Shit does roll downhill, but it is even harder to try and push it uphill …

Shit does roll downhill, but it is even harder to try and push it uphill …

It has to be either naivete’ or a complete lack of intelligence , when fans try and suggest a team “tanking” their season and then hiring a legend will actually lead to an immediate turnaround for that franchise. Rarely does that happen in the world of sports today , and much the premise is predicated upon the staff being in place and their being able to acquire the right talent to put their plan into play. In the NBA this season, we are seeing that the New York Knicks is an organization still in transition , but even more so, a complete mess in terms of their performances during the schedule. While the hiring of Phil Jackson has to be lauded, the hire is no guarantee of success down the road , in spite of his legacy and the level of success achieved during his coaching career. This current chapter of Jackson’s career is completely a new one in its entirety and we should be reminded, he will have deal with one of , if not the most incompetent owners in the NBA , with James Dolan presiding over this franchise as its senior most executive and owner. Dolan’s ineptitude can be measured in a litany of ways , with perhaps the most infamous being, the decision to hire Isiah Thomas to head the Knicks’ Basketball Operations. A chapter which failed miserably on so many counts, with Thomas himself, having assumed the head coaching position during his tenure. The less said about those episodes , the better the case can be made the franchise is now in a better position, but not by much based on their current play.

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Twenty games into the season and the New York Knicks are an abysmal 4-16, and based on their current pace this team is unlikely to win more than twenty games when it is all said an done. Granted, Jackson hired a rookie head coach, with Derek Fisher succeeding Mike Woodson into the coach’s roll, but here too, it is hard to fathom what type of coach Fisher is likely to be, given his lack of experience then assessing his staff of coaching assistants. As experienced as many of them are said to be, it is likely to Fisher’s decision and his alone likely determine the strategies we see on the court , even with the input of Phil Jackson there for him to fall back on. Carmelo Anthony remains the lone offensive threat for the Knicks, but here too the team has failed miserably , with no one else on the roster willing to step up to the plate on nightly basis for this franchise. From a defensive standpoint the team has been woefully inept at home and on the road.

In one of the Knicks’ most contests the team just hhappened to be on the wrong side of a heartbreaking loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Both Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James had less than memorable performances in the in the match-up of two of the Eastern Conference’s less than competitive franchises this season .

Derek Fisher’s team will get the chance to redeem themselves when they face the Charlotte Hornets at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte , North Carolina on Friday night , in one of the NBA’s night of scheduled contests. New York currently leads their season series 1-0 , having won their first meeting by a narrow three-point margin 96-93 on the 2nd November , 2014. Friday’s contest might not prove to be as compelling, given their present status within the conference or their respective divisions.

A one game win-streak doesn’t season make, but in the case of the Philadelphia 76ers, it could be the victory that either defines the Sixers’ season or continues their morass as the worst team in the league at this point of the NBA schedule. Head coach Brett Brown remains forever optimistic, trying to suggest his young corps of the players , the youngest in the league are still capable of being competitive. Having gained their first victory of the season, defeating the Minnesota Timbeberwolves the climb out of the depths mediocrity has just become slightly less embarrassing, but not my much.

At 1-17, it is hard to imagine how things could get any worse for the Sixers , beyond the fact the league hierarchy seems to be condoning this style of ineptitude by several teams around the NBA. Changes in the format of the NBA Draft Lottery has done little to dispel this type of ongoing charade by Philadelphia , when you bear in mind their standing at the end of last season and their draft position in the first rounds of the drafts of 2013 and 2014. Sixers’ team owner Joshua Harris and GM Sam Hinkie suggest they are showing the inclination that the franchise’s wish is to build for the future , but I find that concept hard to believe when there is no veteran experience on the roster to lead by example for young players such as Joel Embiid , Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams. Carter-Williams , last season’s Rookie of the Year has proven to be good , but not great or a leader by example. Granted , he might just be the best player on the Sixers’ lineup , yet that is by no means of any real consolation for a team that has been a constant reminder of sheer ineptitude in the NBA this and last season .

Philadelphia will have as their guests the Oklahoma City Thunder when the two teams meet on Friday evening and where Russell Westbrook will hope to lead his teammates in the absence of Kevin Durant , who remains sidelined by an injury. After an ignominious start the Thunder are back to playing some semblance of competitive basketball. The point guard has been very impressive upon his return to Thunder lineup this season. Westbrook is averaging 26.5 ppg in his last two outings, and providing the offensive firepower sorely missed by the team with Durant out of the lineup.

Currently lying in third place of the Northwest Division of the Western Conference 9 1/2 games behind the division leading Portland Trailblazers (15-4), Oklahoma City Thunder will have to make some inroad in to the lead if they are place themselves in contention a competitive assault on the second quarter and half of the season. Scott Brooks and his coaching staff will be looking to his players to remain consistent as well as competitive in what is turning out to very tough divisionand conference.

I may well be mistaken , but Flip Saunders and team owner , Glen Taylor created the mess that has engulfed the Minnesota Timberwolves this season . Saunders the Timberwolves’ head coach , minority stakeholder and Head of Basketball Operations in conjunction with Taylor, made the decision to trade Kevin Love , rather than seeking build a competitive roster around the power forward. There has been nothing at all endearing about the Timberwolves this season and with the never ending rumors as to the dissatisfaction of Ricky Rubio , it simply makes you wonder whether or not , the mercurial and talented Spaniard might be bold enough to seek a trade. Can the Timberwolves do enough to dissuade the player from leaving the franchise. It as not as if the head coach brought in any refreshing ideas that might be of benefit to the team ? Having been the first team to fall at the hands of the 76ers was bad enough, but it has been plain enough to see , Flip Saunders remains clearly out of his depth as a head coach , along with his coaching staff.

Going into Friday night’s game against the Houston Rockets the Timberwolves must be aware their season is on the line for this franchise along with its long-term well-being. A playoff berth has eluded the Minnesota Timberwolves for the past several years , with their last appearance coming during the 2003 NBA season . first-round loss to the Los Angeles Lakers sealed their fate (4-2) in the NBA Playoffs , where they were the top seeds in the Western Conference that year. Hard to imagine a decade later and the team entering into the playoffs during that season was led by Kevin Garnett, Latrell Sprewell, Sam Cassell, Fred Hoiberg, Mark Madsen , Wally Sczerbiak ,Michael Olowokandi and Oliver Miller , to name but a few.

If it is December and the Los Angeles Lakers are playing badly , then expect Kobe Bryant sooner or later to begin to harangue and chastise the organization and indirectly a number of his teammates. There is not a great that can or needs to be said about a team so lacking depth and overall talent. Needless to say, you can point an accusing finger at Mitch Kupchak and the exceedingly poor job he has done in drafting players over the last few , seasons as well as the failures of free agent acquisitions , most notably Dwight Howard . The center’s failure to acclimatize himself to the rigors and task of playing in a major market , indicated that he not only lacks the maturity to perform on the “big stage”, but the hyperbole surrounding him was never really justified , even with his having won multiple Defensive Player of the Year Awards .

A year on from his departure , Howard is now playing “second fiddle” to James Harden of the Houston Rockets’, while his former team , the Lakers continue to look for semblance of consistency , character and dare I say it , leadership ? Kobe Bryant still yearns to be viewed as a winner , but clearly this team is not going to provide him that all elusive sixth NBA ring and title . Head coach Byron Scott and his staff have their work cut out for them in having coach one of the worst defensive teams in the entire NBA. Needless to say, with Bryant supplying the brunt of the offense, while customarily throwing up more bricks than a bricklaying mason , the question has to asked, who on on the team steps up to the plate to share the load with Kobe Bryant , or are we likely to see the player repeatedly just put on a one-man show night in and night out over the remainder of the season ?

As of the 5th December the Los Angeles Lakers held the bottom rung of the Pacific Division of the Western Conference , while clinging to a mediocre record of 5-15. Pretty much sums up the Lakers’ season so far. Kobe Bryant has signaled his wish to sign on with the team for another two years , but I am not sure he is willing to offer home town discount , with his now averaging just over $24.25 million per year on his existing contract. May be , the Los Angeles Lakers can live with that type of risk-reward , but given the stage of his career where Bryant now finds himself at, there seems to be no real advantage in taking the player up on the offer at the time he becomes a free agent in 2016 and it is not as if the organization has used any type of due diligence in assembling a roster to complement Kobe Bryant over the last two seasons. A seventeen-point loss to the Boston Celtics summed up the ongoing issues the Lakers continue to face with any last vestiges of dignity, having been flushed down the crapper after another dismal display . When they face Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans at the Staples Center on Sunday , I can only hope for the sake of the Los Angeles’ Lakers fans’ sake, their team actually show them (fans), they do possess a backbone . This season, there has been little evidence to suggest the Lakers even have that amongst their artillery.

Just as the Los Angeles Clippers can be considered to be the Lakers’ bi#ch or lapdog ,whichever colloquial term you feel fits the the persona. Then, so too, do the Brooklyn Nets as it equates with the New York Knicks. Granted, neither the Knicks, Nets or Clippers have won an NBA title in the last two decades and their combined appearances in the league’s showcase finale in the time-frame mentioned , would amount to two visits , all by the Nets.

