolve. My firm opinion is that the top four seeds within the Eastern Conference will be the conference semi finalists and that the match-ups there will go along way in suggesting who we are likely to see in the conference finals .

If there is to be a surprise to be had in the first round of this season’s playoffs I do believe that it could come at the hands if the New York Knicks pushing the Boston Celtics for all their worth. And though this Knicks’ team leaves a great deal to be desired in terms of their defensive efforts there’s no denying that offensively they can stand toe to toe with just about any high scoring team left in these playoffs. GM Donnie Walsh in acquring Amar’e Stoudemire , Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups made sure that the team was at least capable of competing but there’s little to suggest that there’s now that consistency sought to actually make that one big push in the postseason. But herein lies the caveat once the postseason comes around everything indeed appears to be on a level playing home field advantage or not , and I do believe that both Anthony and Stoudemire wish to prove the team’s doubters wrong.

The Boston Celtics with a mix of some youth and veteran experience seem to relish the postseason and in Doc Rivers they have a coach who knows how to coax the best out of his players. But as I’ve repeatedly said to a number of patrons who’ve proffered an opinion on the team , it’s my belief that GM Danny Ainge made a profound mistake trading both Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson and getting very little in return. The duo of Perkins and Robinson were two of the unsung heroes on this roster . Unfortunately, they have an aging pair of seemingly unproductive players in Jermaine O’Neal and Shaquille O’Neal whom I believe will offer very little beyond their experience in the league. I know Shaq has five rings to his name but in reality after his decade and a half in the NBA, he’s no longer the once potent offsensive player he once was. And to my mind Jermaine O’Neal is literally robbing the Celtics blind while offering little in return !

Now while I’m really looking forward to the postseason it goes without saying that what I truly do hope to see are some very competitive series that are adjudicated by the officials with a great deal of impartiality and sound judgment rather than the usual quantity of blown calls and rather insidious wish of theirs to place themselves in the midst of a series, as if they’re indeed part of an ensemble cast. I’ve always felt that a great game is one where you see very little of the officials and more of the players exhibiting their skills and athleticism ! More often than not once the NBA postseason comes around you tend to see little of the latter and more of the referees interjecting themselves into a game or series for all of the wrong reasons that in the end tends to create more controversy than there really needs to be.

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Picture gallery for your perusal .

What thoughts if any do you have on this upcoming postseason and what if any are you really looking forward to seeing in terms of the teams playing ? Simply chime in with a comment on your thoughts on the NBA postseason . As a bye note are you also in agreement with the fine imposed on Kobe Bryant after his display , pointed and heated comments at a referee during the Lakers’ game against the Spurs ? Once again do leave a comment concerning that incident also.

Alan aka tophatal …………….

https://tophatal.wordpress.com/

Picture and slide show details below .
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(1) Sacramento Kings fan Ralph Miller IV, 9, holds a sign conveying his sentiments during the Sacramento Kings NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, April 13, 2011. The Maloof family, majority owners of the Kings, are expected to go to New York later this week to ask the NBA permission to move the team to Anaheim. AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli ………………

(2) (L-R) Tiago Splitter(22), George Hill (3) , Chris Quinn (11) , Steve Novak(23) , and Gary Neal(14) of the San Antonio Spurs look on against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on April 12, 2011 in Los Angeles, California . NBAE/Getty Images/ Andrew D Bernstein ….

(3) Andrew Bynum (17) of the Los Angeles Lakers grimaces after an injury against the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center on April 12, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Getty Images / Harry How ……….

(4) 12: Kobe Bryant(24) of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots as he is defended by Tiago Splitter(22) and Richard Jefferson(24) of the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center on April 12, 2011 in Los Angeles, California . Getty Images/ Harry How …….

(5) CHICAGO, IL – APRIL 13: of the Chicago Bulls of the New Jersey Nets at the United Center on April 13, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Nets 97-92 . Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images ……

(6) Carlos Boozer(5) of the Chicago Bulls is called for charging as he hits Dan Gadzuric(50) of the New Jersey Nets at the United Center on April 13, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois . Getty Images/ Johnathan Daniels ……..

(7) ‘The Three Stooges’ Jeff Van Gundy, right, appears comfortable with his broadcast partners Mark Jackson, left, and Mike Breen. Breen says of Van Gundy, “He’s even smiling sometimes.” . I’m not so sure that the trio mightn’t be the worse on air analysts covering the NBA either on broadcast or cable network today ! What they believe they provide in , insight , is simply dulled by their ineptitude and stupidity with the belief that they’re also funny ! Courtesy of ESPN / Scott Clarke …….

