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Scandal! Pau Gasol Plays Starring Role in Salicious Avant-Garde Sex Tape

March 21, 2011

Breaking news from our friends at the Onion SportsDome on Los Angeles Lakers All-Star forward Pau Gasol, who recently addressed his role in a racy sex tape making waves in hipster art circles around the world.

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Mar. 21, 2011 at 9:46pm in NBA

Slim Pickings: The Top Seven NBA Unrestricted Free Agents in Summer of 2011

March 7, 2011

J.R. Smith
By Brian Spencer

For fans of those teams with ample cap space to throw at big-name free agents this summer, I’ve got three words for you: ugh, blech, and meh.

Like the free agency class 2 years ago, when Detroit Pistons GM Joe Dumars was thought to have landed two of the most-coveted guys available–Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, both busts–this year’s class is short on headliners. There are no true franchise changers: the top-tier players on the market will rather serve as quality, complimentary pieces of a bigger puzzle. In other words, teams looking to make a real splash this summer are better off doing so via trade.

That’s all good for these seven veterans, however, who right now stand to benefit the most from what’s an otherwise weak class: you can bet they’re going to collect rather handsome contracts. Note: this list does not include restricted free agents.

In alphabetical order:

Tyson Chandler, C, Dallas Mavericks: Seems like a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away when Chandler (2nd overall) and Eddy Curry (4th) were both drafted straight out of college to be the twin faces of the Chicago Bulls franchise. Those best-laid plans never quite panned out, obviously, but while Curry has eaten his way out of the league, Chandler has developed into a solid, reliable center who can counted on for 10 and 10, along with a blocked shot or two.

The keyword there is “solid”: what you see is what you’re going to get at this point, which is pretty much the case with all seven of these players, save for (maybe) J.R. Smith. With Caron Butler’s bloated $10.5 million dollar contract coming off the books, as well as DeShawn Stevenson’s $4.1 million, the Mavericks should have the funds to resign him if they so choose, but they already have a whopping $34.6 million over the next 4 years tied up in Brendan Haywood. I’d be surprised if he returns to Dallas. Through 57 games, Chandler is averaging 10.4 points, 9.4 boards, and 1.1 blocks.

Tim Duncan, C, San Antonio Spurs: You never know, but I can’t see Duncan actually leaving San Antonio. Can you imagine him wearing any other team’s jersey? I can’t. The more likely scenario is that Duncan exercises his ETO (Early-Termination Option) and resigns for another 2 or 3 seasons. He turns 35 in April, and though his minutes have been reduced to under 30 per for the first time ever to keep him fresh for the playoffs, this has statistically been the worst season of his career. I can’t see him walking away from the game just yet, but if the Spurs were to win it all this year, I think it’d be a perfect time to do so.

Nene Hilario, C, Denver Nuggets: He’s now stayed mostly healthy for three straight seasons, a span in which he’s averaged about 14.5 points (60% FG), 7.5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1 block per. Not too shabby, and at 6-11 and 250 Nene can bang in the post with just about anybody. He also has an ETO and is expected to exercise it as the Nuggets re-evaluate and begin the post-Carmelo era in earnest. No telling where he’ll end up, but like Zach Randolph, below, the Detroit Pistons are one team with the available funds who will likely show interest.

Andrei Kirilenko, F, Utah Jazz: It’s going to be real interesting to see what happens with AK-47. With Jerry Sloan out of the picture, he might be amendable to staying in Utah–and the team might be more open to keeping him–but he’ll at least test the market and see what kind of offers are out there. He brings a little bit of everything to the table–scoring, rebounding, passing, shot-blocking, defense–but he’s always been a bit fragile and an off-and-on head case. A change of scenery could be as much of a good thing as much as a bad thing for Kirilenko; if he ends up leaving Utah it’s imperative he lands in a system that compliments his talents and is led by a strong coaching staff. There are definitely risks here.