Bearing a record of 8-10 the Brooklyn Nets are struggling and for GM Billy King and team owner Mikhail Prokhorov this has already become another season of discontent , with a team payroll among the highest in the NBA. I have to believe that some drastic changes are needed for the makeup of this roster, either before the trade deadline or at the time of its being. A twenty-three point loss to the Atlanta Hawks was not only a cause for concern, with Lionel Hollins and his coaching staffobviously bewildered why this team has performed so poorly to start their season. With experienced players such as Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett , Andrei Kirilenko , Jarrett Jack and Brook Lopez there is clearly a disjoint as to why a team thought to be so talented cannot get out of the way of their own mediocrity on both ends of the court .
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Personally, I have never had an inclination to believe the Nets were ever good enough to win an NBA title, even with the wealth and resources of their billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov. The Barclays Center ,home to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA’s most lavish venue remains an extravagant edifice to opulence and a “White Elephant” . Attendance levels notwithstanding, there is little to suggest the Nets’ front office has the wherewithal to place a competitive product on the court, much less having an economic template to make this franchise a profitable endeavor beyond the value of the commercial and residential value of the entities which surround the Barclays Center, many of which are owned by the Russian billionaire , Prokhorov,through his US business holdings, Onexim Sports & Entertainment Inc and parent company Onexim Group .

Next up for the Brooklyn Nets will be a home game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn , New York when they will have as their guests LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers . With the Cavaliers on a six-game winning streak and point guard Kyrie Irving recently scoring a season high 37 points in the team’s demolition of the New York Knicks on Thursday night in a road victory , there is every reason to believe Cleveland’s winning streak is likely to be extended against a Nets’ team completely devoid of any defensive capability. LeBron James and Deron Williams will also get the chance to renew an under-appreciated player rivalry in the NBA .

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Picture gallery.

Given what you have seen up to this pointof the NBA season do you believe there can be room for improvement among the teams as they enter the second quarter of the schedule in the build up to the All Star festivities and thereon after ? Simply chime in with your thoughts as you see fit on this particular subject matter and anything else you believe relevant to the NBA.

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Picture and slideshow gallery details below.
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(1) Dec 5, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets center Jefferson (25) shoots the ball over New York Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire (1) during the second half at Time Warner Cable Arena. Hornets defeated the Knicks 103-102. Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports ..

(2) Dec 5, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA;New York Knicks head coach Derek Fisher looks on during the second half against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena. Hornets defeated the Knicks 103-102. Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports ….

(3) Dec 5, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) shoots the ball over Charlotte Hornets center Cody Zeller (40) during the first half at Time Warner Cable Arena. Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

(4) New York Knicks’ owner James Dolan, left , is seen here alongside Phil Jackson who returned to the Knicks in the capacity of Head of Basketball Operations &SVP within the Knicks’ hierarchical structure . GM Steve Mills will take his lead from Jackson and cede to him all personnel decisions made concerning player personnel . During the off-season the Knicks will have several decisions to be made concerning the makeup of the team’s lineup entering into next season. AP Photo / Marty Cooke ..

(5) PHILADELPHIA, PA – NOVEMBER 5: Nerlens Noel (4) of the Philadelphia 76ers looks to pass against the Orlando Magic during the game on November 5 , 2014 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Noel along with Joel Embiid and Michael Carter-Williams it was hoped would make a solid impact for the Sixers , but instead the team has failed miserably, while having the league’s youngest roster , where the average age is twenty-two, as well as seven un-drafted making up the twelve-man roster. Even with the experience of head coach Brett Brown , formerly an assistant to Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs. NBAE Photo by Jesse Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

(6) Minnesota Timberwolves’ point guard Ricky Rubio is having an indifferent season as is the team in general . Flip Saunders might well be left contemplating the trading away of the talented Spaniard who is not due to become free agent until 2018 . There has been a great deal of indifference among the fans of the Timberwolves’ , who have seen the departure of Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers. AP Photo / Mary Morris ..

(7) Kobe Bryant (24) is seen here court-side as he and head coach Byron Scott discuss a game plan. Not much has gone right for the Los Angeles Lakers this season . The team has struggled on both ends of the court , with only the guard seemingly providing the brunt of the offense. Unfortunately, it has not been all to the benefit of the Lakers, but more so to the personal benefit of the player as he recently broke the 30,000 career points’ plateau , leading active players and ranking him inside the all-time top ten in NBA history. UPI Syndicated Press …. @ copyrighted material …

(8) From left to right , Joe Johnson , Deron Williams and Bojan Bogdanovic are seated court-side during a game this season. The Brooklyn Nets have been adisaster on the court with their being little resilience being shown with a team that is the highest paid in the NBA. Team owner , Mikhail Prokhorov for the past two years has been willing to have his franchise carry that dubious honor, while failing to gain any type of meaningful success . The Nets’ most recent NBA Playoff appearances have ended with the players showing little appetite to perform to the best of their alleged abilities . AP Photo / Chris Hendricks ….

(9) Brooklyn Nets’ head coach Lionel Hollins, left, is seated next to GM Billy King, as Hollins is introduced the convened press announcing his signing to succeed Jason Kidd as the head coach. Kidd was abruptly fired by organization after the former Nets’ player made it known he wished for more input /on all personnel decisions concerning the team . The Nets made the NBA Playoffs last season, but fell short of their goals that year . Getty Images / Amy Hughes … …

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Tophatal 2014-12-07

Tophatal’s Blog on Facebook.com

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NBA news and the season’s important dates

NBA schedule 5th December

NBA schedule 6th December

NBA schedule 7th December

NBA results 4th December

NBA standings (division)

NBA standings (conference)

NBA free agents

NBA team cap hits (2014)

NBA teams’ salaries (2014-15) [salary cap $63.075 million]

NBA player stats

NBA teams’ offense

NBA teams’ defense

History of NBA champions chronologically

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This month in NBA history

On this date in the NBA

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The Larry O’Brien Trophy . A championship, each of the NBA’s teams will be in pursuit of this season .

From the sublime to the ridiculous ………..

From the sublime to the ridiculous ……….

If there is one thing we know about both the NFL and NBA , it is that “defense wins championships”. Being able to do so on a consistent basis , best aids a team in achieving that ultimate of goal of winning a title , be it in any team sport. As the NBA season still remains in its infancy , barely a month into the season which began on the 29th October , with a number of games on the opening night . Over the weekend schedule within the league, there were a slew of very interesting games, of which a contest between the defending Western Conference champions , in the San Antonio Spurs against the New York Knicks , a team filled high-priced stars , that has simply under-achieved over the past two seasons . It should be noted that last season , a great deal more was expected of this Mike Woodson coached team . This season , the pretext already being suggested will be that the Knicks along with the Brooklyn Nets are likely to be the biggest threat to the Miami Heat the defending NBA champions , as they set on the defense of their title and in seeking to create their own piece of history in winning three consecutive NBA titles .

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New York Knicks’ owner James Dolan’s desire is to bring a title back to the media capital of the world. With the team , housed in perhaps the most famous sports’ venue in the world, Madison Square Garden in New York City , New York, it seems only fitting that his wish ought to be granted. That being said, when your team has been assembled from ill-fitting parts , you can only expect there to be a number of hiccups along the way both on and off the field of play. In recent years, we had the tenure of Isiah Thomas as head coach and then in an executive position of the venerable franchise . Missed opportunities , overspending on mediocre talent and to date , it would appear that not a single lesson has been learned by anyone within the front office of the organization . Yet continually , the Knicks’ fans and mass media within the New York City metropolitan area continue to hype the franchise , as if they have been an omnipresent force within the NBA over the past decade or more .

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As I indicated earlier, the New York Knicks and San Antonio Spurs met in a game over the weekend . In front of a national television audience, as well as a global audience of millions via the NBA Network and their international broadcast partners and those in attendance at Madison Square Garden. New York and San Antonio would put on a colorful display of attacking basketball. Unfortunately, for the Knicks’ fans , what they were also allowed to witness, was a team without the slightest propensity to play an iota of defense, as New York fell to the Spurs in a thirty-one point blowout loss to their opponents, 120-89 on Sunday afternoon.

If the New York Knicks are to have any hope of being within a remote chance of even challenging within the Eastern Conference and the Miami Heat, in particular . Then this team will have to a great deal more than have Carmelo Anthony be the lone threat offensively , and with their being no one of note actually being prepared to assume the load defensively to aid the ball-club. Anthony, is the only player on the roster averaging twenty points or more per game this season . With a record of 2-4 , the New York Knicks find themselves at the bottom of the Atlantic Division , a division that is currently led by the Philadelphia 76ers (4-3) . From a conference standpoint, the team now stands at the bottom of the Eastern Conference , bearing the same record as the Brooklyn Nets and Washington Wizards (2-4) . From a league wide standpoint , only the Denver Nuggets (1-4) , Sacramento Kings (1-5) and win-less Utah Jazz (0-7) , possess a worse record .

