(4) Houston Rockets vs (5) Portland Trailblazers Playoff Preview!

Monday, April 21st, 2014

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The 2014 NBA Playoff are underway and this matchup will be very intriguing. James Harden looks to lead his Houston Rockets past second year phenom Damian Lilliard and Rip City. The Rockets so to say “owned” Portland in the regular season beating them 3 out of 4 times. We can’t forget that the playoffs are a completely different beast, slates are clear and its 0-0. Home court advantage goes to the Houston Rockets, so games one and two will be at the Toyota Center. In their home building Houston possesses a 33-8 record, last loss at home was nearly a month ago. Head coach Terry Stotts has Portland playing stellar road basketball. The Blazers finished the regular season with a road record of (23-18), but they have been sluggish lately. Both teams have their advantages and disadvantages, so lets dissect this series a bit further.

 

KEYS TO VICTORY: (HOUSTON)

- James Harden “MUST” show up from start to finish and play consistent defense. On the year Harden is averaging (25.4) points per game good enough for 5th in the NBA

- FEED Dwight Howard he absolutely has to be all of 88 million dollars in this series. Robin Lopez is a physical defender he will have to find ways to score on the block. On the other end Dwight must be “The Enforcer” and patrol the paint like a police officer on duty.

- Bench play has to be good. Jeremy Lin will need to come into his own this series and be second unit catalyst. Also Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi, Omer Asik & the rest of the bench have to also make plays throughout.

- Houston ranked 12th in defense will need to close out on shooters and rebound well. Guys like Nic Batum and Wes Matthews have the ability to knock down treys.

 

KEYS TO VICTORY: (PORTLAND)

- Do not get rattled by Houston’s home crowd. They must execute in the half court sets and knock down free throws on the road.

- Damian Lilliard has to sensational along with the big fella LaMarcus Aldridge. Combined the duo is averaging (43.9) points per game

- STOP James Harden!!! We know that they will not completely stop Harden but they have to at least make life difficult on him. Stotts will more than likely start out with Wes Matthews defending him. Don’t be surprised to see a dash of Nic Batum on him as well.

- Frontcourt must stay out of foul trouble being that they are extremely thin up front. Also Mo Williams and Thomas Robinson must give them something off of that short bench of the Blazers.

X-Factor: Houston

Patrick Beverly will be the x-factor in this entire series. If he has the ability to defend Damian Lilliard and also be productive offensively. Beverly one of the best on ball defenders in the league will have his work cut out for him in this series. Pat Bev didn’t put up eye gauging numbers, but the things he does for Houston do not show up in the stat sheet. He just has to play with energy defensively, run the offense, and occasionally knock down shots.

 

X-Factor: Portland

LaMarcus Aldridge is going to be everyones meal ticket in this series. Meaning if he has his interior game going it will open up shots for the perimeter guys. Like the Wes Matthews, Nic Batum, and Damian Lilliard’s of the world. At times Aldridge goes in and out of scoring funks, not to mention earlier in the year he was an MVP candidate that slowly faded though. As much as Damian Lilliard is a superstar in the making the Blazers only go as far as LaMarcus carries them. LA will also have to clean the glass and keep Houston from getting second chance points.

Projected Starting Lineups;

Portland: PG Damian Lilliard  SG: Wesley Matthews SF: Nic Batum  PF: LaMarcus Aldridge  C: Robin Lopez

Houston: PG: Pat Beverly  SG: James Harden  SF: Chandler Parsons  PF: Terrance Jones  C: Dwight Howard

PREDICTION: Houston in 6

 

 

 

2013 Champions Classic Preview and Predictions

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

In tonight’s 2013 Champions Classic college basketballs elite talent will be on display at the United Center in Chicago. In the first game it will be the #1 team in the land Kentucky Wildcats facing off vs. #2 Michigan State Spartans. Then in the second game  Coach K  leads  the #4  Duke Blue Devils vs. freshman sensation Andrew Wiggins and #5 Kansas Jayhawks.

#1 Kentucky vs. #2 Michigan State

John Calipari has again assembled  a National Championship caliber ball club. Kentucky lured six high school All-Americans and two other highly regarded recruits this off season. There are some who are deeming this Kentucky Wildcats team  the best in recent memory. The Wildcats finished (38-2) in route to a NCAA National Championship a season ago. This conglomerate of freshman looked promising in its first  two games vs. UNC-Asheville and Northern Kentucky. One of the nations top recruits Julius Randle out of Plano, Texas  is averaging (22.5) points per game to go along with (14.5) rebounds per game. Randle also is surrounded by two other Texas natives  “The Harrison Twins” Andrew and Aaron Harrison. Both are 6’6 wing players, Andrew Harrison  is the facilitator, while brother  Aaron can just flat out score ball. This years Kentucky team  has the make up to repeat as champions, with  Dakari Johnson, Marus Lee and James Young all which who were All-Americans as well.

