Hoop Logic

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This is an archive of my NBA blog, Hoop Logic. I love basketball. I’ve been playing since I was 12, and still play to this day. My love for NBA ball started during the height of the Patrick Ewing era of the New York Knicks in 1993-94. I kind of fell off as a fan when God Forbid started touring heavily 2001-05, but slowly got back into it. Now, I’m a bonafide super fan. If you are a fan too, I hope you enjoy my insights on the league. Below are a collection of all of my articles on Metalsucks.net. Big thanks to my editor and interviewer, Anso DF. His enthusiasm keeps me going. Check it!

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Hoop Logic XXII – Posted May. 20th on Metalsucks.net

It’s easy to appreciate Mark Jackson, head coach of the Golden State Warriors. He’s an outlier, a fearless polymath who took an unusual route to his position: He was an all-star NBA player, then broadcaster, then head coach. Mere mortals must grind out success at the helm of a D-league team and down the bench from masters Popovich or Rivers, then wait poised for a rare opportunity. Not Jackson. He got himself hired to lead a playoff team with two budding megastars, and guided them to a post-season series win via inspired team ball. Wow!

So lol we might consider Jackson the NBA’s Doc Coyle, also a five-tool superstud whose takes his own route to awesomeness. He’s a force behind awesome metal records with God Forbid, he’s a NBA analyst par excellence, a great dresser and drinksman, and now the master of his own internet website, DocCoyle.net yaaay! Stalk him there later, but now here’s Doc on the riveting 2013 NBA Playoffs in his column Hoop Logic! Doc, go!

U stay classy, Miami

U stay classy, Miami

Doc, which team is the biggest threat to Miami’s championship plans?

Doc Coyle, God Forbid: We have to understand that the Miami Heat are not unbeatable. They had an historic season and 27-game winning streak, but they were not blowing teams out during that streak. Many of their wins against mediocre (or worse) teams came down to the final minutes. And this post-season, the Heat have not really been challenged. The Bucks, their first-round match-up, are by far the worst team in the playoffs, and were playing so bad heading into the post-season that it looked like they were tanking their way into the draft lottery. Still Miami didn’t blow out Milwaukee, even though it was a sweep.

In the second round, the Heat faced a Bulls team that could not put their best foot forward because of injury. I never expected Derrick Rose to return, but this series would have been much more competitive if Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich were healthy. Deng is among the NBA’s best LeBron-stoppers while Hinrich gives you solid ball pressure, outside shooting, and the opportunity for Nate Robinson to be the sixth man with a scoring punch off the bench. So, along with the everybody else’s, the Bulls earned my infinite respect; I’ve never seen a team that unhealthy compete so hard. Props to Coach Tibs and those boys who looked like that were staying stitched together by super glue and duct tape.

So the Heat haven’t really been challenged yet, having mowed through the sub-par Bucks and depleted Bulls. Now the Heat won’t underestimate the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern conference finals (game one tonight on TNT), because they haven’t been pushed to the brink yet may make more likely that Indy could steal a win in Miami. Not to mention that LeBron and crew have waited through a second long break — the rust showed in their game one loss in the Bulls series.

Another factor is that Dwyane Wade will not be 100% from now on. I don’t think this changes Miami’s status as the championship favorite, but it makes them more beatable. I expect the Heat to eliminate the Pacers in five or six games, but this will be a tough series. The Pacers have great defense, they rebound the ball, and they play together. Last season, Indy blew their 2-1 lead over Miami partly because they stopped pounding the ball inside to big men David West and Roy Hibbert — I don’t expect them to repeat that mistake this week. Can Chris Bosh contain Hibbert? He greatly outsized. Chris “Birdman” Andersen will play a huge role as the Heat bench’s best big.

As for the Finals, I think the Grizzlies are a tougher challenge. The Spurs’ style is much more similar to Miami’s: fast pace, unselfish ball movement, high-percentage buckets, and excellent defense. Meanwhile, Memphis could force Miami to adjust their style to play grind-it-out half-court basketball. I could see the defense of Tony Allen and Mike Conleycompletely taking Wade out of the series — and you still have to deal with Zach Randolphand Marc Gasol down low. Indiana had the best-rated defense in the regular season, but Memphis has become the best defensive team in the NBA since the arrival of Tayshaun Prince. They swarm you and wear you out over the course of a game. Perhaps the Indiana series will be like a training camp for Miami versus Memphis since they are constructed similarly.

Hoop Logic 05.20.13 Melo

Doc, you are an expert on the Knicks. Did they lose that series to the Pacers, or were they beaten?

DOC: Let me first congratulate the Knicks on a great season. 54 wins, an Atlantic Division title, second seed in the East, and advancing to the second round of the playoffs are big accomplishments for a team that has been in the dog house for more than a decade. I am bummed out that they lost because it looked like game six was in hand, but no one thought they would be as good as they were, so overall it was a great year.

To answer the question, I say it was a little of both. First off, the Pacers played their game: inside-out offense, suffocating defense, and extremely physical play. Boston and Indiana have written the rule book on how to play this version of the Knicks; that starts with notdouble-teaming Carmelo Anthony (above left). It helps that these teams have Brandon Bass and Paul George, respectively, who can actually keep Melo in chece and force him to take tough shots all game. (Melo also has a tendency to tire out in the fourth quarter.) The effect of playing Melo straight up: It allows the defense to stay close to New York’s many three-point shooters. New York just broke the record for made three-pointers in a season, and it was the key to their success — along with low turnovers. With Melo going one-on-one, and his league-leading usage rate, the Knicks offense stagnates. Ultimately, the most important player in the series was Hibbert. When he was in the game, the Knicks got virtually zero good looks in the paint. He also killed the Knicks on the offensive glass. The X-factor was Lance Stephenson because of his energy, finishing, and eight rebounds per game at the shooting guard position, which is huge.

As great as the Pacers were, the Knicks still had the talent to defeat them, but three things happened where they shot themselves in the foot. First, J.R. Smith basically had a John Starks game seven Finals performance every game since game four back in Boston. I have never seen a shooting slump last that long, especially at the least opportune time. He shot 29% since his suspension for the elbow to Celtics G Jason Terry. Yes, J.R. deserved to win his Sixth Man of the Year, but just didn’t show up in this series. They needed him to be that guy for at least a couple games.

Factor two: C Tyson Chandler was playing hurt. He only averaged six points and six rebounds in the series — a little more than half of his season average. He was dominated by Hibbert, who grabbed rebounds right over him. Chandler was frustrated often, and argued with teammates for missing defensive rotations and leaving him on an island. So for the Knicks, if your Sixth Man of the Year and All-Star center don’t play as expected, you won’t win.

The third factor — and the most important one — is that head coach Mike Woodson may have been exposed as a coach who cannot make smart adjustments over a playoff series. Throughout the post-season, fans and media begged for F Chris Copeland (above right), and when he finally got in the game, he promptly lit up the scoreboard. Also, G Pablo Prigioniturned around the Knicks’ regular season when he was put in the starting line-up, and their perimeter defense and ball movement improved. Yet Woodson favored Jason Kidd, age 40, who brought very little to the table. It says a lot that Woodson was unable to add creativity to the offense to counter the strategies of Indiana and Boston. Woodson is a good coach and motivator, but maybe not the great late-season tactician that a team requires to advance. I think the Knicks need to hire a Moneyball-style advance metrics guy like John Hollinger to advise, because Woodson goes with gut over facts too often.