Clearly , all is not right with the New York Knicks, and with players such as JR Smith , Andrea Bargnani , Raymond Felton , Metta World Peace , Amare Stoudemire , Tyson Chandler and Iman Shumpert barely contributing anything of note during the Knicks’ two victories this season . It is extremely difficult to see how anyone can actually take this team seriously based on their current play. GM Steve Mills who was recently promoted to his current position may feel the need to make some drastic changes to the makeup of this roster at the trade deadline or try to engineer a buyout of the remainder of his contract . His biggest wish may well be to move the bloated salary of Amare’ Stoudemire off the books and as far away from the franchise as is humanly possible, as it has been years since he has contributed anything of note to this Knicks’ franchise. New York’s next game will be on Wednesday , when they are the guests of the Atlanta Hawks at the Philips Arena , in Atlanta, Georgia ,.

If the New York Knicks are said to be having an indifferent season , alongside their fellow in city and conference rivals , the Brooklyn Nets . Of which the best thing I can say , is if the front office led by Billy King feels that an aging roster , and rookie head coach in Jason Kidd , whose playing career is unquestioned , but his coaching acumen is already in doubt , is the best way to proceed forward. Then clearly, the mindset of the organization is misplaced along with an outrageously bloated team payroll of $102.6 million . Bear in mind, also, the organization will be obligated to pay the luxury tax of $63.5 million for this season alone , having exceeded the league’s soft salary cap of $58.455 million.

While, I believe that Kevin Garnett , Paul Pierce and Jason Terry can contribute to the Nets’ ambitions this season. From an observer’s standpoint, I just cannot see the team going deep into the playoffs, because simply put , the minutes needed from the entire roster to mount a serious challenge to the obvious contenders within the Eastern Conference will not be forthcoming . Kidd’s coaching inexperience is already evidence of that and it is plain to see , that there has been little productive advice being proffered up by anyone on his coaching staff . The defense of the Nets, also seems to be a work in progress , with the losses inexplicably coming in the most inopportune of ways. A barely functional Deron Williams has yet to have a real breakout game this season and it has been left to Brook Lopez to provide the greater part of the Nets’ offensive productivity this early in the season. While Williams is coming off , off-season surgery , without his productivity , it is unlikely that the Brooklyn Nets will be able to compete at a higher degree of efficiency and competitiveness , in spite of Jason Terry’s presence on the roster as the best alternative at the point guard position . As Deron Williams goes , then so do the Brooklyn Nets. So, it will be of the utmost urgency, that his game is back at a peak level .

Coming off a narrow five-point loss to the Indiana Pacers’ , the Nets will now look to gain some momentum from that defeat , when they meet the Sacramento Kings at the Sleep Train Arena , in Sacramento, California , on Wednesday evening . At this juncture just about any positive traction that can be gained must be seen as an added plus, even if it can’t be viewed as a moral victory .

Should the Miami Heat fans be worried at this juncture that the team has a 4-3 record , though they do lead the Southeast Division by a mere game over the Atlanta Hawks ? Coming off a 66-16 record in 2012 , given the Heat’s currently play , they would be projected to finish with a win total of 48-34. While I do not believe yet to be a cause for concern , I do think that the players might still be reveling in last season’s triumph over the San Antonio Spurs and for the moment are content to be judged on the credentials of being the two-time defending NBA champions ! The three defeats as early as they have come this season , I would have thought that would have shaken Miami of its complacency and simply galvanized the team into playing a great deal better than they have been . There can be no excuses made for a franchise seeking to make NBA history , alongside perhaps the best player to have graced the NBA since his entry into the league as the first overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers . That year, was a draft resplendent with talent not since seen , in subsequent years, by a very wide margin. . LeBron James’ legacy we know, has been written and cemented in stone , but the player I now believe wants to be viewed as the ” best ever” ! Will he be able to accomplish that ? Well, only time will tell, and also dictate the fate of the player and this team.

Saturday’s loss by the Miami Heat to the Boston Celtics , by a one-point margin 111-110 , emphasized what I now have always felt, was a weakness with the Heat. They have never been considered a “physical” or a “very good rebounding “ team. What we are uniquely aware of concerning Miami, is that they are quite capable shifting gears, as and when they believe there is a reason to do so . Were it not for the inexperience in the Indiana Pacers’ roster last season in the Eastern Conference Finals , it remains my firm belief that the outcome of the series would have been entirely different ! The physicality and play of Roy Hibbert , David West , George Hill , Lance Stephenson and Tyler Hansborough ….. exposed the flaws of the Miami Heat , who are and will always remain something of a finesse team , while LeBron James , Dwyane Wade , Chris Bosh , Ray Allen remain the fulcrum and pivotal to the play of the team overall. Beyond that, you can simply draw your own conclusions .

Hoping to push their record to 5-3 , the Heat will play host to the Milwaukee Bucks at the American Airlines Arena , in Miami , Florida on Tuesday evening . For the Bucks , they will certainly be hoping that they can make the proposed contest a little less lopsided than they have been in the past , with Erik Spoelstra’s players having the better of their visitors in their most recent match-ups .

In spite of the lofty expectations each season of the self-absorbed Los Angeles Lakers’ (3-5) fans and the glitterati of A List Hollywood celebrities who make it their place to be seen at the Staples Center when the venerable Lakers are on the court . I am not so sure that this will be the season, that is likely to be an advantageous a turning point for the franchise in terms of its history . Kobe Bryant’s career is on the wane and no matter how one tries to spin it , this is not a very good Los Angeles Lakers’ team , in terms of its makeup. Beyond Pau Gasol , an aging Steve Nash , Steve Blake and Nick Young and Bryant , himself . There is absolutely nothing to suggest that the Lakers are capable of hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy this season , much less be considered to good enough gain a playoff berth within the Western Conference . Kobe Bryant may well have felt chided, that the Lakers were favored to finish no better than twelfth within the conference at the end of this season. Yet in reality, those assessing the team , were doing so, in its merits and how they what they believe are the strengths and weaknesses of the roster outright . With Bryant still sidelined as he seeks to recuperate from injury, there is no doubt without him , the Lakers are a shell of themselves both from an offensive and defensive standpoint.

The departure of Dwight Howard should not be seen as that great of a loss for the Los Angeles Lakers. The center simply could not adjust to being in the spotlight , much less be asked to lead or be seen as the future leader of the franchise upon Bryant’s departure from the Lakers, upon his undoubted retirement. Howard simply took less money , to play ‘second fiddle ‘ to James Harden as a member of the Houston Rockets , while looking to escape a season of underachievement in Los Angeles in 2012. As to the Lakers’ impending future, that will be predicated upon Kobe Bryant’s return, as there appears to be no set timetable for his much-anticipated participation in a regular season game . It is pretty safe to suggest , his return and in a Lakers’ uniform will be about as welcomed as the franchise’s last taste of postseason success in 2010, as the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals .

The Lakers’ next regular season test will at home to the New Orleans Pelicans in a game between two teams looking to reinvent themselves s and gain some traction in terms of their respective seasons . For Lakers’ head coach, Mike D’Antoni and his coaching staff , this is likely a season , that will prove to be the toughest of his professional career. If as anticipated, the franchise fails to make the postseason , then it will certainly be back to the drawing board for GM Mitch Kupcak and team owner , Jim Buss . A future without Kobe Bryant , is not that far off in the offing and with the acknowledgement by Carmelo Anthony that he will remain a life-long New York Knicks’ player , even if in choosing to exercise the option to test the free agency market by opting out of the . final year of his contract . The player knows his best chance of a title remains where he is now domiciled , rather than with a franchise that will be in a total state of transition.

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Picture gallery.

With the NBA season still in its infancy , what if anything has proven to be the biggest surprise or the most disappointing in either the terms of the play or stories emanating from around the league ?

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Picture and slideshow details below .
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(1) Carmelo Anthony (7) of the New York Knicks walks into the locker room during half time against the San Antonio Spurs with his teammates Raymond Felton (2) , J.R. Smith (8) and Amar’e Stoudemire (1) at Madison Square Garden on November 10, 2013 in New York City. The Spurs went on to defeat the Knicks 120-89 . Getty Images North America / Maddie Meyer …..

(2) J.R. Smith (8) of the New York Knicks drives against Manu Ginobili (20) of the San Antonio Spurs at Madison Square Garden on November 10, 2013 in New York City. The Spurs defeat the Knicks 120-89 . Getty Images / Maddie Meyer …..

(3) Tiago Splitter (22) of the San Antonio Spurs drives past Amar’e Stoudemire (1) of the New York Knicks during the second half at Madison Square Garden on November 10, 2013 in New York City. The Spurs defeat the Knicks 120-89. Getty Images North America / Maddie Meyer ….

(4) Paul Pierce (34) of the Brooklyn Nets, Kevin Garnett (2) and Deron Williams (8) walk down-court during the fourth quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Barclays Center on November 9, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Pacers would defeat the Nets 96-91 . Getty Images/ Paul Hughes …..

(5) Head coach of the Brooklyn Nets Jason Kidd disputes a call with referee Mark Ayotte (56) at Barclays Center on November 9, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Pacers defeat the Nets 96-91. Getty Images / Maddie Meyer ……

(6) LeBron James (6) of the Miami Heat attempts to pass the ball as Phil Pressey (26) of the Boston Celtics and Jared Sullinger (7) of the Boston Celtics look on at American Airlines Arena on November 9, 2013 in Miami, Florida. Getty Images / Chris Trotman ….