Zach Randolph
Zach Randolph, FC, Memphis Grizzlies: If I were a NBA betting man, my money would be on Randolph heading back to Michigan, where he played his college ball at Michigan State, to join the frontcourt-depleted Pistons. On paper, it’s a good match–the team desperately needs a legit big to pair with possible franchise cornerstone Greg Monroe–just like on paper Randolph is an All-Star caliber power forward.

He’s been money in the bank for the past three seasons to average around 21 points on 48% FG, 12 boards, 2 assists, and 1 steal. The problem, however, is that Randolph is a liability on defense–he’s never averaged more than 0.5 blocks per in his 10-year career–and he’s been labeled a cancer more than a few times while playing for, well, all four teams he’s played for so far. This team has money to spend, a hole in the frontcourt starting lineup, and Dumars has long been rumored to have interest in Randolph.

It makes too much sense, but I’d be wary: he’ll be heading into his age 30 season, and given his history and the fact that this is probably his last big contract, you wonder how much he’s really going to add to a rebuilding franchise like Detroit’s during the life of what’ll probably be a 4- or 5-year deal.

J.R. Smith, G, Denver Nuggets: It’s time for both parties to shake hands and go their separate ways. Smith has had an… interesting run with the Nuggets over the past five seasons, finding his way into and out of and back into George Karl’s doghouse due to myriad problems, most of them tied to inconsistent effort and attitude. When he’s tuned in, Smith has the ability to put points up in bunches and elevate his game to a near-elite level; when he’s zoned out or otherwise uninterested, he’s a serious detriment to his team on both ends of the floor.

Still, he’s only going to be 25 years old when next season begins, and you wonder if maybe, just maybe, he’ll soon grow up, learn to reign himself in, and show more regular signs of maturity. The talent is there, though he’s always been a free-wheeling chucker (42% career FG). Can he ever be relied on to be a 30+ minute starter? No idea, and like Kirilenko it’s going to be real interesting to see where he ends up.

David West, F, New Orleans Hornets: Perenially underrated throughout his 8-year career, all of which has been spent with the Hornets franchise, West has an ETO and there’s no reason to believe he won’t exercise it and look for greener pastures. Chris Paul already has one foot out the door, and after that, it’s full-on rebuilding time: at age 31, that’s not an endeavor West wants any part of. Look for West to latch on with a veteran team looking to push themselves over the top or stay amongst the league’s elite. With the departure of Jeff Green, Oklahoma City seems like a great fit.

J.R. Smith and Zach Randolph Photos Credit: Icon SMI

5 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Mar. 7, 2011 at 8:22am in ETB Articles, NBA

The March Madness of NBA Fantasy Hoops

March 5, 2011

Gerald Henderson BobcatsBy Brian Spencer

You’d probably have better luck, say, placing a bet on college basketball back in November than predicting which NBA players would come out of nowhere in the season’s final month or two to become fantasy relevant. It happens every year: teams fall out of contention, look towards the future, and give as much burn to youngsters who’d previously been wallowing at the end of the bench in obscurity as they can handle. Throw in injuries to key regulars on said teams, and even more minutes open up for even more obscure players.

It doesn’t always pan out like this, but there’s a pretty simple formula that applies to these situations: minutes = stats. Some players, no matter how many minutes they’re getting, simply do not produce, but every year a number of these “nobodies” successfully translate their extended garbage time into a level of production that warrants fantasy attention. There’s a reason they weren’t playing earlier this year–they can often kill your percentages and turnovers–but they can provide a nice boost to the raw number cats (points, rebounds, steals, blocks).

As we go further down the rabbit hole these next few weeks, more players who fall into this distinguished category will surely emerge. Here’s just seven of them who are already there and are likely to be snatched up on waivers as speculative adds at some point, if they haven’t been already.

Samardo Samuels, F, Cleveland Cavaliers: With Antawn Jamison out for the season and the Cavs just trying to get through the remaining schedule while saving as much face as possible, this undrafted rookie from Louisville has recently found himself in the starting lineup after logging a total of 18 minutes through January 6. He made quite a splash, too, in that first start: 23 points (10-18 FG), 10 boards, and 3 assists. The 6-9 Samuels is likely in line for 25 – 32 minutes a night from here on out.