  Michigan State didn’t have a monster recruiting class, but there are nice pieces on this team. The Spartans are coming off of a 98-56 win over McNeese State. Sophomore guard Gary Harris scored (20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds) in the victory.  Travis Trice a  junior guard out of Huber Heights, OH scored (11 points and 8 assists) in the victory. Branden Dawson also a junior is a huge piece to this Michigan State team, he is a 6’6 wing player with a huge motor. Dawson scored (12 points and 12 rebounds), he also distributed 5 assists for Michigan State. Coach Tom Izzo has a balanced attack with a nice mixture of talent and experience on this team.

X-Factor : Kentucky

James Young is going to be vital in tonight’s matchup versus Michigan State. He is a combined (5-18) shooting from the field over the last two contests. The Wildcats will definitely look to see more out of  Young, who was one of six McDonald’s All- Americans recruited by Kentucky. John Calipari will look to get  Young touches early on in this one; to boost the Freshman’s confidence and get him going.

X-Factor: Michigan State

Michigan State is going to need Adreian Payne to set the tone defensively. Payne needs (22) more blocks to become Michigan States all-time leader in blocks. Also he is very athletic big with a 7 foot 4 inch wing span, who can stretch the defense with his range and possesses an unstoppable jump hook.

#3 Kansas Jayhawks vs #4 Duke Blue Devil

The Kansas Jayhawks lost guard Ben McLemore to the NBA, now the future is freshmen phenom Andrew Wiggins. The 6’8 200 pound forward is projected to be the #1 overall pick in the NBA draft next year. So far in this early season Wiggins has not disappointed scoring 16 points on (5-9) shooting in his debut. He was named Naismith High School Player the year ,he is an all around scorer and  a good long armed defender. There has not been this much hype for an incoming freshman in Kansas since Danny Manning in 1984. Coach Bill Self will have his troops ready for battle in Chicago on Tuesday night. The Jayhawks look to go (2-0) on the season after defeating Lousiana-Monroe 80-63 in the teams first regular season game.

Across the way stands another freshman sensation by the name of Jabari Parker and the Duke Blue Devils. Parker who was a member of the McDonald’s All-American team, and in his debut against Davidson he poured in 22 points. Duke also brings back arguably the best backcourt in college basketball in Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon. Cook who scored 21 points in the opener is one of the more seasoned players on this years team. He was named to third team All-ACC just a season ago, and finished second in the conference in assists (5.3). Sulaimon has all of the tools to become ACC Defensive Player of the Year this season. He is without a doubt of the best on ball defenders in the nation, that can defend up to three positions. The Blue Devils lost a lot senior leadership when Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly & Mason Plumlee who all made the leap to the next level. Mike Krzyzewski and Duke are favored to make a legit run at yet another national championship this season.

X-Factor: Kansas

Andrew Wiggins will need to be everything he is projected to be tonight. In order for  Kansas to win Wiggins will have to score in the mid-low 20′s. In his first game he only managed 16 points and that will not be enough against a high powered offense like Duke.

X-Factor: Duke

Duke has a lot of bright spots on this loaded roster, but tonight’s difference maker will be Rodney Hood. The 6’8 215lb forward who was selected a captain on this team will be an impact. Hood is an explosive leaper and fantastic finisher around the rim. He has the ability to stretch defenses because he has extended range; and has the combination of speed and strength to be a lockdown defender.

Predictions:

Kentucky vs. Michigan State: Kentucky

Duke vs Kansas: Duke

Joe Johnson: Elite or Not Elite?

Monday, May 13th, 2013

Joe Johnson: Elite or  Not Elite

This article has been and been on my mind for quite some time now. For months I have been watching and dissecting Joe Johnson’s game. Many argue that he is not a “go- to guy”, or a player that can lead a title contender. Do I believe that’s true? YES! Johnson seems to be past his prime, and at 31 years of age the 19 million dollar a/ year player had without a doubt his worst season in almost a decade. He averaged 16.3 points per game while shooting a disastrous .423% from the field (worst since 2002-2003 season). BUT a majority of the year Johnson was hampered with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. During the (2012-2013) NBA season Joe was hot/cold, and showed glimpses that he still had some game left. Then at other times his game looked hideous; most recent was Game 7 of the ECF. In that game Joe shot 2-14 (0.14%) scored 6 points in 38 minutes of action, in a back breaking (99-93) loss to the Bulls.

How I decide whether a player is elite or not has to do with a number of different things. I mentioned on twitter (@jdotbras) “Joe Johnson (@thejoejohnson7) is the third best shooting guard in the NBA behind Kobe Bryant, and Dwayne Wade”. IMO Johnson is “NOT” elite, though he possesses all the tools to be labeled such. This big physical guard from Little Rock, AR stands 6’7 and weighs 240 lbs. Johnson has a surprising handle for a guard his size, and obtains the ability to create space with his size. He is a much underrated passer, for his career Joe is averaging (4.5) assists per game. Defensively has been one of the better on ball wing defenders, and has been an adequate rebounder.