(7) Jeff Green 8 of the Boston Celtics watches his three-point shot at the buzzer as Chris Bosh (1) of the Miami Heat and LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat look on at American Airlines Arena on November 9, 2013 in Miami, Florida. The Boston Celtics defeated the Miami Heat 111-110 . Getty Images / Chris Trotman ….

(8) Kevin Love (42) of the Minnesota Timberwolves shoots over Pau Gasol (16) of the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on November 10, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. The Timberwolves won 113-90 with the Timberwolves’ Ricky Rubio torching the Lakers’ lackluster defense with an exhilarating all-round offensive display . Getty Images / Peter Harris ….

(8) Los Angeles Lakers’ GM Mitch Kupchak , foreground, is seen here alongside head coach Mike D`Antoni as the two host questions from the convened press at the Lakers’ training facility, the Toyota Center in El Segundo , California,. Another lackluster start to the season , somewhat similar to last year, shows the team to be struggling offensively and defensively , with their being no outright answers as to the team’s continued struggles . With no apparent timetable set for Kobe Bryant’s return , it would appear that the Lakers’ struggles are likely to continue. AP Photo / Matt Slocum …

(9) Kobe Bryant, the active career points’ leader in the NBA, a five-time NBA championship winner , Finals’ MVP and League MVP , is now in the latter stages of his storied career , but he is looking to make one last assault on winning a sixth NBA championship ring , all with the Los Angeles Lakers . With the player still sidelined by injury and recuperating as best possible , Bryant hopes to make return to the team by the end of November . AP Photo / Peter Mills ……

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Sports Stories That Simply Aren’t Worth Reporting But Somehow They’re Out There

Sports Stories That Simply Aren’t Worth Reporting But Somehow They’re Out There

Minnesota Timberwolves’ coach Kurt Rambis is said to be aggrieved as to the uncertainty concerning his impending future with the organization. Given his coaching record and the mere fact that the Timberwolves had another miserable season pretty much sums up what the front office’s thoughts may well be on the beleaguered coach . Team owner Glen Taylor and GM David Kahn surely know that with the upcoming NBA Draft due to take place on the 23rd June they can ill afford to any type of indecision on their part. They either retain the coach or relieve him of his duties and immediately start a search for his successor. Any indecsiveness on their part hurts the image of the franchise and shows complete ineptitude to the fans and across the NBA landscape in general .

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Slide show for your perusal .

Things are difficult as it as already for the Minnesota Timberwolves without now further opening up themselves to ridicule concerning their coach and his job status. But then again the mindset within this organization can be easily summed up in two words …” woefully inept “.

Now don’t get me wrong I was happy to see the New York Knicks make the NBA postseason but the mere fact that their sojourn there lasted about as long as Usain Bolt would take to run a 100m race , essentially told you all that you needed to know about this team and such the organization. Team owner James Dolan is looking to extend the contract of GM Donnie Walsh the seventy four year old senior executive within the Knicks’ organization . If the rumors are to be believed Dolan wanted offer Walsh a two year contract extension as they seek to rebuild the basketball team . Donnie Walsh in spite of his undoubted NBA knowledge knows that in many ways he’s not getting any younger and at the same time his job placed him under a great deal of pressure allowing him very little time to be with his family. The general manager has told the owner that he will not be returning to the organization next season , choosing instead to relinquish his duties with the New York Knicks .

I certainly would have thought that the New York Knicks would be better prepared in terms of having a long term plan as to successor by having someone within their front office be tutored by Walsh since his original hiring by the organization. But somehow given the plethora of executives that make up board of the New York Knicks you simply knew that sheer incompetency wouldn’t be far behind in terms of the decision making that the organization has come to be known for. If Hank Ratner or any other of his peers aren’t capable of assuming Walsh’s role , then I would hate to think that Knicks would be idiotic enough to rehire Isiah Thomas to a position he once held within the organization. There is no way in hell that the Knicks would consider rehiring their former VP & Head of Basketball Operations , albeit , that Thomas stated that he has no interest in rejoining the organization but then again we are talking about the New York Knicks .

Cyclist Lance Armstrong the seven time winner of the Tour de France continues to maintain his innocence concerning the latest admissions by Armstrong’s former teammates Tyler Hamilton and George Hincapie former teammates members on the Radio Shack team ran team manager by Johan Bruyneel . The ongoing cause-de-celebre concerning concerning Armstrong’s innocence , the fact both Hamilton’s and Hincapie’s evidence was sworn testimony under oath given to law officials of the Justice Department . It would be simply idiotic to think that either cyclist would choose to perjure themselves knowing well that a federal sentence would await them courtesy of the Bureau of Prisons within the federal penitentiary system. In the advent of this all Armstrong seeks an apology from CBS News and in particular from the producers of the broadcast outlets news magazine program ’60 Minutes’. Anyone who witnessed the in depth segment on Tyler Hamilton and in particular his allegations concerning his former teammate would be hard pressed not to believe that allegations made by Hamilton . If nothing else Armstrong who has been adding to defense with a legion of of defense attorneys in pursuant of the Justice Department’s decision to seek the indictment of Armstrong for the illegal use of use steroids in particular EPO and several other known illicit substances .

From my own perspective cycling may well be the most corrupt sport on the landscape and the mere fact that UCI the international governing body for cycling has been literally all too slow in seeking to clean up its sport. L’Equipe which oversees the Tour de France has been less reluctant to actually come forward and say that they have not done enough to make this sport more appealing and its image above reproach . Instead L’Equipe’s greatest wish has been simply to make millions of dollars through the event with the broadcast rights of the Tour across the globe. My own wish would be to see the IOC the governing body of the Summer Olympics to simply suspend the sport from the Olympics until UCI has a strict and comprehensive drug policy in place . It would not be too much to ask but the idiocy within the sport of cycling does leave a great deal to be desired ! It has been all talk and with two of the sport’s most visible faces having been embroiled in drug controversy only a complete idiot would take this sport seriously and think that it has something tangible to offer !

Clearly anyone who believes that the Chicago Cubs’ fortunes are about to change hasn’t been watching this team play at all. I’m not saying that the curse of the goat still looms over Wrigley Field but at this juncture if a tornado were to hit that storied edfice the aftermath in terms of the destruction brought it would be a hell of a lot better than what the Cubs’ fans have been asked to endure since the start of the season . The NL Central where the Cubs reside along with the division leading St Louis Cardinals (33-24) whereas the Chicago Cubs have simply been mediocre . This team is on a three game losing streak and has lost seven of their last ten games during which manager Mike Quade and his coaching staff have tried to to the players playing with a great deal more resolve. GM Jim Hendry along with the ownership group headed by the Ricketts’ family has simply tried to instill a sense of purpose of and an eagerness to win . The long terms of efforts can’t go unrecognized with regard to the refurbishment of Wrigley Field in order to make the venue fan friendly. But that in of itself won’t be enough as the organization seeks its World Series title in over a century . Simply put the years of mediocrity that the fans may well have thought long gone still seem to be alive and present. .

So the so called saga concerning Alex Rodriguez’s stance that he simply abused the league’s steroid policy through sheer naivete` and the fact that he and his cousin Yuri Sucart were simply looking to get an edge no longer seems to make any sense . In the aftermath of his admission and apology to the league hierarchy and the New York Yankees still hasn’t stopped the player from associating with his cousin after Rodriguez having been advised not to associate communicate with Sucart on the Yankees’ property or any baseball facility during the season . It would appear that the requests are lost on Alex Rodriguez with there now being evidence to suggest that the player and Sucart have been seen together at the St Regis Hotel in San Francisco prior to a recent game played against the Oakland Athletics at the A’s ballpark . What might be even more unpalatable is the very fact that Sucart has accompanied Rodriguez to several games this season with the player knowing full well that he has been advised by senior executives within the Yankees’ hierarchy not to associate with his cousin.

If one remembers Rodriguez’s apology suggested that he and Yuri Sucart were merely experimenting with the use of steroids and the regimen followed was he says… so ill disciplined that it’s hard to take the player at his word when it has come to light that his name has come up repeatedly , in conjunction with the indictment of Orlando medical professional Dr Anthony Galea . The doctor is now awaiting trial with regard to the sale and transportation of illicit narcotics and steroids across international borders . The Justice Department having arraigned and indicted Galea ____ they are now seeking assistance from the medical professional in seeking the indictment of other subjects to whom he supplied steroids and other illicit substances. Many of the individuals that Anthony Galea is said to have supplied are a professional athletes in MLB , NBA , NFL and NHL and college athletes . If that isn’t now a cause for concern given the fact that Commissioner Bud Selig is still of the belief that the game now has the strictest testing policy in all professional sports , one has to ask what they will now do in light of these latest allegations concerning Alex Rodriguez. And with the player being less than forthright when asked about his name being associated with Galea and his cousin Yuri Sucart can we really now expect anything form of action by the league ? Rob Manfred a senior league official and Head for VP of Player Relations has spoken directly within the New York Yankees concerning Rodriguez’s association with his cousin. If this is what the league believes to be the appropriate action I firmly believe that the league has no idea as to what it takes to stem the flow of the illicit use of PED’s within the game , with players now flouting clear instructions makes a mockery their edicts . Is it any wonder that Manny Ramirez having failed a second drug test was allowed to walk away without any form of punishment levied against him by the league ? That is the complete asinine stance that MLB has with regard to its stance when players flout the rules . As for MLBPA and their Executive Director Michael Weiner and his response to what is now an acute issue that even the league and union have failed to really address .