Hoop Logic 05.20.13 KD

Doc, are u in awe of Grizzlies F Zach Randolph? Do u feel that the Thunder were significantly hindered by the absence of Russell Westbrook?

DOC: I loveZ-Bo. I love the whole Memphis team. They looked like the best team in the playoffs against OKC. Going back to John Hollinger, they might be the Moneyball team of the NBA — especially if they reach the Finals. That could call into question the NBA’s culture of superstar worship: A big name might sell tickets and jerseys, but the game and evaluation systems are evolving.

It’s amazing how Memphis and Indiana are so similarly put together. They are stocked with late first-round and second-round draft picks. Traditional centers and power forwards that play back to the basket, on the block. (We should note the return of the traditional center. Marc Gasol, Roy Hibbert, Joakim Noah, and Andrew Bogut were integral to their teams’ successes. It’s nice to see that position is not dead anymore. It will be interesting to see how Miami deals with dominant big men in forthcoming games.)

In this post-season, we learned a lot about Oklahoma City Thunder sans Russell Westbrook. First, he is the heart and motor of that team. Without him, they play slower and with less emotion and everyone has to work much harder for shots. Open shots for Serge Ibaka,Kevin Martin, and Thabo Sefolosha were created by Westbrook’s breaking down the defense and getting into the lane. Now Ibaka has been exposed as an incomplete player: Though a great shot blocker, he gets killed one-on-one against big, strong post players. His jumper is great, but he doesn’t have much else besides that. To make huge money and to have such athleticism, he has to improve. And the trade of James Harden is looking worse every day. I hope OKC is planning to amnesty Kendrick Perkins, move Nick Collison into a starting role, and do some retooling.

Hoop Logic 05.20.13 SC

Doc, how necessary for the Spurs is a fourth source of offense? Or are Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili more than enough?

DOCParkerDuncan, andGinobli did fine when their team was eliminated last year by OKC — their problem wasDanny GreenKawhi LeonardGary Neal, and Matt Bonner failed to hit shots that they had been hitting all season. (That and OKC’s big three just went crazy and couldn’t be stopped.) The Spurs need balance to be successful. That had been the key to their regular season dominance the last few years. The Spurs’ Hall of Fame trio can carry them for stretches, but are not what they used to be. They need help for sure.

About ten days ago, I would’ve picked Memphis to reach the Finals, but once I saw how the Spurs closed out Golden State, I think they can beat Memphis. After all, the Grizzlies just barely eked out wins against a Westbrook-free Thunder team. Plus, Z-Bo and Gasol haven’t had to deal with a low-post threat in this post-season; they got to score at will in the paint, and then save their energy on defense. Now, Duncan and Tiago Splitter are better low-post scorers and defenders than they have seen all postseason. The Spurs have no real weaknesses. They can play fast or in the half-court, play very solid defense, and can beat you inside and outside. This will be an interesting series, and Memphis could win. Although, I would rather see San Antonio in the Finals, because of all the beautiful offense to watch. Plus you have the storyline of an old dynasty meeting a new dynasty ala ’91 Lakers/Bulls Finals. I would love to see San Antonio win another title.

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Hoop Logic XXI – Posted Mar. 25th on Metalsucks.net

pro·fes·sion·al  (prəˈfeSHənl) noun

a. A person engaged or qualified in a profession.

b. A specialist, authority

c. Doc Coyle, guitarist of God Forbid and NBA analyst

Hey friends welcome back to Hoop Logic, where NBA fans come to discuss the shit out of Earth’s greatest sport/Shakespearean drama: Professional basketball. Not boys basketball, not student basketball, not chuckerball played by college kids in front of screaming adults who will meet them again in a few years at an insurance seminar. Men’s basketball. Real basketball. Amateurs not welcome.

But hey you need not be a fancy NBA lover to party here! Cuz Doc Coyle, guitarist ofGod Forbid and all-around hunk, is a professional at this. That means you will be entertained, amused, challenged, and even titillated no matter your level of interest in big-time ball. Coyle is an expert, an ace, an authority, a maestro, brah! Read his science on the looming NBA post-season below.

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Doc, in your professional opinion, have the Denver Nuggets gone from ”troublesome for top teams” to “major obstacle for championship hopefuls” thanks to Wilson Chandler’s recent awesomeness?

Doc Coyle, God Forbid: The 2012-13 Denver Nuggets team is one of the most peculiar and unique collection of players I’ve ever seen. They are one of the most — if notthe most — athletic NBA teams ever. It’s unreal that they can run quick-as-lightning breaks even off of made baskets, and because their rotation goes nine or ten deep, they wear down teams with a barrage of energy that never stops. (The only rotation guys that are notincredibly athletic are Kosta Koufos and Andre Miller.) They don’t shoot it well from outside, but they hardly attempt shots from outside — they lead the NBA in points in the paint. These Nuggets take it to the hole to get efficient shots while sharing the ball very well (24 assists per game). And they are unstoppable at home with a 30-3 record, which is the league’s best as well.

Hoop Logic 032513 aa

To me, the biggest difference from last year’s squad is the impact of Andre Iguodala. He is by far the team’s best defender and all-around player. Also, he is a legit veteran with an All Star appearance and an Olympic gold medal. He is looked up to as a leader, and that has a stabilizing effect for any young team. And head coach George Karl deserves a great deal of credit in that he finally has a cooperative, capable team to run his system; as talented as the best Carmelo Anthony squads were, it had to be hell for a coach to get all of those egos to work together. Melo’s Nuggets teams were a tad thuggish — especially the year that Allen Iverson was there. The Nuggets GM, Masai Ujiri, is also looking like a savant for having won every trade in the last couple years: the Melo deal for Chandler, Danillo Galinari, and a first-round pick in next year’s draft; the Nenê/JaVale McGee swap, and the most recent Iggie/Dwight Howard/Andrew Bynum trade. They have a very solid organization.

But how will the Nuggets fare in the playoffs? Well, precedent is bad for a team of this composition. See, a playoff game usually comes down to a few key possessions in its waning minutes, so teams that have a definitive go-to guy have a clear advantage. Teams led by Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwan, Tim Duncan, Shaq, and Kobe Bryant account for 18 titles since 1991. That’s difficult to ignore. The only championship team with a truly balanced attack and no clear star was the 2004 Detroit Pistons led by Rip Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, and Rasheed Wallace. Though for some reason, this Nuggets team may come from a totally new mould. A team like Memphis could slow down Denver’s lightning pace and take them out of their stride. Conversely, OKC and San Antonio better watch out because Denver can keep up with both teams on offense and have the athletes to wear down anyone. This will be a fascinating playoff, especially once we find out the seeding.

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In your professional opinion, is the Miami Heat 26-game winning streak — the NBA’s second-longest ever — the result of great play or weak competition?

DOC: Mostly it is a result of strong play. We are watching what might be one of the greatest teams in NBA history right now. First off, LeBron James, the best NBA player in the world, has never played better. He is in such a zone of focus and control that it is mesmerizing to witness. During the streak, I’ve seen him singlehandedly erase double-digit fourth-quarter deficits and hit game-winning shots against Orlando, Boston, and Cleveland seemingly at will. Dwyane Wade plays like the all-NBA performer that we’re used to seeing, and the team is actually healthy. It really took a few years for them to learn exactly how to play together and to embrace “small ball” with Chris Bosh at the center position. Their defense can be completely suffocating when they want it to be. The Heat are just a step above everyone else in the league right, but I am sure they are praying that they aren’t peaking too early and that no serious injuries creep up .