James Johnson, F, Toronto Raptors: The 16th overall pick of the draft just 2 years ago by the Chicago Bulls, Johnson was never able to make much of an impression in the Windy City and was sent to the Raptors in a trade deadline deal for a future second-round pick. The 17-45 Raptors have wasted no time seeing what they have in the 6-9 forward: he’s in the starting lineup, and in 5 games has averaged just under 27 minutes per. Fantasy wise, he’s chipping in modest (but useful) multi-category numbers: 9 points, 5 boards, 3 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.8 blocks on 46% shooting.

Gerald Henderson, G, Charlotte Bobcats: A 2009 lottery pick out of Duke, the 6-5 Henderson struggled through spotty minutes in his rookie season, and looked to continue down that path this season, too, until trades and injuries forced him into a bigger role. His per-game minutes have been upped from about 13 the first few months to over 31 per in 8 games as the Cat’s starting shooting guard. He still hasn’t found his shooting touch (39%), though, and is averaging 10 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block. For now, Henderson has the look of a mediocre career backup.

Shawne Williams, F, New York Knicks: After being cast off by the Indiana Pacers and Dallas Mavericks, Williams’ uneventful 3-year NBA career has taken at least some root in New York. He started the season with 17 consecutive DNP – CDs, but has played in every game but 1 since, including 5 as a starter. Williams is still little more than streaming fodder, but that’s an upgrade in his case. Heading into the Knicks’ second-consecutive loss to the Cavs Friday night (ouch), Williams had logged nearly 30 minutes per in his last 2, averaging 12 points (58% FG), 5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.5 steals, and 1 block.

Anthony Randolph, F, Minnesota Timberwolves: Randolph looked like one of the prime breakout candidates coming into the season, a too-perfect fit for Mike D’Antoni’s “score, then score some more” offensive system. Turns out this match was anything but perfect, with Randolph having just slightly more impact than teammate Eddy Curry before being traded to Minnesota.

After lounging on waivers for most of the season, Randolph was a hot speculative add in this, his first full week with the T’Wolves: with Darko Milicic out, he’s posted two solid games in a row, averaging 15.5 points, 6 boards, 1 steal, and 1 block. A few more efforts like this, and he’s a near-lock for 20 – 25 minutes per for the rest of the season.

Austin Daye, F, Detroit Pistons: The slinky second-year forward is another guy who, like Randolph, was likely taken late in your fantasy draft, then dropped after he flopped in the season’s first few weeks and spent the next few months in and out of the lineup. With the Pistons’ season in the toilet and many of the veterans acting like children, Daye has emerged from the fray, playing nearly 35 minutes per and averaging 15.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 2 triples in the team’s last three games. His shooting (41%) remains a drag.

Damion James, GF, New Jersey Nets: After no floor time since December 9, the rookie from Texas is suddenly back in the starting lineup, putting up some useful stats, and given the arrival of Deron Williams just might be worth taking a flier on. In 4 games as a starter, James is pitching in some across-the-board production, averaging 9.2 points (67% FG), 5.5 boards, 1.7 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.7 blocks.

Gerald Henderson Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Beat the college basketball odds this March when you sign up for the NCAA basketball picks offered by these experts.

2 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Mar. 5, 2011 at 2:32am in ETB Articles, NBA

What’s on Greg Monroe’s Shoulders? Oh, Just the Hopes of the Detroit Pistons Franchise

March 2, 2011

Greg Monroe Detroit PistonsBy Brian Spencer

There’s a been a big story brewing in Detroit the past few months, and it has nothing to do with the near team-wide turmoil that’s grabbed all the headlines and threatened to swallow the once-proud Pistons franchise whole. It doesn’t involve embattled head coach John Kuester, or apparent player protests by petulent, overpaid players, or public spats between player and coach, or idiot free-agent busts retweeting messages critical of Kuester. It doesn’t involve the ongoing struggle of Karen Davidson to unload her deceased husband’s franchise onto a willing buyer.