In the wake of the Jim Tressel fiasco we are now learning that the quarterback for the football team Terrelle Pryor had been driving on a suspended license . What is now coming to light concerning this also is the very fact that the player who drives a 2011 Nissan 350Z which we have been informed was purchased by his mother Thomasina Pryor as a trade in . In light of that however since Pryor’s entrance to Ohio State he has been driving around in a number of vehicles for which there is no substantive evidence that would suggest he owned the vehicles in question or that they were leased by the player. The longer this saga has gone on the more idiotic both university President E Gordon Gee and the AD Gene Smith appear to be in light of their actions and what we now know Tressel had suppressed from his superiors . As the investigation went on both Gee and Smith stood behind their actions of a mere suspension and monetary fine of the coach knowing full well that were other far more serious allegations that had already come to light. Now with Pryor now subject of the school’s own internal investigation we’re now finding out that the NCAA is prepared to conduct their own separate investigation into the player and these latest allegations. And one wonders how corrupt collegiate sports is now said to be ? Why not simply allow the players to be paid, gamble on their games and have done with it ? It is becoming abundantly clear that collegiate athletics no longer can be taken seriously on any level at all !

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Picture gallery for your approval. By clicking on an individual frame you can view that picture in its original formatted size .

What thoughts if any do you have with regard to the points raised within this piece ? Simply chime in with a comment as you deem fit and as always thanks for the continued support as it is gratefully appreciated !

Alan aka tophatal ………………………………..

https://tophatal.wordpress.com

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(1) MINNEAPOLIS, MN – APRIL 13: Head coach Kurt Rambis of the Minnesota Timberwolves reacts to a play against the Houston Rockets during a game on April 13, 2011 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Timberwolves’ front office is said to be undecided as to whether or the coach will be retained for the upcoming season. Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images ….

(2) David Kahn seated right alongside Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor. Kahn recently assumed the mantel of being the team’s GM as well as Head of Basketball Operations. He’s also keep the title of President of the Timberwolves’ organizational structure. Besides having to deal with the Rubio situation Kahn also will be in search of a new coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves. picture appears courtesy of ap/photo/ Richard Clarke-Patterson ………

(3) GM Donnie Walsh (seated left) is seen here alongside Knicks’ team owner James Dolan . Walsh has declined the team’s offer for a two year contract extension deciding instead to be with his family , retiring from the NBA having been involved in the sport for over four decades. AP Photo/ Chris Young ….

(4) Lance Armstrong of the USA, riding for Team Astana, speaks with Astana team director Johan Bruyneel before the start of stage six of the 2009 Tour Down Under January 25, 2009 in Adelaide, Australia. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images ….

(5) Tyler Hamilton seen here during his interview with 60 Minutes’ correspondent Scott Pelley reiterates his position that former teammate Lance Armstrong knowingly took EPO amongst other illicit banned substances during competition. Courtesy of CBS News/Getty Images …

(6) Aramis Ramirez (16) of the Chicago Cubs hits a two-RBI double against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on June 5, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals beat the Cubs 3-2 in 10 innings. Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images …..

(7) Cubs’ GM Jim Hendry is seen here with Alfonso Soriano as the player is formally introduced to the convened press . AP Photo/ Tonny Todd ….

(8) Cubs’ manager Mike Quade all smiles for the moment but for how long ? His job isn’t yet imperiled but who knows should the <a href="http://mlb.mlb.com/team/roster_active.jsp?c_id=chc&quot;. team continue to lose without any real effort on the part of the players ? Getty Images / Keith Stoddart …….

(9) Yuri Sucart , cousin of Yankees’ slugger Alex Rodriguez and whose name has once again been associated with the player in spite of the warnings issued to the player and New York Yankees’ organization. Both Rodriguez and Yucart were seen together in public at the St Regis Hotel and then again at the A’s ballpark . It would appear that the player has failed to heed the requests of MLB as well as the New York Yankees in not associating with his relative . The player who in his admission to the use of steroids stated that he was supplied with the prohibited substances by Yuri Sucart . AP/Getty Images / Rafael T Aguillar ……

(10) ANAHEIM, CA – JUNE 5: the New York Yankees the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on June 5, 2011 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California. The Yankees won 5-3 . Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images ….

(11) In this photo taken Monday, May 30, 2011, Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor arrives for a players only meeting at the Woody Hayes Complex in Columbus, Ohio. Pryor, the highest profile recruit of former coach Jim Tressel’s 25-year coaching career, is one of five Buckeyes who have already been suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season for taking money and tattoos from local tattoo-parlor owner Edward Rife, who pleaded guilty last week to federal drug trafficking and money-laundering charges. AP Photo/Terry Gilliam …

(12) Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor arrives in this Nissan 350Z, center, to a players only meeting Monday, May 30, 2011, at the Woody Hayes Complex, in Columbus, Ohio. AP Photo/Terry Gilliam ……..

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Playoffs ? What Playoffs ? The NBA Playoffs Dummy Get With The Program

Playoffs ? What Playoffs ? The NBA Playoffs Dummy Get With The Program

Well this much is certain the NBA Playoffs have began to set about a number of surprises and then there have been the teams that you simply know have underachieved during the first round of the playoffs . The New York Knicks were summarily swept out of the first round with consummate ease by the Boston Celtics . And for those out there saying that the Knicks are a work in progress …….. here’s my retort for you the gestation period for a female pachyderm is a work in progress the New York Knicks are unadulterated friggin’ mess ! How this team was assembled by Mike D’Antoni and GM Donnie Walsh gives me every reason to believe that this organization now, is no better off than when former team President and GM Isiah Thomas was running the show the whole god-damn show ! And God knows, we all know how fu_cking bad that team was under Thomas’ tenure .

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Throughout this series not once had this team chosen to even play a modicum of defense but yet somehow there were idiots out there joyous that the Knicks had actually made the playoffs because in their eyes it made the club relevant once again . I’m sorry but the Knicks were about as relevant within the NBA as I’d consider Muammar Ghadaffi to be a beacon of light to democracy within the Middle East and on the African continent ! Unfortunately for all of the talk of Amar’e Stoudemire being paired together with Carmelo Anthony had the makings of a dynamic duo . Let’s say had Batman and Robin been homosexual crime fighters they’d still be far more intimidating than this duo have been throughout this series . Contributions asides when a team built primarily around offense and not a lick of defense is being played, how the hell is anyone of the belief that the Knicks were actually in with a chance of even winning this series ? At no time was I even convinced that the Knicks could win the series , much less make it a competitive one. Much of the team’s malaise can laid squarely on the shoulders of D’Antoni and Walsh. I hazard a guess that with Chauncey Billups having a series he’d rather forget , I can only surmise that his career is now in its twilight years . From a Finals MVP to a non-descript passenger on a derailed passenger train is very much how I’d assess the Knicks’ foray in this postseason along with the lackluster performances of Billups .

Speaking of a team that could very well be on the cusp of being humiliated in the playoffs are the Orlando Magic . Stan Van Gundy for all of animated demeanor and being so vocal is completely adrift with a team that is simply overwhelmed by its surroundings. The moves made by the Magic at the trade deadline were meant to improve the offensive productivity and creativity of this team . Who would’ve thought that the Atlanta Hawks would have the upper hand in this series with the Hawks not only taking a decisive a 3-1 lead but also Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson are actually outplaying the entire Magic front court by showing so much creativity and the tenacity to get the job done . The only player on the Magic roster who appears to be showing any proclivity in wanting to play with any aggression, happens to be the team’s All Star center Dwight Howard . Other than Howard there has been little contribution if any from anyone on this team.

Unfortunately the Magic are now on the hook financially for the contracts of Jason Richardson , Hedo Turkoglu , Gilbert Arenas and Quentin Richardson who collectively are owed a cumulative sum of $63 million over the next three years. I somehow get the feeling that GM Otis Smith and the front office executives within the Magic organization gambled heavily and that bet hasn’t worked ! In fact this whole maneuver has been an unmitigated disaster . If anyone was of the belief that this Magic team was remotely in with a chance of winning this series much less being taken as a serious contender for this season’s NBA title clearly hasn’t been watching this team play. Inconsistency has been their mantra and the very fact that they’ve been unable able to close out a game with any effectiveness during the regular season and then expect them to do the same in the postseason would suggest that they were in with a remote chance of actually winning this series . And clearly that hasn’t been the case as they’ve been continually outplayed and outcoached throughout the entirety of the series .