Hoop Logic 032513 ab

The streak has come in a soft part of the Heat’s schedule. It also helps that at this time of the year, many teams have given up their hopes for the post-season, so some of them check out for the year. These are the dog days of the NBA schedule. It’s important to keep in mind that as the reigning champs, the Heat have a target on their back. Most teams get up to play the Heat and bring their best effort. But they really do want to break the record 33-game win streak, which is one of sports history’s longest-standing records.

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In your professional opinion, what is the date of the next Miami Heat loss?

I think this record is too difficult to beat. Teams get hot, teams get cold. For them to win another eight in a row seems unfathomable. Logic would tell you that Chicago (March 27) and San Antonio (March 31) have the best chance to beat the Heat, but they’ve already been beaten by the lowly Wizards early this year and nearly lost to cruddy teams like Cleveland and Orlando during this streak. Any team can sneak up on the Heat — especially if they get cocky. It has to be completely exhausting to keep up this level of play every game. I really hope they beat the record though. It would be incredible to witness something like that in the modern era.

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Hoop Logic 032513 ac

In your professional opinion, does it benefit the Knicks that their superstar Carmelo Anthony will miss a few weeks of action?

DOC: When Melo was out but Tyson Chandler andAmare Stoudemirewere still healthy, the Knicks could hold on just fine in the interim. But with all three of these guys out, the Knicks don’t have a chance. I was stunned that they even beat the Jazz in Utah with Chris Copeland and Kenyon Martin in the starting line up. The tough truth is that any NBA team would be pretty bad without their big three stars. Imagine the Heat without LeBron, Wade, and Bosh, or OKC without Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka. The Knicks were not built to withstand this type of misfortune. Their frontline backups are old as dirt, and now that Sheed is done for year,Kurt Thomas hobbled, and Marcus Camby in and out, the Knicks are fully relying on Martin and hoping for Stat’s return for the playoffs. These are daunting prospects to say the least.

To answer your question, are the Knicks better without Melo? Hell no. They need him in order to be competitive, but he needs to play at the same level he did at the beginning of the year: His shooting has cooled every month, and the ball sticks as he takes more low-percentage one-on-one shots. That hurts overall ball movement. And lingering injuries have really effected his defense and hustle too. Overall, the Knicks have been exposed as an Isolation team that hoists lots of threes, and the Knicks haven’t adjusted to the scouting. They’ve scored more than 100 points twice in their last 12 games. With Miami’s recent dominance, and New York’s difficulties dealing with defensive teams like Chicago and Indiana, the playoffs could be very rough unless they are healthy and playing at the top of their game. It’s a shame because the potential is huge, but I foresee some serious retooling in the off-season, especially if they get bounced from the playoffs early.

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Hoop Logic 032513b

In your professional opinion, would it be a nasty retirement present to exiting NBA commissioner David Stern to have a ratings-killing Finals match-up of Pacers and Spurs?

DOC: Let’s keep it real. Barring injury or a miraculous comeback for Derrick Rose, Miami is gonna steamroll the Eastern Conference. They are just in a different stratosphere than everyone else. So thatSpurs-Pacers matchup ain’t gonna happen! Hypothetically, Indiana would be a slightly brutal Finals team because their offense is just anemic. You could probably say that for most of the Eastern Conference, but I suppose it would be healthier for the league if a big-market East team reached the finals, like NY, Boston, Brooklyn, or Chicago. But as long as LeBron is in the Finals, I guarantee new ratings records — regardless of opponent.

Also keeping it real, let’s be the better men and stop this 2002 Spurs propaganda. In 2013, the Spurs are highly entertaining. They are no longer a slow, defense-oriented team. They are one of the best offensive teams in the game, and are the best passing team. Market wise, I think San Antonio still rates bigger than Oklahoma City, so it’s an even match in that regard since OKC carries a little more star power. I would love to see the Spurs advance. It would be great if their post-season performance can finally match their impeccable regular season play of the last three years. Out West, I will be rooting for Denver, the Clips, and even the Lakers to upset a high seed. I want as many rounds of Kobe beast mode as possible. Can you smell the playoffs? I can!!!

–Doc Coyle, God Forbid

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Hoop Logic XX – Posted Feb. 26th 2013 on Metalsucks.net

Hey MetalSucks ballers! Welcome to a brand new Hoop Logic with Doc Coyle, guitarist and backing vocalist of God Forbid! Well, the fun and showboating of All-Star Weekend is a memory, the trade deadline has passed, and for better or worse, teams are locked in for a wild ride to glory or gore. Let’s check in with Doc about all the latest action — and lack thereof — in our beloved NBA! Read on!

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THE FUTURE’S SO DWIGHT

Doc, a hot topic leading up to Thursday’s trade deadline was the dysfunctional Lakers and their plans for C Dwight Howard. And despite their persistent troubles, they declined to make the trade to capitalize now before Howard enters free agency in a few months. Does this imply an intention to re-sign Howard?

Doc Coyle, God Forbid: There has been a sentiment in the sports media that we shouldn’t be covering the Lakers so much because they haven’t been winning, and that other deserving teams should get more coverage. I couldn’t disagree more. The monumental underachievement by this pseudo-supergroup has been one of the most entertaining stories of this NBA season. Just Kobe Bryant‘s quotes alone are box office gold. The drama, the bickering … I love it.

With that said, I feel that the Lakers intend on retaining Dwight Howard long term. Of all of their stars, he is the youngest and easiest to build around. Even at 70%, Howard still leads the league in rebounding, shoots almost 60% from the field, and averages 2.5 blocks. I still think he is highly underutilized; the Lakers offense and defense work better when Howard is involved early and often: When getting consistent number of touches, he puts his opponents in foul trouble, creates space for shooters (not that the Lakers have many), and becomes infinitely more engaged on the defense. His only real weakness is turnovers — very sloppy with the ball.

But head coach Mike D’Antoni‘s offense does not work with two bigs on the court. When paired with Howard, Pau Gasol sucks (but he did great as a starting center when Howard was out with injury). It can be forgotten that Howard led the Orlando Magic to the Finals in 2009 in a system built around him: pick and rolls surrounded by three-point shooters. Kinda sounds like what the D’antoni offense is supposed to be, huh?

But I think they were right to not have traded D12 — unless, in return, franchise-quality talent had been offered, or some kind of package for the Lakers’ win-now game plan for Kobe and Steve Nash‘s final years. Really, I believe that the Lakers should have traded Gasol, but his current injury screwed that up any way. Of course the Lakers are a better team with all of their weapons, but not when Gasol isn’t happy with his role and underperforms because of that. Plus they could’ve sought a stretch 4 (Ryan Anderson, Chandler Parsons) and a point guard to back up Nash and Steve Blake. That would’ve been an improvement.