 The problem everyone including myself has with Joe is his desire and will to win in the playoffs.

In 11 seasons in the NBA Joe Johnson has NEVER been past round 2 of the NBA  playoffs. Many do not realize that in the 2001 NBA Draft he was selected 10th overall by the Boston Celtics. He broke out in the 2004-2005 season in his stint with the Phoenix Suns. Johnson averaged 18.8 points per game and 4.3 rebounds per game, also shot 50% from the field that season. On August 19, 2005 he signed with the Atlanta Hawks in a sign and trade, where the Suns acquired Boris Diaw and draft picks. In 7 seasons with Atlanta Joe averaged 20.9 points per game, but has a career playoff scoring average of a measly 16.7 points per game. Johnson has been labeled as a FRANCHISE player by many because of the fat contract he received on July 4, 2010. It was one of the largest contracts in NBA history, the Hawks inked J.J. to a 6 year $119 million dollar deal to stay in Atlanta.

I believe people expected too much because of the large contract he was signed to. The fact is he’s really just an “Average Joe”, and until he can get that cold hearted killer instinct he will remain an average Joe. Don’t get me wrong, I love his game- he can shoot the three, and post up smaller guards. Also we know J.J. is a bona-fide scorer, he can finish at the cup and knock down free throws as well (.798%). Johnson is honestly just a REALLY good second option, never struck me as a SUPERSTAR although I admire his style of play. Some can argue the fact that he is a superstar, Joe is in fact a 6x All Star , and was a Third Team All- NBA selection in 2010. At this point in his career I believe it is too late for him to be ELITE but he can be a key piece; especially on this Brooklyn Nets basketball team, where you have a premiere point guard in Deron Williams. Then when you plug in  top 5 center Brook Lopez, Joe can afford to be a third option. Basically be a guy that puts up points, makes smart plays, and provides serviceable defense. I have been back and forth about how I feel about Johnson because of his inconsistencies throughout his career. One thing I can say about Joe Johnson is that he does have a small portion of clutch gene in him. This season alone Johnson has made his fair share of buzzer beaters and game-winners. That means nothing in the regular season so my question is Will Joe ever get it done??

Follow me on Twitter @jdotbras, also follow the team @mymindonsports check out the site mymindonsports.com and when you get a chance peep my blog at thebaselineblurb.wordpress.com

 

 

#2 Duke vs #7 Creighton Preview & Analysis

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

Tonight’s showdown is between the #2 seed Duke Blue Devils and the #7 seed Creighton Blue Jays this should be quite a contest. Coming into this evenings affair both teams really haven’t been tested just yet in the tournament. Duke is fresh off of a 73-61 win over the Great Danes of Albany University, a game where seniors Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee combined for 49 of Duke’s 73 points. Albany made some legit pushes throughout the ballgame, but never were a real threat to the Blue Devils. Coach Mike Krzyzewski and Duke look to make it to their 4th Sweet Sixteen appearance in 5 seasons with a win over the Blue Jays Sunday night.

The Creighton Blue Jays escaped a hungry and more athletic Cincinnati Bearcat’s  ballclub in order to be in this position.Creighton is one game away from reaching the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1974. Missouri Valley Champion Creighton enters tonight as the underdog, and the two-time All – American Doug McDermott still has a bitter taste in his mouth from last season. Creighton exited at this same exact time last year thanks to the North Carolina Tar Heels. A long way from Omaha, the Blue Jays aim to advance in this years NCAA Tournament with a win over the Duke Blue Devils tonight.

Keys to the Game: (Duke)

- Seth Curry must get going early, vs Albany 10-14 shooting 26 points, and (2-2) from behind the three point line.

- Creighton is #1 in the nation in FG% (.508) Duke must force the Blue Jays to take bad shots.

Mason Plumlee must be a MAN tonight. vs Maryland in the ACC Tournament Alex Len gave Plumlee problems. Mason has to be aggressive from the tip.

-Control the Crowd

Keys to the Game: (Creighton)

- Junior Doug McDermott must play like an All-American, averaging (23.2)ppg and (7.6) rebs during the 2013 season. In win vs Cincinnati 7-15 for 27 points and shot (11-11) from the free throw line.

-Role players MUST be step up, the bench only scored 12 points vs the Bearcats

-Mangage the clock and minutes, Greg McDermott has a very small rotation usually plays 6-7 players. Timeouts will be very valuable in tonight’s matchup.

-Do not get into a shootout with Duke. Play at a consistent tempo, the Blue Devils are 6th in  the nation in scoring at 78.3 ppg.