However what might be even more surprising is the mere fact that during last season’s playoffs the Orlando Magic actually swept the Hawks in a 4-0 series drubbing that is considered to be the most lopsided series’ victory that has been seen in the NBA in quite a while . Unfortunately game five to be played at the Amway Center in Orlando this Tuesday can be viewed as a series decider as the Magic are fighting for their very survival . A loss for the Magic and Larry Drew’s team makes their way into the Eastern Conference semi finals where they’ll meet the Chicago Bulls the number one seed in the Eastern Conference . That should be a which could very well prove to be thoroughly entertaining and at the same time somewhat suspenseful.

Another series which seems to be heading towards an unlikely outcome should things remain as they are . The San Antonio Spurs face a daunting task in trying to erase a 2-1 deficit against the Memphis Grizzlies . Coming into the series as the number one seed in the Western Conference . And the Spurs’ performances during this series if anything cannot be described as that of the best team in the conference or NBA record wise . It has been the Grizzlies led by Zach Randolph who have been playing like a team that on appearance has been playing like a number one seed . The Spurs have been playing below par and if anything they’ve been complacent in taking the Grizzlies far too lightly . Game four to be played tonight in Memphis will certainly let us know whether or not the Spurs are capable of erasing this deficit or whether or not the Memphis Grizzlies can push the number one seeds to the brink of elimination by winning what could very well be a very scintillating game .

San Antonio Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich and his coaching staff will most certainly have to prove that these series’ results are no mere fluke . But if anything credit has to be given to the Grizzlies who in essence have shown us that they’re quite capable of knocking off a top seed . It has been pretty incredible to see this Spurs’ team labor throughout this series . Tony Parker has been inconsistent and while Manu Ginobli has struggled with injuries the Spurs’ bench has contributed little if anything to this series overall. The veteran presence of Tim Duncan and Antonio McDyess has made little difference as the Grizzlies have simply outran , out-thought and completely outplayed the San Antonio Spurs . Should they bow out of this series at this juncture it would be the earliest exit by the team in over five years.

As an ardent fan of the Spurs I must admit that I’ve been surprised by the lackluster effort that put forth by the team . If anything I expected a competitive series between the two teams . Excuses are the last thing I’m about to make for the Spurs should their be a monumental collapse because I do believe that teams that encounter adversity can learn something from it . And should it prove to be the case for the Spurs then hopefully Popovich and his coaching staff and in particular the Spurs’ players can learn something from this all.

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Picture gallery for your perusal .

These series so far have been intriguing so far but there’s still a great deal to come . So if anything go ahead and enjoy what is left of the NBA postseason , so make of it what you will .

Alan aka tophatal ……………………..

https://tophatal.wordpress.com

Picture and slide show details below .
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(1) NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 24: (L-R) Amar’e Stoudemire(1) , Carmelo Anthony(7) and Shawne Williams (3) of the New York Knicks celebrate a play against the Boston Celtics in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 24, 2011 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Celtics won 101-89 . Nick Laham / Getty Images …..

(2) Carmelo Anthony(notes) #7 of the New York Knicks gets set to receive an inbounds pass as director Spike Lee yells at referee Derrick Collins #11 against the Boston Celtics in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 24, 2011 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Nick Laham / Getty Images ……

(3) Paul Pierce(34) of the Boston Celtics looks to go up for a shot against Amar’e Stoudemire(1), Ronny Turiaf(14) and Landry Fields (6) of the New York Knicks in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 24, 2011 at Madison Square Garden in New York City . Getty Images/ Nick Laham …..

(4) New York Knicks owner (C) Jim Dolan , General Manager Donnie Walsh and Head Coach Mike D’Antoni introduce new players Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups at a press conference at Madison Square Garden on February 23, 2011 in New York City. Chris Trotman / Getty Images North America ……

(5) Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen, left, defends San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green during the second half of Game 4 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series Monday, April 25, 2011, in Memphis , Tenn. The Grizzlies won 104-86 to take a 3-1 lead in the series. AP Photo/Lance Murphey …….

(6) Not looking good at all . San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan, left, and guard Tony Parker, right, of France, watch the final minutes of Game 4 against the Memphis Grizzlies in a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Monday, April 25, 2011, in Memphis, Tenn. The Grizzlies won 104-86 to take a 3-1 lead in the series. AP Photo/Lance Murphey ….

(7) Stan Van Gundy of the Orlando Magic converses with his offense in the final minutes against the Atlanta Hawks during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 24, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images …….

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. NB Game four was won decisively by the Memphis Grizzlies 104-86 to take a 3-1 lead in the best of seven game series with a semi finals’ conference berth awaiting the winner .

It Was The Best of Times It Was The Worst of Times The Rise And Fall of Isiah Thomas …………..

Perhaps it’s me but there has to be something extremely wrong in the world of sports when once a great player is said to be disliked so much by the peers of his era. The reason I say this , is having read an article in today’s edition of the online edition , sports section of Los Angeles Daily News – that it has me wondering what in God’s name could’ve brought about such a chilling relationship between two former greats of the NBA , in Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson and Isiah Thomas.

When  The Game  Was   Ours  .....   Book  written  jointly  by   Magic  Johnson   and  Larry   Bird   in  conjunction  with  Jackie Mullan  .

The cover the book which is soon to be released entitled ‘When The Game Was Ours’. The book details the rivalry and friendship that grew out of the relationship between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson from their college days through to their epic rivalriy in the NBA. The book written by Bird and Johnson in conjunction with Jackie Mullan , details also the fractured relationship that came about between Johnson and Isiah Thomas. picture appears courtesy of ap/photos ……

Egos asides , history tells us that these two players were amongst the greatest to have played the game of basketball in the NBA. And with both having climbed the game’s ultimate pinnacle, each having won an NBA title. There’s not much more that can really be said about these two superstars of the game. Other than the fact, that theirs is very much a fractured relationship. Perhaps built out of greed , envy and maybe a combination of the two ? But to have Magic tell it , this all surrounded his being diagnosed with HIV in 1991.Though it didn’t immediately bring an end to Johnson’s professional career. It did had some people questioning whether or not it was appropriate for him to still be on the basketball court playing the game.

Johnson  and  Thomas  seen  here  in   public   exchanging  a  few pleasantries   at   some  point  in   2004 .

Johnson and Thomas seen here in public ,exchanging a few pleasantries at some point in 2004. picture appears courtesy of ap/afp/photo/ James Richards …………

And the premise behind much of Johnson’s wrath and disdain laid in the fact that , he didn’t think it right that Thomas should’ve been asking others or even questioning his sexuality as he puts it. Much of the nineties hiv/aids was primarily viewed as a gay affliction , most notably amongst homosexual males. But there was a preponderance to suggest that it was also being transferred intravenously through the sharing of dirty needles through overt drug use. And it was in fact spreading amongst the hetero sexual community as well as being on the rise with the intravenous drug users. Johnson for his part, acknowledged that he caught the virus through having unprotected sex with numerous females other than his wife over the years of his playing basketball ,professionally. Which begs the question who’s really the victim here ? Magic Johnson or his wife and family ?

The  US  Dream  Team of   1992   , which went  on  to   win Olympic  gold   in the  men's  basketball   competition.  They defeated    Croatia   17-85  to  take  home  the  gold  medal in the  competition.   Their  average  margin  of  victory  in the  Olympics  was  35  points  per  game.        picture  appears courtesy of   reuters/   Alexander  Hutchinson  .................

The US Dream Team from the 1992 US men’s Olympic basketball competition of that year. They would defeat Croatia in a memorable final 117-85 to take home the gold medal in the competition. Their average margin of victory throughout the tournament was 35 points per game. And it’s arguably understandable why 12 players on the roster are amongst the 50 greatest players in NBA history. The roster for the Dream Team from left to right back row , Patrick Ewing, Earvin Johnson, David Robinson, 2nd row , Christian Laettner, Karl Malone, third row , Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, coach Chuck Daly, Charles Barkley and Chris Mullin . Front row , Scottie Pippen, John Stockton and finally Clyde Drexler . picture appears courtesy of reuters/ Alexander Hutchinson ………….

The repercussion of this all was , albeit a maneuver which Johnson fully acknowledged he engineered- was to make sure that Thomas was never going to be a part of the original ‘Dream Team’ for the 1992 Olympics held in Barcelona , Spain. The team coached by the late Chuck Daly. A team, that was filled at the time , with a litany of NBA All Stars, with the exception a young college player by the name of Christian Laettner. The lone college player on the roster and a member of the Duke University (Blue Devils) who repeated that same year as NCAA champions. It’s arguable whether or not Johnson held that much sway as to the makeup of the roster at the time. But I certainly think that Thomas as a player wasn’t at all liked by certain members of that team, at the time. As to whether or not Magic Johnson can lay claim that much of this was because of him with regard to Thomas was overlooked for the team. One can really only speculate on the subject. If anything it may well be Johnson wanting to interject himself and his ego into the matter.

Courtesy of Los Angeles Daily News:

Lakers great Magic Johnson expected strong reaction from Isiah Thomas regarding book

By Tom Hoffarth, Staff Writer

NBA: Lakers great says about long-time friend, `We both move on and keep going.’

If Magic Johnson’s fractured friendship with Isiah Thomas suffers further collateral damage by a book released this week, there doesn’t seem to be much movement for any kissing and making up in the near future.