And the real question is will Dwight Howard stay with the Lakers at season’s end? He is mentally fragile and immature, and that will ultimately be his undoing unless he grows up quickly. Every team with cap space is going to go after him HARD. But I think he will re-sign because A) L.A. can pay him the most, and B) their reputation is built on the ability to retool and rebuild on the fly. Though if I was him, I would go to a young team in a smaller market with less scrutiny. He just does not mesh with Kobe — and I put that on Kobe. He’s the leader and he has to lead. Howard can’t be blamed for being a bad follower, can you? So I would love to see Howard move to the Houston Rockets. He would make them instant contenders in the West and would be very exciting to watch.

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FUN AND ALL-STAR GAMES

Did you find that last Sunday’s All-Star Game was less fun than usual?

I have a theory about All-Star weekend. It’s starting to be like New Year’s Eve: hyped up to no end, and never as great as the amazing parties you had when you were young which are rose-colored with nostalgia. So a fan is set up to be disappointed from the get-go.

Actually I really enjoyed the All Star game. It was close all the way through and filled with competitors. Compared to the Rising Stars Challenge, the All Star game had a playoff-like intensity. Those guys have fun, but they also really like to win and respect the game.LeBronKGChris PaulKevin Durant, and Kobe are there to prove that they are the best of the best, and it shows. And I really liked the East reserves because they were all no-nonsense, scrappy hustlers; Joakim NoahTyson ChandlerJrue Holiday, and Luol Deng don’t know how to turn off their competitive engine. Can you imagine Chandler or Noah not caring about defense? Defense is what they do. But the West just has more talent. When your bench is James Harden, Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook, it’s kind of not fair. By the way, how fucking good is Kyrie Irving? All-Star 2013 was his coming-out party. He is the heir apparent to Chris Paul, but perhaps more of a scorer then distributor.

I didn’t get to watch the dunk contest live, but all I heard from friends and Twitter was that it was terrible. So I watched it the next day and found these claims to be exaggerated. It started great and ended great. Sure, there was a pretty bad lull in the middle because each guy kept missing and that killed the momentum. Plus, TNT analysts Charles Barkley,Shaq, and Kenny Smith were just killing the contestants. (They were hilarious though.) But look at the highlights — there were some amazing dunks. If it was LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook, and Blake Griffin doing those same dunks, people would say it was a great event. Fans want superstars in the dunk contest. That’s what was great about the old contests. It was Jordan vs. Dominique. Dr. J and even Kobe. Also consider that at this point, it’s virtually impossible to be original without bringing some props or gimmicks into it. Guys are bigger, faster, and jumping higher — but it’s still very hard to come up with a completely new dunk. Cut ‘em some slack. We should just relax and enjoy what these guys can do, which is pretty damn amazing if you ask me.

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SEATTLEMENTO KINGSONICS?

It’s been off and on the NBA radar for months, so who knows for sure, but the Sacramento Kings move to Seattle seems certain. Are you pumped? Will this juice their low-profile franchise?

DOC: I have mixed feelings about the move. I have fond memories of Gary Paytonthrowing thunderous alley oops to Shawn Kemp for the old Sonics in the mid ’90s. Hell,Ice Cube even name drops the SuperSonics in “It Was A Good Day.” They were a great franchise with a loyal, rabid fanbase. They did not deserve to lose their team.

On the other hand, I also have fond memories of Jason Williams throwing monstrous alley oops to Chris Webber with the awesome Kings of the late ’90s-early ’00s. Now Sacramento has not been a particularly great franchise; they’ve had talented players, but haven’t really been able to put winning teams on the floor besides that Webber team or perhaps Mitch Richmond‘s Kings. And even without championship banners waving in the rafters, Sacramento fans have been dedicated. They do not deserve to be constantly fucked with by the Maloof brothers ownership. It seems like the city of Sacramento will give them whatever they want to stay in town, but they are pursuing the Seattle deal anyway.

There is no outcome that will work out for everyone. One city will win, the other will lose. But I am not in favor of expansion; 30 teams is perfect for the amount of NBA-level talent. Let’s not dilute it anymore to appease a city or for a money grab. And please don’t have a franchise in Europe. That doesn’t seem to have any logistical recourse to work.

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INACTION PACT

Doc, past trade deadlines had much more action than this season’s. What’s the story?

DOC: The real story of the trade deadline is the absence of big-name trades. Although it happened well before the deadline, the most impactful trade was Memphis Grizzlies’ shipping F Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors. Memphis is considered to be a contender, so it seems illogical to deal their most talented player and leading scorer in the race for a championship. Then again, the Grizz recently hired numbers wizard John Hollinger, creator of the ESPN Player Efficiency Rating (PER), as vice president of basketball operations. That means this Gay move comes with a lot of dispassionate number-crunching regarding game and salary cap. In one of the NBA’s smallest markets, they have to be even more mindful of their cap situation than many teams — which is a shame. It’s good that they got Tayshaun Prince, although a contender like Memphis would have smarter to grab him a few years ago, close to his prime. Prince can play the same role asShawn Marion for the champion Dallas Mavericks team in 2010-11: Top defender and reliable scorer whom you don’t have to draw up plays for. I wonder how this is going to work playoff time without having that big gun …

The move straps Toronto cap-wise, but getting a player of Gay’s caliber is a big deal for the Raptors. They haven’t had a superstar since Chris Bosh, and Gay makes a nice young, athletic core with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. Who knows if C Andrea Bargnani will stick around, but perhaps he will produce a little better as a second option behind Gay. The Raps have an exciting team and have played great since Gay arrived. They definitely have a shot to make the playoffs, but this move is really about the future. I imagine there will be plenty of more moves by GM Brian Colangelo in the off-season. The Atlantic division will be very interesting when C Andrew Bynum gets healthy for the Philadelphia 76ers. I pray for my Knicks.

–Doc Coyle, God Forbid

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Hoop Logic XIX – Posted Jan. 31st 2013 on Metalsucks.net

Hey MetalSucks B-ball junkies! What’s up, this is Anso DF welcoming you to another awesomely excellent Hoop Logic with Doc Coyle of God Forbid. Come on in, lace up, run our lay-up line, take some shots, and get ready for the game! 

This is an exciting time of year for us! Pesky NFL football is vacating our choice broadcasting hours. Unexpected excellence is persisting in sleeper teams and under-the-radar players. And best of all, fast approaching is our very special three days of screwing around, partying, and NBA camaraderie: NBA All-Star Weekend!

I love every minute, the young stars matches and skills challenges, the cheery presence of evergreen Hall of Famers and drunk-ass Charles Barkley, the dunk contest and three-point challenge, the dazzling All-Star Game itself, supernovas Kobe and Durant, first-timers Tyson Chandler and Paul George, and ruffians Z-Bo and Joakim Noah. I’m pumped — and so is Doc, seer of all NBA truth. Feel the excitement below: 

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ALL-STAR MADNESS, SADNESS

Hey Doc, two Thursdays ago the 2013 NBA All-Star team starting line-ups were unveiled. Which selections make u wish for a revision of the selection process?

Doc Coyle, God Forbid: I have to say I’m not happy with the current process where fans vote for the starters. To be blunt, the fans are kind of dumb. It’s them who voted Yao Ming to the 2011 All-Star team when he hadn’t played one game that season, and then this year almost voted in Jeremy Lin — who is having an average season — over the NBA’s best point guard, Chris Paul. The NBA is very fan friendly and this will probably never change, but it’s frustrating when the deserving get left behind. Especially guys that may never have another chance at All-Star honors.