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Eastern Conference

(1) Chicago Bulls …. vs …. (8) Indiana Pacers

(2) Miami Heat …. vs ….. (7) Philadelphia 76ers

(3) Boston Celtics ……vs …… (6) New York Knicks

(4) Orlando Magic ….. vs ….. (5) Atlanta Hawks

Western Conference

(1) San Antonio Spurs ….. vs …… (8) Memphis Grizzlies

(2) Los Angeles Lakers ….. vs ….. (7) New Orleans Hornets

(3) Dallas Mavericks ….. vs ….. (6) Portland Trailblazers

(4) Oklahoma City Thunder ….. vs ….. (5) Denver Nuggets

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You Can Lead A Horse To Water But You Can’t Force It To Drink…….. Ah !

So the NBA season still in its infancy, and already it has had its first managerial casualty. Put your hands up if you thought that the New Orleans Hornets’ Byron Scott would’ve been that first casualty ? C’mon now, raise your hands I can’t see them ? Well, surprise, that’s definitely what has happened. Much to the surprise no doubt, to the Hornets’ fans and quite possibly the team’s All Star point guard Chris Paul. Now don’t get me wrong , I love Byron Scott and I believe him to be one of the better coaches in the NBA ! But how the hell can he not get the best out of this team which has a very good nucleus of players and if anything one the league’s elite players in Chris Paul ? Am I missing something here ?

Byron Scott,  the  now fired former  coach of the  Hornets.  GM ,  Jeff  Bower  who  has now  assumed  the  position  of  head coach  on  an  interim  basis.   And assistant  coach  ,  Tim  Floyd.   It's safe  to assume  that the  reins may  well be  handed  over  to Floyd   at some  time in the  future  given the  fact  Bower  has  no  experience  as a  coach of  any kind with   regard to the  NBA .   picture  appears  courtesy  of  nbae/  getty images / Richard  Tyson ..............
Byron Scott, the now fired former coach of the Hornets. GM , Jeff Bower who has now assumed the position of head coach on an interim basis. And assistant coach , Tim Floyd. It's safe to assume that the reins may well be handed over to Floyd at some time in the future given the fact Bower has no experience as a coach of any kind with regard to the NBA . picture appears courtesy of nbae/ getty images / Richard Tyson ..............

Now to make matters worse for the team, they will be without Chris Paul for anywhere up to two weeks. At 3-8 , having lost three straight games and with their last defeat being a rather lopsided loss to the Atlanta Hawks, 121-98. And with GM, Jeff Bower having assumed the reins, as coach of the team , on what is believed to be an interim basis. No one is quite sure what to make of the situation and what led to Scott’s abrupt firing and departure. Needless to say, that there’ll be a great deal of speculation as to what may well have went on, with regards to the action taken by Bower. Meanwhile,the task ahead for Bower and his assistants is to get the players, playing with a sense of urgency and more consistency. And that has obviously now been made a great deal harder with the loss of Paul, due to an injury. As he’s was viewed as the leader vocally , both on and off the field of play.

And things aren’t going to get any better for the Hornets in wake of what has transpired. In the Southwest Division of the Western Conference, they’ll have to deal with the likes of the Dallas Mavericks (6-3), Houston Rockets (5-4), San Antonio Spurs (4-4) and the ailing Memphis Grizzlies (2-8). Any respite that the team thought it might have , has been clouded in the aftermath of this internal upheaval. And with each of the teams in question having made significant changes to their player personnel. The thought that this might be the year for the Hornets to do something significant may well have to be reviewed.

Courtesy of NBA.com

Byron Scott relieved of coaching duties

Hornets General Manager Jeff Bower to serve as Head Coach

November 12, 2009

The New Orleans Hornets announced today that they have relieved Byron Scott of head coaching duties. Scott will be replaced by General Manager Jeff Bower.

“I want to thank Byron for the hard work he has put in during his time with the Hornets,” said Hornets Owner George Shinn. “I’ve hired Jeff Bower to take over the coaching reign. He knows this team better than anyone, has the respect of the players and in basketball circles, is regarded as one of the best basketball minds in the business. This is our best opportunity to reach our goals this season.”

Bower, who has spent his 14-plus seasons with the club, has been an invaluable asset for the Hornets at all levels in basketball operations. He began his tenure with the Hornets as an advance scout from 1995 to 1997 before earning a promotion as the team’s director of scouting. In addition to his scouting duties during the 1998-99 season, Bower joined the coaching ranks as an assistant after Paul Silas was named interim head coach on March 7, 1999 (and helped him lead the Hornets to a 22-13 record). After serving as the assistant general manager for the 2000-01 season, Bower was promoted to general manager in June of 2001 and has since held that position. He returned to the bench as an assistant coach under Floyd in 2003-04. Bower’s years of experience working at all levels in the Hornets’ basketball operations department culminated with his appointment to the current post of general manager just prior to the start of the team’s 2005-06 training
camp.