In “When The Game Was Ours,” a book coming out Wednesday co-authored by Johnson and Larry Bird to recount their basketball rivalry- turned-brotherhood starting 30 years ago, a few egos have been stepped on when diverting to other sidelights.

Johnson writes how more than miffed he was that Thomas began asking people close to both of them whether Johnson was gay after it was revealed he had HIV in 1991. He adds that he helped orchestrate blackballing the Detroit Pistons’ All-Star guard from being picked for the 1992 U.S. Olympic “Dream Team.”

When book excerpts came out last week on SI.com, Thomas, the former Detroit Pistons All-Star guard who just took over as head coach at Florida International University, responded: “I’m really hurt, and I really feel taken advantage of for all these years. I’m totally blindsided by this. …

“I didn’t know he felt this way … What most people don’t know is, before Magic had HIV, my brother had HIV. My brother died of HIV, AIDS, drug abuse. So I knew way more about the disease, because I was living with it in my house.”

Johnson said Monday he wasn’t surprised by Thomas’ reaction to the book.

“No surprise, that’s just a part of life,” Johnson said. “Isiah’s got to worry now about his Florida team and his life going on, and I’ve got to worry about my businesses. We both move on and keep going.”

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Johnson’s and Thomas’ career paths after basketball have diverged and intersected along the way. Though not at the same time, in terms of their professional accomplishments. Both have tried their hands at coaching. Without much undue success to be shown in terms of success. Johnson for his part even had a failed late night talk show for that matter. Of which, those of us who might have been watching, must have felt that the Fox network either made a genuine mistake or they completely overestimated Magic’s appeal to a television audience. The show itself came, and went with the blink of an eye. It was indeed terrible ! As Johnson’s command of the English language and its vernacular bordered on being awful to say the very least. He has however , kept himself involved in the game behind the scenes as minority stakeholder in the Los Angeles Lakers’ franchise. And at the same time he’s become a wealthy entrepreneur in a wide range of diverse businesses. Building himself an accumulated wealth said to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. His vast business interests has over 7,000 people in its employ and generates in excess of $2 billion dollars a year in gross revenues. Much of that has brought a great deal of investment to the inner cities blighted urban decay and crime.

Johnson  seen  here  with  hjs   family  ,  his   wife  Cookie pictured next him   along   with    his   son  EJ , 17 and   daughter   Elisa 14.  Johnson  also  has an  older  son  Andre  aged   20.    picture appears  courtesy of  ap/photo/ Ross  Harrison  ..............

Johnson seen here with hjs family, his wife Cookie pictured next him, along with his son EJ ,aged 17 and daughter Elisa,14. Johnson also has an older son Andre aged 20. picture appears courtesy of ap/photo/ Ross Harrison …………..

But it’d also be remiss not to mention his philanthropic efforts through his Magic Johnson Foundation . Set up in part to educate about aids awareness and to assist those in some way afflicted by the disease. The foundation also gives out scholarships to needy students and it also assist in community aid programs. Johnson by his own volition has gone out to set an example for others to follow.

Thomas after his stint as a coach with the Indiana Pacers. He then was tapped to take over the woefully inept New York Knicks. He was installed as the team’s general manager. And his relationship with the then coach , Larry Brown , can be best described of covering the gamut from being contentious to downright asinine and comical. Brown’s own dismissal wasn’t at all totally unexpected. But what transpired next with Thomas installing himself as the coach. Well , let’s just say that everything from thereon in for the Knicks went downhill. What Thomas brought to the Knicks as a coach, is akin to Paris Hilton being asked to teach a class in quantum physics. The one certainty that we know is that the exercise is doomed for disaster. And the same can be said for the ‘Isiah Thomas’ experiment in New York.

The fans railed on Thomas for his roster moves but even more so for the lack of competitiveness shown by the team . And much of this transpired under the watchful eye of the Knicks’ corporate parent Cablevision Systems . Which is in turn owned by the Dolan family . Money was of no object for the NBA’s wealthiest franchise in terms of value. But when it came to showing common sense and due diligence. Well, none of that was forthcoming from either party involved . In this case that would be James Dolan and Isiah Thomas. The team has been a model of inconsistency under Thomas’ reign and when added to the fact he and the organization were embroiled in a sexual harassment and wrongful termination suit. It only added to comedy of errors that as unraveling with the Knicks’ organization. If nothing else, one could only watch from afar and wonder what was about to happen next. Needless to say that the writing was on the wall once James Dolan saw that ‘enough was enough’ and that the idiocy had to be stopped in its tracks.

Dolan initially moved Thomas into a consultancy position within the Knicks’ organization and then brought in Donnie Walsh to oversee the player personnel activity within the New York Knicks as VP and Head of Basketball Operations. At a later date they sought out and hired former Phoenix Suns‘ coach Mike D’Antoni .

Thomas  seen  here  with a  young   FIU  fan  at  the Panthers'  Alumni  Basketball  Preview  .

Thomas , now coach of the FIU Panthers is seen here with a young fan , Jordi Fernandez , 13 , at the Panthers’ Alumni Basketball Preview. picture appears courtesy of ap/photo/ Wilfredo Lee ………………

Knowing that his role was ever diminishing, Thomas left the organization citing that he was seeking out fresh business opportunities. Little did we know that those opportunities would be as a coach within the collegiate ranks of basketball. He found himself being hired by Florida International University (FIU-Panthers). He states, ….. ‘ that it’s been a life long ambition of mine to give back to the college student athlete and to enhance their lives as not only students but also as outstanding citizens as well ‘. A very commendable thought indeed, on his part ! As to whether or Isiah can make a success of it as basketball coach within the collegiate ranks. It remains to be seen but certainly he can’t do much worse than in his tenure with the New York Knicks . Or can he ?

Give Charles Barkley His Due He Knows What He Knows And He’ll Always Be Opinionated Whether You Like Him Or Not ………….

Well it’s that time of year once again, where the round ball game comes into play. The NBA season is now upon us folks and though as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t really get into stride until the season gets into the meat of its schedule -roundabout Christmas. By then, we’ll be seeing how a number of teams will have played themselves into some sort of rhythm. And perhaps not , as the case maybe !

Former  NBA  great,  turned NBA   broadcast  analyst  ,  Charles  Barkley   ,  seen   here   courtside   at  the  T-Mobile  Rookie Youth  Jam part  of  the   2008  NBA  All Star  Weekend  that  took  place  at  the New  Orleans  Arena  ,  New  Orleans,  Louisiana,.  Barkley   recently  stated  that  he'd   like  to  take  an  executive   role as the GM  of   an  NBA  franchise.   Something   that  I  for  one  can't   necessarily  see   Barkley   doing  at this   juncture.  He's   got   far  too  comfortable  a  position  behind  the  desk   at  TNT  covering  the  NBA  with  his    usual   forthright   and   deprecating  analysis.       picture  appears  courtesy   nbae/getty images/ Andrew  D.  Bernsein ....................

Former NBA great ,turned TNT NBA broadcast analyst , Charles Barkley seen here at the T-Mobile Rookie Youth Jam, part of the 2008 NBA All Star Weekend that took place at the New Orleans Arena , New Orleans , Louisiana,. Barkley recently stated that he’d like to an executive role as the GM of an NBA franchise. Something that I for one can’t necessarily see Barkley doing at this juncture. He’s got far too comfortable a position behind the desk at TNT covering the NBA with his usual forthright analysis and self deprecating humor. picture appears courtesy of NBAE/Getty Images/ Andrew D. Bernstein ……..

And for me the coverage of the game can only be enhanced by the spirited banter of former NBA great and Hall of Famer, Charles Barkley. What he brings to the table is honest to goodness forthright analysis , tinged with sometimes his acerbic wit and devil may care attitude. He just puts it out there and tells it like it is. And most of all he doesn’t care who he offends for that matter. Fans of the game either hate him , or they simply love him. There are no in betweens when it comes to ‘Sir Charles’ . The TNT coverage of the game is amongst the very best that there is on offer and that’s inclusive of the NBA’s (NBA Tv) own cable broadcast coverage of the sport.

The  NBA  champions  of  the  2008-09   season  , the  Los  Angeles   Lakers.   The   franchise   secured  their   15th   NBA title   at  the  expense  of  the  Eastern  Conference's Orlando  Magic.     picture  appears  courtesy of NBAE/ Getty Images/   Nathaniel  S. Butler  ....................

NBA champions, the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2008-09 season , having secured their fifteenth NBA title at the expense of the Eastern Conference’s Orlando Magic. Who they defeated (4-1) in the best of seven games’ series finals. picture appears courtesy of nbae/getty images/ Nathaniel S Butler ……………..

The season kicks off tonight with a double header feature of games scheduled to start with an eagerly anticipated match-up between the Boston Celtics , who’ll be taking on the Cleveland Cavaliers. The other game on tap will feature the defending NBA champions , the Los Angeles Lakers , taking on their neighbor, the Los Angeles Clippers . Unfortunately, for fans of the Clippers they will not be afforded the privilege of seeing the NBA #1 draft pick , Blake Griffin. The player injured himself in practice and will be sidelined for anywhere between four to six weeks , by all estimates. It’s hoped that his recovery will be a speedy one and that there’ll be no long lasting or lingering effects from his injury (a cracked patella [broken kneecap]).