With that said, I think Kevin Garnett‘s selection really screwed up the East’s front court. KG is an all-time great in the midst of a fine season, but Boston has is under .500 and doesn’t deserve two All-Stars (and Rajon Rondo is a lock). Tyson Chandler (New York), Joakim Noah (Chicago), and Brook Lopez (Brooklyn) are having better seasons for teams with good records. Especially Lopez — his exclusion is a major snub. He is the NBA’s top-scoring center and the Nets’ best player this season, and his team’s record is very good. It’s even surprising that Chris Bosh was selected over Lopez. Although Bosh is shooting a career-high 54%, his other numbers are down slightly. Like KG, he is having a good year, but I lean toward the practice of getting new stars onto All-Star teams. I feel like the coaches — who vote on the All-Star non-starters — get used to voting for certain players and are less welcoming of new faces.

And I am surprised that Chicago Bulls F Luol Deng was selected overJosh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks. J-Smoove is widely recognized as the most talented and accomplished NBA player to never make an All-Star squad. It seems like poorly-timed misfortune (his team’s nose-dive, a one-game suspension for “conduct detrimental to the team”) really hurt his seemingly inevitable All-Star selection. A bad reputation can really follow you in the league. It’s a shame. I smell a trade coming soon.

Now as for the West, they mostly got it right. The Lakers do not deserve two All-Stars, but Dwight Howard’s numbers are still good enough to merit high consideration. Of course, the coaches would not have voted him in, especially since his reputation is not so great at the moment. So fan votes saved him, but it’s Tim Duncan who deserves to be the starter. And I’m sure a healthy Dirk Nowitzki or Kevin Love could have taken that spot if able. And then there’s the much-lauded Marc Gasol, who is great, but his teammate Zach Randolph has been the best player on Memphis this year. Well deserved for that dude.

But there’s an obvious snub in the West too: Golden State’s Steph Curry. The Warriors are great this year, and he is their heart and soul. His numbers are All-Star caliber and could easily get him on the East’s team;  but in the West, he’s battling for the same spot as ChrisPaul, Russell Westbrook, and Tony Parker. That’s just not fair. Like I said, the coaches always go with the familiar faces in a pinch, but Steph Curry is as deserving as any of those guys. Maybe an All Star will be sidelined by injury and then Curry will get his due.

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Doc, you are hereby charged with the task of selecting seven All-Star bench players for each conference! What say you, sir?

DOC: I’ll pick three for the front line, two guards, and two wild cards for each conference:

Eastern Conference:

Tyson Chandler C New York Knicks
Joakim Noah C Chicago Bulls
Brook Lopez C New Jersey Nets
Jrue Holiday G Philadelphia 76ers

Kyrie Irving G Cleveland Cavaliers
Josh Smith 
F Atlanta Hawks
Paul George
 G Indiana Pacers

Western Conference:

James Harden G Houston Rockets
Russell Westbrook
 G Oklahoma City Thunder
LaMarcus Aldridge
 C Portland Trail Blazers
Zach Randolph 
F Memphis Grizzlies
Tim Duncan 
F San Antonio Spurs
Tony Parker 
G San Antonio Spurs
David Lee 
F Golden State Warriors

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NBA ON TV: PRETTY, REPETITIVE, PRECIOUS

Doc, let’s talk about the NBA viewer experience. NBA on ESPN deserves cheers for their jazzy new bumper music, but might you agree that they should reconsider that 24/7 sports ticker? Over two consecutive NBA games — six hours — a viewers eyes are drawn to the same headlines like 13 kajillion times!

DOC: It doesn’t bother me that much. If I don’t care what’s happening with Women’s Lacrosse at Weber State, I tend to subconsciously ignore it. (I think my favorite thing was the Manti Te’o news rolling across the ticker. It reads like a middle schooler’s gossipy text message.) The ticker is almost obsolete though. If you’re a sports fan with a smart phone, you have a million apps to keep you up to date with your teams. I also check twitter in addition to the box score to get a more fleshed out moment-by-moment reaction from my favorite journalists.

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As a dude who has often travelled the US, do you love that an NBA viewer can revisit cities just by watching game broadcasts? Is your heart warmed by post-break exterior shots of beautiful cities like Minneapolis and Los Angeles?

DOC: I have to say no. Anyone who has done an arena tour or open, parking-lot tour like Mayhem or Ozzfest will tell that those shows feel like groundhog day. An arena in Los Angeles looks just like the arena in Columbus, OH from the inside. Same thing with a parking lot looking out at a sea of people. Plus many of these arenas, fair grounds, and amphitheaters are in the middle of nowhere. Club tours are the ones where you feel like every show has its own personality.

I may not connect to the geography of these places I see on TV, but I do notice that some NBA crowds are way more excitable than others. For example, I loooooooove watchingPortland Trailblazers home games. They have a real home court advantage because their people are so amped. I think the enthusiasm is more amplified in small markets. The same can be said for OKCDenver, and Memphis. A viewer picks up a college game vibe. Those people are much more invested emotionally and I love that.

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Doc, a few days ago began the best time of year for NBA fans: Sunday afternoon doubleheaders on ABC! Do u wanna have brunch with me and watch? How many mimosas u drink?

I always get psyched for Sunday NBA to start. Sure, I like football, but B-Ball is my shit. While half of the country mourns the end of football, I relish that we get the whole spring to ourselves.

And I fucking love brunch and mimosas, so count me in. I’m pretty sure I could polish off a pitcher. I haven’t drank in a month so this should be fun.

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MARK JACKSON IS GOLDEN

Speaking of Sunday afternoon games: Former ESPN commentator Mark Jackson — once a Sunday first-team broadcaster with Mike Breen and Coach Jeff Van Gundy — took his debut coaching gig last season at the helm of the Golden State Warriors. This season, his squad is achieving way beyond their talents (25-15, fifth in the West). Are u surprised at their success and/or thrilled for Jackson?

DOC: I expected that, along with the Warriors, the T-Wolves, Hornets, Wizards, and Raptors would take big steps this year because of their talent. Unfortunately, all of those teams from outside the Golden State have been hammered by injuries. They’re improving as they get healthy, but for now, the Warriors have achieved more than any of us thought.

At the beginning of this season, my main concern was the uncertainty about health, namely Steph Curry and Andrew Bogut. Curry has been there and has been great, but I didn’t think it was possible for them to be great without a healthy Bogut in the middle. Yet, a few things have made the Warriors very good:David Lee has proven that he is the real deal; people forget that he made an All-Star team as a Knick in 2010. He seemed like a guy like Monta Ellis or Kevin Martin who puts up great numbers with bad teams. Now his consistent 20-10 production is feeding a winning formula. I mean, who thought he would be a more productive power forward than Amar’e Stoudemire? Plus, Golden State has a solid supporting cast via Klay ThompsonJarret JackCarl Landry, and rookieHarrison Barnes. The Warriors are not a great defensive team, but they have improved over previous years when it was just a perpetual shootout.

So if Bogut can come back strong, his Warriors could climb the ladder to the upper tiers of the Western Conference. They need him in order to become a great defensive team. As constructed, they must be considered a second-tier team. They just don’t have the star power or depth of headliners Thunder, Clips, or Spurs. If they can hold on to Curry, Thompson, and Barnes, than they have a nice young core to move forward.