Duke:

Scoring

C Mason Plumlee (17.4)ppg

G Seth Curry (17.3)ppg

F/C Ryan Kelly (14.0)ppg

Rebounding

C Mason Plumlee (10.4)rpg

F/C Ryan Kelly (5.5)rpg

G Quinn Cook (3.8)rpg

Assists

G Quinn Cook (5.4)apg

G Tyler Thornton (2.3)apg

G Rasheed Sulaimon (2.0)apg

Creighton

Scoring

F Doug McDermott (23.2)ppg

C Greg Echenique (9.7)ppg

G Grant Gibbs (8.5)ppg

Rebounding

F Doug McDermott (7.6)rpg

C Greg Echenique (6.7)rpg

G Grant Gibbs (4.1)rpg

Assists

G Grant Gibbs (5.9)apg

G Austin Chatman (4.3)apg

G Jahenns Manigat (2.3)apg

 X Factor (Duke)

Junior G/F Rasheed Sulaimon, he has to play exceptionally well defensively. Stay at home on the shooters. Sulaimon is able to put up points as well if he can score anywhere from 11-13 points Duke should have no problem winning this game.

X Factor (Creighton)

Greg McDermott, Coaching is going to be key for Creighton we know what to expect from Doug McDermott and company. It will be his job to manage the clock as far as when to call timeouts and so forth. McDermotts’s rotations are some what short about 6-7 players deep. Must keep pace throughout and make good use of their timeouts.

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1Michigan Wolverines vs. 3Indiana Hoosiers Preview & Analysis

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

Tonight features a game between the top two teams in the Big Ten, the #1 ranked Michigan Wolverines and the #3 Indiana Hoosiers. This game is for #1 ranking in the nation, and just as important for conference play bragging rights. Both teams have a conference record of (7-1) going into tonights meeting at historic Assembly Hall.

While most of the attention will be on Player of the Year candidate Indiana’s Cody Zeller, my X-Factor tonight is the 6’9 Senior G/F Christian Watford. When Watford scores 15+ points the Hoosiers are an astounding 8-0 this season.  Watford has been impressive, averaging (12.9) points per game also snatching (6.5) rebounds per contest. With that being said, the one guy that could be more valuable in tonights face-off is Junior swingman Victor Oladipo, and not for the offensive purposes. On the season Oladipo is averaging a league leading (2.5) steals per game to go along with (14 ppg). Expect Oladipo to draw the assignment of guarding Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr. or Sophmore G Trey Burke, which is no easy task. Hardaway Jr. is the Wolverines 2nd leading scorer at (15.5) ppg, and looks to make Oladipo expend alot of energy defensively.Trey Burke is 2nd in the entire Big Ten in scoring at (17.9) ppg behind Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas.

I mentioned in a tweet earlier that “Assembly Hall is one of the toughest places to get a victory” @jdotbras. Well Indiana is (19-2) Overall (7-1) Conference and both losses have been at Assembly Hall. The first loss came on December 15th to a underrated Butler team  (88-86) OT, and again exactly a month later vs conference foe Wisconsin (64-59). So how much of an advantage will Assembly Hall be tonight?

*Interesting Fact per Espn.com* Michigan leads Division 1 in points per P&R (including passes) at 1.12 per game while Indiana allows only 0.87 points per P&R play the 3rd worst rate in the Big Ten.

Michigan really hasn’t been pushed this season; although they did beat a #18 NCST, they fell to a #15 Ohio State team on the road. As opposed to Michigan, this Indiana bunch  notched key wins over #14 UNC, #8 Minnesota and  #13 MSU.  Coach John Beilein and the #1 ranked Wolverines look to win their 5th in 6 games. Whereas Coach Crean and the Hoosiers also look to win its 5th in 6 games.

Keys to the game: Michigan

  • Push the tempo
  • Keep the crowd under control
  • Tim Hardaway Jr. needs to get going early
  • Execute on offense

Keys to Game: Indiana

  • Get Cody Zeller the ball
  • Victor Oladipo vs Tim Hardaway Jr./Trey Burke
  • Home Cooking (Keep Crowd involved)
  • Control the Tempo

 

*Michigan is (53-98) all time vs Indiana (12-60) on the road*

Leaders: Scoring

Michigan:

Trey Burke (17.9)

Tim Hardaway Jr. (15.5)

Nick Stauskas (12.6)

Glenn Robinson (12.1)

                 Rebounds:

Mitch McGary (6.0)

Glenn Robinson III (5.8)

Jordan Morgan (5.2)

Tim Hardaway Jr. (5.0)

                    Assists:

Trey Burke (7.1)

Tim Hardaway Jr. (2.6)

Glenn Robinson III (1.3)

 

: Scoring

Indiana:

Cody Zeller (16.1)

Victor Oladipo (14.0)

Christian Watford (12.9)

Jordan Hulls (11.1)

                 Rebounds : 

Cody Zeller (8.2)

Victor Oladipo (6.0)

Christian Watford (6.0)

                  Assists :

Kevin Ferrell (4.5)

Jordan Hulls (3.3)

Victor Oladipo (2.3)

 

Follow me on Twitter @jdotbras, also follow the team @mymindonsports. Check out the website @ mymindonsports.com

Is Brook Lopez a Top 5 Center in the NBA?