Courtesy of Yahoo Sports and Associated Press:

Barkley wants his shot at being a general manager

By Brian Mahoney , AP Basketball Writer

NEW YORK (AP)—Charles Barkley thinks he can do better than some of the general managers he criticizes on TV.

The Hall of Fame player and TNT analyst said Monday he’d like his chance to run an NBA team, though he’s in no rush because he’d want the right job.

“I think that it’d be fun to try to build my own team,” Barkley said at a luncheon, joined by studio partners Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson. “We talk about it all the time. Sometimes we say, ‘What is that guy doing? Why did he draft that guy? Why did he make a trade for that guy?’

“Some of these guys have done a bad job, plain and simple.”

Barkley was critical of the Minnesota Timberwolves, who under new team president David Kahn took point guards with the Nos. 5-6 picks in the draft, then signed point guard Ramon Sessions(notes) in free agency. He compared the Wolves’ draft strategy to when the Detroit Lions kept spending high draft picks on wide receivers.

The 46-year-old Barkley planned to do TV for only a couple of years, but is now in his 10th season with TNT. He’s in no hurry to leave for a team executive job that opened up, because some of them wouldn’t give him an opportunity to be successful.

“Every job ain’t a good job,” said Barkley, who said he wouldn’t take any position unless he was given complete control of basketball decisions, because some owners aren’t interested in winning.

Smith also is interested and has interviewed for some positions. He doesn’t think he or Barkley are hurt by not having previous experience working for a team.

“Every day you can hear what we say about your team, what your team is. You know our philosophy. If you follow basketball, it’s not like you don’t know Charles and myself. You can’t not know us and you can’t not know how we think,” Smith said. “We’re just in a unique situation where we’re interviewed every night.”

Barkley has seen some of his contemporaries try and fail as team executives. Isiah Thomas was fired after a horrible tenure running the New York Knicks, and even Michael Jordan, Barkley’s good friend, is regularly criticized for his inability to build a winner in Washington and Charlotte.

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90198023CE001_SPUR_CAMP
San Antonio Spurs' coach Gregg Popovich speaks to members of the team during a training session at the AT&T Center in San Antonio , Texas , during the preseason . It's hoped that the team can rebound from last season's disappointment in the NBA playoffs . picture appears courtesy of nbae/getty images/ D. Clarke Evans ................

Now as an erstwhile fan of the NBA and a fervent supporter of the San Antonio Spurs . I can only hope, that much of Charles’ criticism won’t be directly targeted towards by beloved Spurs. He’s been known to let rip even when it’s not been justified . But such are the wiles of Barkley , that even he can’t be held in check by his bosses at TNT . And that’s no doubt what the vast majority of NBA fans love about him from the get-go.
The thought of Barkley leaving the broadcast booth to be behind the desk dealing with the day to day operations of an NBA franchise. Though on the face it – it may well appear to be ghastly. There’s no reason to believe that he couldn’t prove to be a success in that particular endeavor. Albeit , that we’ve seen the failures of such individuals , as Michael Jordan , Isiah Thomas and Elgin Baylor. All of whom at one time or another were in charge of an NBA franchise as a general manager , head of the player personnel operations. Their failures have been of such monumental proportions . That it left the respective franchises that they oversaw in almost irretrievable situation. So much so, that it has taken them in some cases almost a decade to attain some semblance of normalcy within those respective organizations. So for now for the likes of the Washington Wizards, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers , they can be thankful that a lesson has been sorely learned.

From left to  right,   Kobe  Bryant,  Dwight Howard,  LeBron  James  and  Kevin  Garnett    .  All   with  their   eyes  on  the NBA's  ultimate  prize   an  NBA  championship   title   and ring.   Three  from  this quartet  may  well  in  the  end   prove  to  be   disappointed with the  outcome.   Which  one   do    you   think  it will  be  ?       picture  appears  courtesy  of   ap/photo/  Marcus  Talbot  ......................

From left to right, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, LeBron James and Kevin Garnett .
All with their eyes on the NBA’s ultimate prize , an NBA title and ring. Three from this quartet may well end up being disappointed at the final outcome of it all. Which one do you think it will be ? picture appears courtesy of ap/photo/ Marcus Talbot ………………….

As to the aspirations of a number of teams. One can merely speculate as to the fate that may well await them over the course of the season. Of this though we’re sure , for LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal , this will be a make or break season as to how the Cleveland Cavaliers will fare. Perhaps, no other franchise is under as much pressure as the Cavaliers. And that’s including the Los Angeles Lakers, as the defending NBA champions. O’Neal , was brought in to the franchise, to provide that added leadership and prominent offensive presence. That is what was felt the team was lacking. As to whether or not, O’Neal can regain the form of old , remains to be seen. But this much is sure , failure by the Cavaliers to at least make the NBA Finals and raise the Larry O’Brien Trophy . And Cleveland might as well start to pay homage to LeBron James , as he heads out for pastures new. His remaining with the franchise, is predicated upon them winning the NBA title. Anything short of that, is absolutely meaningless for him and his overall ambitions as a player, at this stage of his career.

Lakers'  players   from  left to   right   ,  Pau Gasol,  Lamar  Odom  and  Kobe  Bryant   receive their NBA    championship  rings    prior  to  the  season  opener  against the  Los  Angeles  Clippers   at  the  Staples  Arena  in  Los  Angeles ,  California ,.     picture  appears courtesy  of  nbae/getty images/ Andrew  D .  Bernstein  .................

Lakers’ players from left to right , Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant receive their NBA championship rings prior to their season opener against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Arena in Los Angeles , California ,. picture appears courtesy of nbae/getty images/ Andrew D. Bernstein …………….

History has shown us recently, that it’s hard to successfully defend an NBA title. And for the Lakers it will prove to be no different. With the loss of Trevor Ariza through free agency ,with him landing with the Houston Rockets . Who’d have thought it possible that Ron Artest would’ve ended up in a Lakers’ uniform ? Now the question has got to be , will he be more of an attraction , rather than a distraction ? Granted , his stay with the Rockets proved to be fruitful. Where he played alongside Aaron Brooks , and proved that he’d matured into a leader and a teammate on their roster that was hampered by injuries to Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady – as they made the playoffs last season. Now comes the real task for Artest, can he defer to the likes of Kobe Bryant , Pau Gasol and in all likelihood Andrew Bynum ? He’ll after all be no more than their fourth or fifth scoring option , if that !

90040593TO006_ROCKETS_BLAZERS

Rudy Fernandez (5) of the Portland Trailblazers goes up for the layup as he evades Chuck Hayes (44) , in the game played against the Houston Rockets , in the teams’ season opener played at the Rose Garden Arena , Portland , Oregon. The Trailblazers would go on to defeat the Rockets 96-87 . picture appears courtesy of nbae/getty images/ Thomas Oliver ………………..

And most certainly Lakers’ coach , Phil Jackson ,will be watching diligently, as Artest acclimatizes himself with his new teammates. For the Lakers’ fans also, they’ll be hoping to see their team successfully defend their title. As it is, they merely see the opponents in the Eastern Conference , as nothing more than cannon fodder. Especially in light of the ease with which they dispatched the Orlando Magic last season. However, with the likes of the Boston Celtics, the Magic to name but a few, making acquisitions to bolster their rosters. It will be interesting to see how many of the Eastern Conference’s top teams fare over the course of this upcoming season. The Celtics have added another aging veteran in Rasheed Wallace , to provide them with depth. And the Magic, meanwhile, have added Vince Carter to provide them with some much needed offense. Unfortunately, the loss of Hedo Turkoglu for the Orlando Magic, might prove to be too much to bear. But if anything the Magic’s coach, Stan Van Gundy will be able to make do , with the talent made available to him.

The NBA and in particular the game’s commissioner , David Stern will no doubt be pinning his hopes that the league’s stars will be at the top of their game. And in particular the young rookies that will be taking their first steps on the professional basketball stage. But paramount to this all, will be if there is a far more entertaining product placed on the court this season. In light of the economic turmoil that the country now faces and the fact that the erstwhile NBA fans may not be all too willing to pay overly inflated prices for a product that at times has been about as entertaining as watching an episode of ‘Jon & Kate Plus 8’. Well, you can see why it is that the fans have at times become less approving of the game.

For Charles Barkley and his post broadcast career, I’m of the opinion that I would rather see him behind the desk giving us his succinct observations on the game . Or him court-side having a great deal of fun at the expense of the players, coaches and fans. Barkley being an NBA General Manager ? Let’s just say that on the face of it , the tone and reverence sought just wouldn’t be there. Could you imagine Charles and a player , much less a coach having a spat over the the productivity on the basketball court ? You know one way or another that there would definitely be hell to pay . And there’s no telling what may well happen between him and his antagonist. Suffice to say, the aftermath of it all wouldn’t be pretty !

NBA Kickoff schedule ……..

Games

Tue October 27th …………
Away Home

Boston @ Cleveland
Washington @ Dallas
Houston @ Portland
L.A. Clippers @ L.A. Lakers