–Doc Coyle, God Forbid

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Hoop Logic XVIII – Posted Jan. 8th 2013 on Metalsucks.net

The holiday season is a time of giving and joy, and accordingly the NBA spent December  a sleigh-load of amazing highlights, grin-and-bear-it gifts (srs), and hot, hot action. So there’s tons of knowledge for God Forbid guitarist and NBA super-expert Doc Coyle to discuss, dispel, dispute, and dispense in the new year’s first Hoop Logic! Make way or be posterized!

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THE CLIPPERS: POST-SEASON SUCCESS?

Doc, the Los Angeles Clippers recently wrapped a 17-game winning streak, the longest this NBA season and in the team’s history. That’s awesome, but how do the Clips match up against the gatekeepers of the Western Conference top seed, the Spurs and the Thunder?

Doc Coyle, God Forbid: Like many hoop junkies, I have been fascinated with this Clippers team since they traded for Chris Paul. I loved the idea of savvy, fundamental veterans like Paul, Chauncey Billups, and Caron Butler in the backcourt mixed with the high-flying, young front court of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. In its first season, this line-up soon lost Billups to an achilles injury, but the Clips still beat a stacked Grizzlies squad in one of recent history’s most furiously contested post-season series (before ultimately being steamrolled by the Spurs in the next round).

I thought they looked good for this season, but I didn’t expect this good; few of even the brightest NBA minds predicted this level of success. Reasons that they are awesome:

1. Chris Paul is at a LeBron- and Durant-level of talent. The guy just changes the culture of a franchise. I still dream of the possibilities if he’d been paired with Carmelo Anthony on the Knicks.

2. Impact players Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Eric Bledsoe have improved significantly. Blake improved his outside shooting and developed a balanced game; DJ is a bigger threat in the low post, a more complete defender, and a key presence down the stretch (unlike last season); Bledsoe is proving to be a top reserve in the league.

3. Their bench is performing at a much higher level. New additions Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, and Lamar Odom each is coming off a down year, and have meshed well to bolster the NBA’s best second team.

4. Coach Vinny Del Negro has proved wrong the naysayers (including me). Perhaps Chris Paul makes any coach look good, but only until the post season when match-ups, adjustments, and late-game execution matter most.

Are they contenders? Definitely. OKC retains a slight edge because they have the best player, the youth, and the experience as reigning Western Conference champs. Yet the Clippers have no glaring weaknesses except maybe Griffin’s and Jordan’s free throws and perhaps their team defense identity. Otherwise, these boys are right in the mix and the funnest team to watch.

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THE LONG CLIMB TO THE MIDDLE

The NBA is about superstars and powerhouse teams, but the saying goes that any NBA player is awesome and any team capable of awesome play. So Doc, have u been loving the lowly, young, mismatched but overachieving teams like the Pistons, Bucks, Trailblazers, and Bobcats?

DOC: There are only a handful of “bad” NBA teams. A third of the league inhabits the middle class whose records hover around .500. There are a few great teams, and few crappy teams, and a bunch in the middle; I put the Bucks and Blazers in that middle class. Keep in mind the Blazers still have the young core they built to surround busted number-one pick Greg Oden and injury-plagued Brandon Roy; that for sure would have been a playoff team. Even now, their starting lineup is one of the better ones in the league, but not their bench; they are a key addition or two from becoming very dangerous.

The best lowly team to watch now is the Cleveland Cavaliers just for the existence of Kyrie Irving. The guy is an All Star despite the lack of talent around him. And if there’s one team that sucks but has the most potential, it is the New Orleans Hornets (soon to be New Orleans Pelicans). Their young core of Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, and Greivis Vasquez is very impressive — as long as Gordon can get healthy. Another great draft pick awaits them after this season, so I wouldn’t be surprised if these guys lunged up the ladder over the next few years. And coach Monty Williams is underrated. He’s young, positive, and patient — the perfect type of coach for a rebuilding team.

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LILLARD LILLARD LILLARD

Oh hey speaking of the Trailblazers, we should discuss rookie PG Damian Lillard. On track for Rookie of the Year honors, the kid is renowned for his calm, poised pick-and-roll play. Are some ballers born cool? 

DOC: I think that’s the chicken-and-egg thing. In my experience, people with that reserved, even temperament get it via years of success at a particular skill. The confidence emerges from trial and error, and the ability to see the angles from having encountered and conquered the obstacles many times. To be confident at something you have no skill at is hubris and will yield mixed results.

It’s still hard to say what side of that coin Damian Lillard falls on; I may have to go find his high school footage. Remember that he didn’t come out of college until after his junior year, which is rare for lottery picks trying to capitalize on their earning potential. So he is older — and more experienced — than most NBA rookies. His game seems very refined: He shoots very well from distance, makes few mistakes, and is clearly the floor general though usually the youngest player on the court. His maturity is impressive, and it’s surprising that scouts didn’t pick up on these attributes beforehand. Of course, hindsight is 20/20.

If he reminds me of any player, it’s a young Chauncey Billups — though he may now be a better natural distributor than even CB4 at that age. (Chauncey went through a bit of an early identity crisis figuring out if he was a 1 or a 2.) They each have fundamentals down and are natural leaders, and have the ice coursing through their veins needed to hit big shots in tough late-game situations.

But Lillard’s demeanor is best compared to Hakeem Olajuwon’s. The Dream silently destroyed you with his play and never seemed distracted by emotions. Of course the Rookie Of The Year race is far from over; I am still curious to see what Hornets C Anthony Davis does in the second half.

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WADE ON THE WANE?

The day after Christmas, Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade gave a belated holiday gift to Charlotte Bobcats PG Ramon Sessions: a random kick to the nuts. What followed was a game-suspension for Wade and a new look at his small history of cheap shots and sketchy hacks. Doc, do Wade’s recent actions seem to indicate that he is frustrated? 

DOC: It’s hard to say if this incident is related to an overall frustation of Wade’s. I don’t think he is in quite the decline that has been stated. Consider where he is coming from: Wade may be the most athletic person to ever play the shooting guard position. The guy was an absolute freak that lived above the rim, but is no longer the same after some knee issues. He went from being unstoppable to being merely one of the top players in the NBA. He’s great, but can’t do it every game now. Or he may just be coasting a bit until the playoffs.

Has he lost athleticism, quickness, and lift? Yes, but he’s still in the top ten in scoring and shoots 51% from the field (a career high). As a player like Wade ages, his game has to evolve in order to be competitive now that he can’t just physically dominate the game. Kobe is the best example of this. Michael Jordan did the same thing. Unfortunately, D-Wade is not their class of shooter, but he will have to add other things.

I see the frustration of being unable to do what he used to do with ease: Wade is one of the the biggest complainers when he doesn’t get a foul call. He’s a crybaby and it’s very annoying. There has to some heartache that comes with losing your superhuman powers, but he must let go. That kick was a bitch move — he needs to just play the game and stay smart. Luckily, he has LeBron to carry the load when he’s having an off-night.