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Bower for his part, does have within his midst the experience of assistant coach,Tim Floyd,to fall back on. And with Floyd’s experience as a coach within the NBA , as well as at the collegiate level. It may augur well for the self installed novice coach. But that would of course be predicated upon Floyd being able to provide the much needed analysis and communicative presence to get his points across to Bower and the players alike. And based on what has transpired with Floyd on his previous foray into the NBA with the Chicago Bulls. I’ve a feeling that things might not go the way he or Bower might anticipate.

Certainly I’ve misplaced feelings about this all. As Byron Scott was the coach who brought along and nurtured the talents of Chris Paul. And it was also under his watch that David West also became an All Star in the NBA. All of a sudden, overnight, Byron Scott can’t have become the worse head coach in the NBA ? He’s had the privilege of leading the New Jersey Nets to consecutive Eastern Conference Championships and the on to consecutive NBA Finals, where upon, his teams would lose firstly to the Los Angeles Lakers, (2001-02) 4-0. And then the following season they would lose to the San Antonio Spurs, (2002-03) 4-2. On both occasions Byron Scott’s teams gave a spirited account of themselves. Albeit, that the sweep at the hands of the Lakers, came on the final leg of a hree-peat under the watchful eye of their coach, Phil Jackson .

And though this scenario may well seem far fetched. I’ve no doubt in my mind that Byron Scott will resume a coaching career in the NBA ! If the rumors are to be believed and that this could very well be Phil Jackson’s last years as a coach in the NBA . Then who better to assume the reins as his successor there in Los Angeles ?
Byron Scott as a former player with the team and a winner of multiple titles with them also. He’d essentially be the perfect fit for the team. The Lakers’ coaching staff as it is , it is bereft of someone with the same level of experience as a coach based upon the level attained by Byron Scott.Whether or not Mitch Kupchak, as general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers and the team’s owner, Dr. Jerry Buss would be amenable to such a hire, would no doubt be predicated upon the thoughts of Jackson, himself.

The fate now awaiting the New Orleans Hornets seems an uncertain one. I’d like to think also that Bowers’ action wasn’t a rash rush to judgment in getting rid of Scott. It’s tough enough for Jeff Bowers as he tries to maneuver through the terrain of the NBA as a novice coach. But it’s even far more daunting a prospect, if you’re doing that without your best player and vocal leader being on the court.

As one tries to look over the situation and review what transpired. You can’t help but wonder how much of this was in part due to Byron Scott ? And how much of this was due in no part to the players who were unable to follow the lead of their coach ? And it would be remiss , if not in part to question the action of Jeff Bower. At this stage of the season which is still in its infancy. One would’ve thought it best to keep Byron Scott on board and let him try and turn things around. Instead the scenario is now being created , that if things do get much worse.It could very well place the franchise in an irretrievable situation.And that’s something that no one within the Hornets’ organization, I fear would be willing to contemplate.

New Orleans Hornets’ roster 2009-10

NUM PLAYER POS HT WT DOB FROM YRS
12 Hilton Armstrong C-F 6-11 235 11/11/1984 Connecticut 3
6 Bobby Brown G 6-2 175 09/24/1984 Cal State-Fullerton 1
23 Devin Brown G 6-5 210 12/30/1978 Texas-San Antonio 7
2 Darren Collison G 6-0 160 08/23/1987 UCLA R
1 Ike Diogu F 6-9 250 09/11/1983 Arizona State 4
4 Sean Marks F-C 6-10 250 08/23/1975 California 9
50 Emeka Okafor F-C 6-10 255 09/28/1982 Connecticut 5
3 Chris Paul G 6-0 175 05/06/1985 Wake Forest 4
24 Morris Peterson G 6-7 220 08/26/1977 Michigan State 9
41 James Posey F 6-8 217 01/13/1977 Xavier (Ohio) 10
9 Darius Songaila F 6-9 248 02/14/1978 Wake Forest 6
16 Peja Stojakovic F 6-10 229 06/09/1977 Belgrade, Serbia 11
5 Marcus Thornton G 6-4 205 06/05/1987 Louisiana State R
30 David West F 6-9 240 08/29/1980 Xavier (Ohio) 6
32 Julian Wright F 6-8 225 05/20/1987 Kansas 2