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

I’m sitting here thinking of all the great centers that have come and gone in the NBA. I’m starting to reflect on how SOFT that position has become over the years. I remember the Patrick Ewing/Hakeem Olajuwon battles in the NBA Finals. Or when David “The Admiral” Robinson dropped 71 points vs the Clippers in a game back in 93′. Furthermore “The Diesel” Shaquille O’Neal breaking backboards in Orlando and winning trophies in LA. Also can’t neglect Indiana Pacers ex center Rik “The Dunkin-Dutchman”Smits. Many analysts (along with myself) thought he would have been better if he was not plagued by injuries. The 7’4 center averaged 14.6 ppg and just under 7 rebounds per outing.
Although he is not nearly as recognized as the centers I mentioned above, I believe he had a decent career. Then you have the Dikembe Mutombo’s, the best rim protector I have seen come through the NBA. Also a fellow Georgetown University Alumni Alonzo Mourning, 7 time all-star and 2 time DPOY. Just a tiny example of the era of centers I had the chance to watch growing up as a youngster.

Fast forward to present day and you have clear-cut the Top 2 centers in basketball,Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum its not even close. You can put those two guys in any order, after the two big fish who rounds out the Top 5 center in round ball? Some throw out the name Joahkim Noah of the Chicago Bulls, while others might insert Indiana Pacers big Roy Hibbert into the equation. I have heard people even say Marcin Gortat, that name goes in one ear and out the other to most NBA Heads. In my opinion yeah Gortat had a solid season in Phoenix he averaged 15&10- but is he top 5 material yet? Don’t count on it. Tyson Chandler is another name that leaps at you when you think TRUE center, Chandler won DPOY honors last season.

 

 

 

Brooklyn Nets Center Brook Lopez is a guy I think deserves to be in this discussion, he is definitely TOP 5 on my board. Many say no Brook Lopez is not top 5, but they have a legitimate reason as to why not. The one and probably the only thing that sticks out like a sore thumb to many is his inability to rebound the ball. Certainly not the best rebounding center in the league averaging an alarming 3.6 rpg last season. Keep in mind he only played a limited amount of games in an already short NBA season (5). That’s still no excuse and I own up to that, Brook definitely has to be more active on the glass this season. Maybe he can go workout with and shadow power forward Kris Humphries, after all he did average 11 rpg, good enough for Top 5. On the flip side, the 4th year Center out of Stanford does show tremendous upside and has a knack for scoring. Brook has an entourage of post moves with a feather soft touch around the rim, and an Incredible Hulk-like exterior standing (7’0 270lbs). After Andrew Bynum I believe Lopez is the 2nd best scoring Center in all of basketball. Last season Brook averaged 19.2 points per game in only 5 games. In the 2010-2011 he was 3rd amongst centers in scoring at 20.4 points per game. Brook has a 80% free throw shooting percentage for his career and also shoots at 50% clip from the field. In his 2009-2010 campaign Lopez was named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team behind Dwight Howard. Offensively Lopez is solid, the rebounding will come especially with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson attracting oodles of attention. That will open up room in the paint for Lopez to get position and rebound more assertive. Brooklyn obviously saw something in Lopez, they signed him back for 4 years at $61 million dollars. The next question would be is Brook Lopez worth $61 million dollars? Yes he most definitely is! Especially with the talent we have in the NBA running around at center. Bottom-line is Brook Lopez is a TOP 5 Center in the NBA right now. I’ll go out on the limb here and say After Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum I wouldn’t be surprised if Lopez had the 3rd best season this year BOOM.

 

Follow me on twitter @jdotbras also tune into my weekly radio show that airs Saturdays now at 5:30pm CST “On the Baseline with Braswell” on blogtalkradio. Catch me every other Tuesday hanging out with my crew @Mymindonsports radio on @WLVSRadio doing my segment “The Braswell Breakdown” of the NBA’s hottest topics!

“The Battle of Gotham City” Brooklyn Nets or New York Knicks?

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

I have been interrogated on why I believe the new-look Nets are the immortal team in the city of New York. Below I will elaborate a bit more on why I think the Brooklyn Nets are the paramount gang in Gotham. BUT first and foremost let me state that Nets owner Billy King and co. were the winners of this years free-agency period. Not only did they lure Superstar guard Deron Williams back, they made crucial moves to acquire Joe Johnson from Atlanta. Although they take on Johnson’s  big contract (that I feel he didn’t deserve), with Williams alongside him they create arguably the best backcourt in the NBA. All-Star Center Brook Lopez also was inked to a deal, as well as his  frontcourt running-mates Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace. Second year wingman MarShon Brooks was welcomed back after being inserted into several trade scenarios with Orlando. Brooks averaged 12.6 points per game in his rookie campaign and aims to be a spark off the bench as the sixth man.