–Doc Coyle, God Forbid

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Hoop Logic XVII – Posted Dec. 14th 2012 on Metalsucks.net

Hey heavy metal people! It’s me, MetalSucks senior editor Anso DF, proudly directing your eyeballs to a very special MetalSucks Hoop Logic with God Fobid’s Doc Coyle! He’s not just an ace guitar player/teacher, awesome singer, cool dude, and black-belt bonermaster — he’s also a brilliant basketball mind and a sly rake. Take Thursday night, when I ribbed Doc about his state of Knicks Fan Total Worry (KFTW) but then bam, sure enough, a Knicks rout of the Lakers turned tense in the second half when Kobe and crew stabilized and threatened. JUST LIKE DOC SAID. So what other NBA assumptions can Doc endorse or debunk? Read on for a very special holiday edition of Hoop Logic TR00 or FALSE

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TR00 or FALSE? Joakim Noah is rad and hilarious but absolutely must put an end to hispost-score “gunslinger” routine.

Doc Coyle, God Forbid: I am going to be very diplomatic here. Joakim Noah is a player you love if he plays for your team — and absolutely hate when he’s playing against you. He’s one of the best under-the-radar talents in the league among centers. He’s a top-five defender at his position, perhaps the best passing big man that isn’t a member of the Gasol family, and a provider of the intangible intensity that leads to a winning spirit (like Tyson Chandler). His current line of 13.9 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 4.3 APG, 2.3 BPG, and 1.4 SPG, and his help keeping the Chicago Bulls’ record above .500 in Derrick Rose’s absence, will earn Noah serious All Star consideration and deservedly so. That’s the only reason he’s allowed to do the goofy ‘gunslinger’ move. Once Derrick Rose is back, and Noah doesn’t have to carry the team, I’ll be back on the Joakim Noah hater squad.

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TR00 or FALSE The Lakers have a serious hustle problem and it starts with Howard.

DOC: I am going TR00 on this question, but with serious reservation and humility because the Lakers debacle has stumped the brightest basketball minds around. First let’s be real, Dwight Howard has not been the dominant player we know, and that tells me he isn’t recovered from his back injury. Defense has been the Lakers main issue, and a three-time Defensive Player of the Year should clean up a lot of mistakes, but it’s not happening. D12 doesn’t have his lateral quickness and lift, which is imperative for the big man on a pick-and-roll and backline help defense. Even with all that, there seems to be some stink left on Howard from last season’s Dwightmare, and there is a lack of enthusiasm on the court with this team that is somehow filtered through him. His reputation has been hurt as a team player also with the uncertainty around his forthcoming free agency.

Let’s be honest again: You do not have a super team if your super guys aren’t there. Steve Nash hasn’t played, Steve Blake is out for two months, Pau Gasol has been out — and was apparently playing hurt — and the bench hasn’t performed as advertised. The situation has just snowballed, and the air around this team has become toxic. Basketball doesn’t work when you aren’t having fun and you don’t believe. It’s wholly ironic that this L.A. team with major star power, with no point guards, and coached by Mike D’Antoni is tailspinning less than a year after the exact same scenario in New York. Is Jeremy Lin available to save the day?

I believe they can turn it around. But a team of Kobe, Dwight, and spare parts won’t get it done. Unlike many, I am open to trading Gasol for a stretch 4 and a good back-up point guard. Sometimes it’s not about having the best players, it’s about having players that compliment each other the best. Dwight Howard needs shooters to space the floor, and the Lakers NEED a good back up PG in case Nash goes down again — and even when he’s healthy; at his age, he can’t play 35 minutes every night. That Toronto deal for Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon would cool some concerns even if each is a liability on defense. [Such a deal now may be endangered by Bargnani’s injury on Wednesday. — Ed.]

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TR00 or FALSE Amar’e Stoudemire’s return will disrupt the Knick’s surprising successful run and bring his team crashing back down to earth.

DOC: This is all I have been hearing from EVERYONE. It’s almost like there is a script going around. This echo-chamber analysis is weak as fuck, and I’m gonna set this straight: Amar’e’s return will take the Knicks to the next level, not backwards.

The Knicks are one of the best offenses in the NBA, but Amar’e will make it perhaps the league’s top offense. The shooting percentages of second and third options Felton and JR Smith are hovering around 40%, and this will hurt the Knicks in the long run. More shots for Stoudemire will make the Knicks offense much more efficient and raise their profile in the paint. Also, this gives NYC a true alternate go-to-guy while Melo rests. STAT struggled last year with no point guard to get him the ball in the right spots. Now he has three (!) pure PGs to run pick and roll, feed him all day, and make the game easy for him.

I admit that Stoudemire is a weak defender, but in no way do I believe that he represent a real drop-off from Rasheed Wallace and Kurt Thomas, the old-timers now filling the gap at power forward and backup center. Plus you can’t count on the older players to stay healthy over 82 games. The Knicks will need depth in the front court.

Another thing that hasn’t been mentioned much is that the Knicks have won in spite of their low rebounding numbers. Melo is great at the 4, but for the long term the team needs big bodies there to match up against the front-court size of the Grizzlies, Lakers, and Nets. Even though Melo has been playing at power forward, he is usually guarded by the opp0nent’s small forward; having Amar’e there will not effect this dynamic, and will protect Melo from getting beat up guarding and boxing out bigs on the block all year.

Whether Stoudemire is to come off the bench remains to be seen, but even that supports my last point: The Knicks were 6-1 with Melo and Stat starting together while Mike Woodson was coaching. All of the reported struggles were with the Mike D’Antoni no-point-guard team, the one that couldn’t find a way to integrate Melo and Amar’e because of the coach’s inability to adapt to his team. I have faith that Woodson knows his team and how to make it all work. This is finally the Knicks squad that we thought we were getting last year and had high expectations, so I’m still not sure how more talent could make you a worse team. If they stay healthy, getting Stoudemire back gives the Knicks a real chance to contend for a title. (Disclaimer: If I am wrong about this, I will have to eat some serious crow.)

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TR00 or FALSE Durant and Lebron were named NBA Players Of The Month for November. For December, the most deserving are Zach Randolph and Raymond Felton. 

DOC: The big problem with being the world’s best two players is this: People stop being impressed with your god-like consistent production. Fans and pundits both tend to give more credit to players and teams that we have low expectations for, and not nearly enough credit to those that we expect a lot from. LBJ and Durantula are the best players in the NBA and it’s not even close, and they play for the best teams of their respective conferences. They are also the league’s top Player Efficiency Rating (PER) guys by a decent margin. The only other guy even in the conversation this season is Carmelo Anthony because of the Knicks great start and he alone is “the guy” on his team, and may have more overall value to his team with no Dwayne Wade or Russell Westbrook at his side. Purely as individual players though, Melo is LeBron and Durant’s equal only as scorers, but they are superior in every other aspect of the game. As great as Melo has been, if OKC finishes this season with the best record, Durant gets my MVP vote. Let’s not forget about Chris Paul as a dark horse if the Clips keep rolling.

As for Felton and Zach Randolph, those guys are having big years but just aren’t in the same class. Again, it’s a matter of expectation. Last year, everyone counted out Raymond Felton; let’s just say if I had a dollar for every fat joke I heard, I would be very prepared at strip clubs. The fact that Felton has pretty much returned to his 2010 form, and the Knicks are killing it goes against expectations and now the Felton bandwagon is full. It’s the same with Zach Randolph. He was unable to live up to his incredible 2010 playoff performance because of injuries last season. Now he’s even better than he was, and the Grizzlies are a real contender.