Forget all of that garbage. It’s background noise. Deafening noise this year, maybe, but ultimately insignificant. Flush all that silliness that has become the Pistons’ 2010-11 season down the toilet and forget the whole thing as quickly as possible.

Forget everything, that is, except for the lone positive to emerge from this disastrous trainwreck: rookie big man Greg Monroe. This kid is quietly turning into a legit post presence with each passing game, and has risen above the drama to turn in the type of credentials that should earn him serious NBA All-Rookie First Team honors–especially given the maelstrom of shit that’s been swirling around him all year. So far, Monroe has emerged as the best big man to emerge from the 2010 NBA Draft class.

The Big East’s Rookie of the Year as a Georgetown Hoya in ’09, Monroe was taken 7th overall by the Pistons and was the fourth big off the board behind Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins, and Ekpe Udoh. Only 20 years old, Monroe was expected to endure a steep learning curve, and wasn’t necessarily being counted on for the type of minutes he’s playing now. Most observers expected growing pains, especially early on. Tolerance and patience were the keys, and I think the Pistons were onboard with that.

But then…

Back on November 9, Portland Trail Blazers TV analyst Mike Rice mercilessly tore into Monroe early in the broadcast of what turned out to be an embarassing 100-78 home loss for the Blazers at the hands of the Pistons. The unfair and off-base criticisms came out of nowhere and without much reason, with Rice deriding Monroe’s work ethic, claiming the Pistons were not happy with him and essentially wished they hadn’t drafted him, and basically writing him off as a bust a whopping 8 games into his NBA career. (Monroe incurred two DNP-CDs in the team’s first two games, so technically he was just 6 games in.)

Perhaps Rice let his personal bitterness over Greg Oden’s bust status boil over onto Monroe? Either way, I usually enjoy Blazers broadcasts but was embarassed for Rice that night. His mysterious diatribe sounded amateurish and uninformed, and just a few short months later, Monroe is making him eat every single one of those misguided words, and then some.

Since January 1, Monroe has been entrenched in the starting lineup and logged somewhere in the neighborhood of 34 minutes per in the past 29 games. During that stretch, he’s posted strong pers of 12.1 points (59% FG), 9 boards, 1.3 steals, and about 1 block, including double-doubles in 4 of his past 5 games (he missed the fifth by 1 rebound). You’d like to see more blocks from your 6-11 center, but that should come in time, along with more assists given his obvious talents as a passer.

Monroe has kept his head down, his nose clean, and his work ethic intact throughout this messy transition season for the Pistons and that, perhaps more than his statistical output, is what’s key here. Monroe is a quiet, humble guy by nature, but there’s a clear leadership vacuum in the locker room, and it’s going to become even more vacant next year when Tayshaun Prince is gone, Ben Wallace is probably gone, and (hopefully) Richard Hamilton’s situation has been somehow resolved and he’s gone too. As a Pistons fan, I’ll always appreciate those guys and what they brought to the city of Detroit, but pro sports is a cruel profession: it’s obviously time for them all to move on. It’s time for a change of the guard.

Can Monroe develop into the rock this franchise so desperately needs? They better hope so: the jury is still out on guys like Austin Daye and Jonas Jerebko and their ability to lead, while pending restricted free-agent Rodney Stuckey has unfortunately not yet hinted at much of any ability to be a dependable cornerstone. If Monroe is a quiet guy, fine: maybe he can be the Pistons’ version of Tim Duncan, if not statistically than at least in stature.

That would take some time for a guy who won’t be able to legally drink until June, sure, but the focus is quickly and necessarily shifting in his direction. This franchise needs him badly. The talent, still very much in the development phase, is there–but whether he likes it or not, talent and production isn’t enough.

This team needs Greg Monroe to be a leader.

Greg Monroe Photo Credit: Icon SMI

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Mar. 2, 2011 at 11:32am in ETB Articles, NBA

     

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