I do want you all to know that I am not snoozing on the new additions the New York Knicks have assembled. Future Hall of Fame guard Jason Kidd is now on Broadway after spending his last six seasons in Dallas. Marcus Camby makes his return back to New York where he once visited the NBA Finals. Also former college player of the year Raymond Felton serves  his second stint with the Knicks. Note that Felton had his best season in the NBA as a member of the New York Knicks back in 2010 averaging( 17 points per game) and 9 dimes. Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler return to the Knickerbocker frontcourt looking to mesh, contrary to last season. Iman Shumpert the Knicks best on-ball defender will return after being sidelined with a severe knee injury (ACL/ meniscus tear).8th year sharpshooter J.R. Smith will return to Knick sidelines too, averaging just under 13 points per game last season.

The Braswell Breakdown:

So for starters the Brooklyn Nets will be a playoff team come next April, that’s first. Secondly, as I stated previously,  Brooklyn has the best backcourt right now in Williams/Johnson. Yeah sure, the Knicks have the Carmelo Anthony’s and the Amare Stoudemire’s , BUT what if we get a repeat of what we witnessed last season? You know- unable to mesh, hampered by injuries, bickering, etc..etc..etc… Who knows what Raymond Felton is going to give you at that point guard spot? As we all know he is not the healthiest of guys, though reports say he has lost 20 lbs and feels as good as ever- but that remains to be seen. Can Mare’ and Melo co-exist? All of these questions have to be addressed point blank period. On the other side of the baseline you have a veteran coach in Avery Johnson who has coached in an NBA Finals. Deron Williams Superstar point guard, Joe Johnson 6’8 240 lb wingman who can put up 30 any given time. He also can vanish at times too, particularly in April- you know PLAYOFF TIME! Nonetheless, he is still a prolific and attractive swingman to acquire. On twitter I only get 160 characters to express how I feel about this particular topic, now my characters are limitless. By the way I’m also  going to pitch out there I predict Brooklyn to finish TOP 5 in the East this season. Maybe they can swindle a #4 seed and have home court advantage and make a real push in the postseason.

The Brooklyn Nets vs New York Knicks will be one of the most heated rivalries we have seen in a long time. I’m just still not SOLD on NY, sure they have the talent on paper but that has to transfer to the floor. The same rules also apply to the Brooklyn Nets, Deron and Joe have to establish chemistry. Last season when healthy we saw flashes of great chemistry between Lopez and Williams. Both teams have a great starting 5, but if I had to select a squad I’ll definitely roll the dice on the Brooklyn Nets.

Did LeBron James Silence the Critics?

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Ever since July 9, 2010 LeBron James has been the most condemned athlete in all of sports solely because of “The Decision”.  Millions of fans burned his jersey in the streets of Cleveland, and hundreds of writer/bloggers, etc. questioned his WILL to win. Nonetheless the city of Miami embraced “The King” with open arms, even throwing him and his new entourage a party. Nearly 14,000 people were in attendance at this rock concert like event that took place at American airlines. This was the largest free-agency signing in a very long time, not only did James join Miami, Power Forward Chris Bosh also landed in South Beach. Forming one of the most dynamic trios in NBA History if you ask me.

The Big 3 did not disappoint in their first voyage together as teammates, posting a record of 58-24 in the 2010 regular season. Early on  in the year the trio had to search for a solution that worked. Wade and James are two guys so accustomed to playing with the orange in their hands, and Chris Bosh was also a number one option with Toronto. As the season progressed this group of stars emerged quickly with LeBron James being the facilitator a majority of the time. Despite all the hatred dispensed by fans in the arenas LeBron and the Miami Heat only grew closer as a unit. Wade and James were seen everywhere together in press conferences, interviews etc. The more the public eye saw that, the more the HATE festered. It got to a point were LeBron James had been ordained as “Robin” you know…. Batman’s sidekick. After being tormented for not being able to win a championship in the 2007, and shriveling up when the pressure mounted James had his shot at another NBA Title. Only this time a 7-foot German named Dirk Nowitzki stood in King James’ path. LeBron had finished second in the league in scoring at 26.7ppg (only behind Kevin Durant) and he finally eluded the Boston Celtics in the ECF. Being the favorite to win the 2010 NBA Championship the Miami Heat were running in stride to capture the franchises second title. Until they hit a speed bump the Dallas Mavericks 2-3 matchup zone, Dallas forced Miami to take and make the perimeter jumper. But after game 1 LeBron contributed 24 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists, in a 92-84 win in Miami. It seemed as though “The King” would finally get his ring, Game 2 was a 95-93 heartbreaking loss LeBron went scoreless in the 4th quarter. Now here come the non-witnesses “He Choked”, “LeBron James can’t close”, and a cluster of different slogans and sayings. Let me be transparent for a second I was without a shadow of a doubt one of LeBron James’ biggest critics. Even before “The Decision” I was a unsure of his greatness because I held Bron to a very high standard at such a young age. With all that being said game 3 rolled around and by this time James had read, heard, and seen everything I mentioned up above. T he King still walked with swagger and kept his head held high entering a crucial game 3. The Miami Heat did indeed win but, the criticism had only just begun, as Wade carried the troops to a 88-86 victory. Flash resembled that same guy that took the wind out of Dallas’ sail back in 2006. Single handedly dismantling the Dirk lead Mavericks, on the other hand James had a night he would never forget. Afterwards LeBron stated  he planned to be more physical in-game 4. He did everything BUT be physical totalling a lousy 8 points on 3-11 shooting. Eventually the Mavericks outlasted the Heat in 6 games to capture the NBA Crown.  LeBron James was crucified by myself, fans of the NBA, analysts, writers, and  anyone with a connection to hoops. This marked his second unsatisfactory performance in an NBA Finals, rewinding back to the 2007 Finals against the Spurs. During the summer of 2011 LeBron was indeed the social event of the season, the guy was talked about everywhere and by everyone. As I think about it now he was only 26 years of age with some growing up to do. He spent ample time with Hakeem Olajuwon the former Houston Rockets HOF Center. Just molding his game mainly concentrating on post moves on the block, another great Kobe Bryant worked with Hakeem as well. Social sites such as Facebook and Twitter oozed with many LeBron James jokes during that summer, I had a couple of jokes as well. Also in the off-season LeBron stated he is just going to play ball and not worry about what people are saying. Wade stepped in to say that he will take the role as being the villain, and let James stick to playing at a high level.

Entering the 2011-2012 NBA season LeBron and the Miami Heat started off scorching also going 16-5 in the month of January. With the bitter memories still in the back of his mind James kept his foot on the gas. With only one goal in sight and that’s to win an NBA Championship. Myself and a host of other blogger/writers, radio show host labeled this season as “TITLE OR BUST” for the Miami Heat. Admittedly humble by his loss in the Finals to Dallas LeBron James played superb basketball throughout the regular season as always. But even early in the season he was getting lashed for being to passive in the pivotal moments of games. In the All-Star game Kobe Bryant challenged and encouraged LeBron to take the final shot. Also in a game at Energy Solutions against the Utah Jazz he passed up the game winner to Udonis Haslem which resulted in a loss. As a unit outside of San Antonio, the Miami Heat were still the most focused team in the NBA. They rode that high all the way into the 2012 NBA playoffs. Knocking off  a less talented New York Knicks team in 5 games, the critics were still not impressed many said he couldn’t do it in the FINALS. Yes, I was one of the people who wanted to see him perform in the Finals before i deemed him “The King”. As the 2012 NBA Playoffs advanced  I began to look at LeBron James in a different light I wasn’t completely SOLD, but he had my attention. Entering a tough and rugged series with the Indiana Pacers the teams traded blows, words, the whole nine, then Chris Bosh went down. He suffered an abdominal injury that kept him out all the way up to the ECF game 4, many said Miami couldn’t win without Bosh. Did I believe that as well? Of course that’s when LeBron James truly showed me his worth. With D-Wade struggling, James carried Miami past Indy and notched 40 points and 18 rebounds in an elimination game. Bronny rocked a mouth guard with the roman numerals XVI (16) the number of games until he is a CHAMPION. After every big play he would extend  the mouthpiece out almost saying nothing is going to stand in my way. Certainly not this aged group of Boston Celtics whom they would face yet again in the ECF. James dazzled showed off his post game and played like a 3-time MVP should in other words he BALLED!!!. He exploded on Boston Celtics posted historical numbers 45 points 15 rebounds and 5 assists on 73% shooting from the field. Oh yeah this was also an elimination game, James absolutely dominated in every aspect of the game. The Miami Heat prevailed in 7 games and again LeBron James is back in the NBA Finals, you know the saying 3rd times a charm.

After bouncing the Boston Celtics for the second consecutive season the Miami Heat and LeBron James were four games away. To me it was almost like LeBron James and company could taste it. But they would be tested by this young, high-flying, potent Oklahoma City Thunder team lead by Superstar Kevin Durant. This was the story-line NBA fans hoped for the two best in the sport going head to head for the crown. Once again the critics were tuned in ready to see James fall flat on his face and eat those words he spoke at the parade. I’m talking about “Not one”, “Not two”, “Not three” and so forth, basically saying Heat fans should expect ships on top of ships. Afer a game one loss the fourth quarter jokes rose back up, as James was outscored 17-7 by Durant. James and the Heat responded big by running off four straight games against the Western Conference Champions. In route to his first ever NBA Championship, in game 5 James was abnormal on a bum leg. Drilling a three from the top of the key over Thabo Sefalosha, one of the NBA’s premiere on-ball defenders. Everyone in the city of Miami knew he was going to take that BIG shot, after being hampered by cramps James had been in and out of the 4th quarter. Mike Miller stepped up and made 8 huge 3 pointers, in a 121-106 cremation of the Oklahoma City Thunder. LeBron James finished the series averaging 29 points per game, 10 rebounds and 7.4 assists and captured his first NBA Finals MVP trophy. In game 5 James notched a triple double totalling 26 points 11 rebounds and 13 assists.

Did LeBron James silence his critics? Yes he did proved on a consistent basis that he can be “THAT GUY”. Although his supporting cast should not go un-noticed “The King” deserved every bit of this NBA Championship.This Lebron was a completely different guy than in the years past. Very humble, and well spoken a prime example of against all odds. It was the Heat organization against the world, and they overcame all negativity. Congratulations to the 2012 NBA Champion Miami Heat and the best player in the game today LeBron Raymone James!!

Lakers vs Thunder Preview!!

Monday, May 14th, 2012

  

  The Western Conference Semifinals tip-off Monday Night with the Los Angeles Lakers visiting the Oklahoma City Thunder. This marks the second time in 3 years these two teams have met in the playoffs, with the Lakers prevailing in 2010. The storyline for this series couldn’t be any greater, arguably the two best players in the league will be on showcase in Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant. The Thunder are coming off of a sweep of the Dallas Mavericks in the first round, and have been patiently waiting in the wings. Meanwhile the Lakers had an all out war with the Denver Nuggets in round 1, being pushed to the brink of elimination. In the last meeting between the Lakers and Thunder Metta World Peace was suspended. The Laker forward struck newly named sixth man of the year  James Harden in the head with a vicious elbow. This game Monday night marks the first meeting between the two since the deplorable moment at Staples Center.

  Thunder fans all over have been waiting to feast on L.A. since 2010, and  Metta World Peace’s elbow added fuel to the fire. We all can expect an obnoxious Oklahoma City crowd throughout this series. Derek Fisher also has an opportunity to bounce his former employer from the playoffs. NBA fans let me be the first to say that this matchup will definitely be an intriguing one.

  LAKERS IN 7!

Matt Barnes: “The man behind the scenes”

Monday, April 16th, 2012

Lights, camera, action;  when you hear those three words immediately you envision the city of Los Angeles. When you envision the city of L.A. your mind instantly conceives thoughts of the Los Angeles Lakers. But when discussing the Lakers a name you seldomly hear is Matt Barnes, the 6’7 pesky defender out of UCLA. Barnes is the only player on the roster who is actually from the state of California outside of Darius Morris.

As of late Barnes has been the man behind the scenes, receiving pocket-sized media attention. He is consistently overshadowed by players such as Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, and Pau Gasol. What hasn’t been examined is the play of this Laker bench in the absence of Kobe Bryant. The play of Barnes has alot to do with the Lakers success over the last 5 games (4-1), giving them a spark off of the bench. Matt is averaging 8.3 points per game to go along with 8.2 rebounds per game over his last 10 outings. Also lets not overlook his Detroit Piston’s “bad boy” style of defense he provides. Perceived by many as hot-headed, Barnes adds toughness to this Lakers roster. This was seen in the Lakers 112-108 victory over the Dallas Mavericks Sunday afternoon, making defensive play after defensive play. Barnes also scored 11 points, secured 11 rebounds, while donating 8 assists, and made savvy defensive plays down the stretch. None more important than the exceptional block on Jason Terry’s attempt to tie the game with 5 tics left. With the thought of last seasons sweep lingering in the back of his mind, in a press conference Barnes stated. “We’re excited about the playoffs,but we’re still going to have that bitter taste in our mouths until then”. Before the game saving block of Jason Terry’s layup Barnes also took pride in defending Dirk Nowitzki in crunch time. Forcing the 7 footer into bad shots with his quick feet and bully-like style of defense, Dirk finished the evening shooting a ghastly 9-28 from the field. Per ESPN.com Dirk stated,”I just have to make shots,” and the defense of Matt Barnes made it difficult.

So let’s thank Coach Kobe for recruiting Matt Barnes to L.A. during the free agent period in 2010. Next on the docket for Barnes and the Lakers is the San Antonio Spurs, in their last meeting L.A. won 98-84. It is looking like the Lakers will again be without their captain Kobe Bryant for Tuesday nights game.

*In the last meeting C Andrew Bynum compiled 30 rebounds

Lakernation let’s see how Matt Barnes and the Laker bench perform Tuesday night at Staples Center. This game guarantees to be an intriguing matchup, being L.A. prevailed in the previous meeting.

*Follow me on Twitter @JdotBras also @BaselineUpdates, feel free to tune in to my internet radio show “On the Baseline with Braswell” airing on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30pm CST , also stop by my blog at thebaselineblurb.wordpress.com

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