I’ll give you another example of the expectations game: Last year, Knicks PF Amar’e Stoudemire was considered to be one of the most disappointing players because his PPG and FG% dropped sharply from his 2010-11 MVP candidate season. Yet he finished with a line almost identical to Chris Bosh’s (around 18 pts, eight boards, shooting roughly 48%). Bosh made the All-Star team easily, and wasn’t criticized — because his expectations and output were consistent from the previous season.

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TR00 or FALSE ESPN commentator Hubie Brown is a lucid, insightful, sweet, logical, and nuanced NBA educator who continues to teach u stuff.

DOC: Hubie Brown reminds me a lot of my grandfather, a basketball ref and coach, who taught me my fundamentals when I was a kid. Like my grandfather, Hubie is always educating you about the game. My favorite on-air team is Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen, but Hubie is best at expressing the logic behind the events. He may give you lots of numbers, but his research tells a story. So you not only learn what is happening, but why it’s happening. You can tell he is someone who has lived and breathed the game for most of his life. He’s not getting any younger, so let’s appreciate Grandpa Hubie while we still have him.

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lol TR00 Or FALSE From noon to midnight on December 25, you will be watching NBAand tweeting!

DOC: I’m not sure I can watch twelve straight hours of B-Ball glory, but the first three games are essential viewing: Celtics-Nets, Lakers-Knicks, and Thunder-Heat. That will be my Christmas present to myself, and my gift to you guys will be some snarky tweeting.

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Hoop Logic XVI – Posted Dec. 5th 2012 on Metalsucks.net

For such a young NBA season, there sure has been a lot of drama! Perpetual injuries, stalled returns, controversial coaching punished by huge fines, weird hair, a sane J.R. Smith … It’s like freakin’ Thunderdome on a 94 x 40 court! Now more than ever, we need a heavy metal NBA expert to make sense of this chaos. O wherefore shalt we find one? Ah that’s right — our hero Doc Coyle of awesome God Forbid is standing by like a much cooler John Claytonto dig in to the madness!

This is Hoop Logic. Take it, Doc!

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Injured 76ers C Andrew Bynum has yet to suit up for his new team, but was set to resume practicing on Dec 10 — until it was announced that the former Laker is sidelined indefinitely after having further damaged his bad knees by bowling in his spare time. Doc, what’s your take on Bynum, who entered the NBA at age 17? Unfortunate or fuckheaded?

Doc Coyle, God Forbid: Andrew Bynum is a giant fuckhead, which just happens to be unfortunate. Obviously, the red flag for him is his injury history due to bad knees. This is especially worrisome for someone so young — only 25 — who should be entering his prime, one that seemed to arrive last season with his stellar, All-Star-level play.  The injury history is not his fault, but it made this trade very risky. And so far, it looks like a complete bust. I feel sorry for the Philly fans because the team they broke up had a lot of promise, and pushed the Celtics to seven games in last year’s playoffs match-up. Sure, Bynum could eventually return and turn the whole thing around, but a fan just prays this doesn’t turn into a Greg Oden/Yao Ming situation where huge potential is never fulfilled due to injury.

But on the other hand, Andrew Bynum is the poster child for the rich, spoiled, immature modern athlete. To me, his personality was summed up when he viciously elbowed 5’9″ JJ Barea in the last game of the Lakers’ 2010 playoffs run. Bynum’s a brat who would rather flip the board than take the loss like a man. And worst of all, he bullied the smallest guy on the court; and that’s when he’s not saying arrogant, ignorant things to the media, avoiding team huddles, and showing up former coach Mike Brown by taking three-pointers in important game moments to just to make a point.

His newsworthy haircuts are entertaining (especially the brand new pimp slickback), but I just hope for the Sixers that the trade pans out soon. Bynum has the talent to be the best center in the NBA, but if his health and maturity don’t make some serious strides, it will be a long, rough road. Keep in mind, that Philly has not re-signed him yet. If they get cold feet, Bynum could be history at the end of this season. Acquiring talented injured guys has not worked out well of late. Look at the Eric Gordon and Andrew Bogut situations.

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Speaking of bad behavior, Celtics PG Rajon Rondo was suspended two games for a scuffle with Nets Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace. It started with a hard foul on Rondo’s teammate Kevin Garnett, and spilled into the seats. Doc, can u speculate on something? Do u think Rondo overreacted because he’s aware that Garnett is brittle, and that a Garnett injury — resulting from, say, a hard foul — would doom the Celtics to missing the playoffs?

DOC: Rondo is a warrior, and so is Garnett. They go to war and they have each other’s backs. Rondo explained that he was injured on a similar play in the playoffs a couple years back, and it set him off when he saw the hit. When a player is up in the air like that, he’s susceptible to dangerous injury — especially when he can jump really high. Frankly, I don’t think the Humphries knock-down was too serious, but the Celtics do not like KrisHumphries. The fans do not like Kris Humphries. I DO NOT … never mind. He’s a pretty good player, great rebounder, and likens himself to be something of an enforcer. So hard fouls are his trade. So what if he has a jerkoff face and talks like a valley girl?

Yeah, I guess I don’t like him either.

Rondo has to learn to cool it out. This is his third suspension in 2012 and it costs the Celtics wins. The Celtics obviously need Garnett to win, but that’s the coach’s job to monitor his minutes. Perhaps play him less at Center, so he takes less of a beating down low. They turned it on second half of last season, and I expect the same this this year. For some reason, this new group has not clicked just yet. New additions Jeff Green, Courtney Lee, and Jarred Sullinger have yet to show the prowess displayed in the preseason. Perhaps it’s just chemistry slow to coalesce. This team has a lot of talent, but people are not playing their best. Coach Doc Rivers put the ball in Rondo’s hands literally and figuratively. He’s the leader now. Rondo needs to stop starting fights and padding his assist numbers, and run the show by leading by example. He is too good not to.

·

For the last game of a string of six road games in nine nights – including four in five nights — Spurs mega-coach Greg Popovich rested their trio of superstars and young stud Danny Green against the Heat on Thursday. On Friday, NBA commissioner David Stern fined the team $250,000 for this “disservice to the league and its fans.” Doc, is your vibe on this basically “Are u fucking kidding me?” Is Stern’s message to coaches basically “Do not fuck with NBA ad revenues and ticket sales”?

DOC: I actually see both sides of this debate, but this is a very important conversation to have. Much like the rescinded Chris Paul trade for “basketball reasons,” this decision seems to follow no strict set of rules. David Stern comes off as tyrannical in this case because there is no precedent for the penalty. Is he King Stern, Emperor Stern? It’s public perception of the commissioner’s power reach and arbitrary policing that frustrate media and fans. I think this would not have been blown up so much if they would have waited after the game to announce the grievance, or just done it quieter in general. It came off as a knee jerk, emotional reaction.

From Popovich’s perspective, he has every right to rest his aging players whenever he wants. That’s his prerogative as head coach. And if anyone deserves leeway, it’s Greg Popovich: He is the longest tenured head coach in all four major sports in the USA and has won four NBA Titles. Also, if you followed this team the last few years, you would know that this is nothing new: Pop periodically rests his oldest players to keep them fresh for the postseason. Although I’m still not sure why he rested Danny Green …

Pop’s error was the timing of his decision to rest these guys. Sure, it was the fourth game in five nights, but the Spurs know there is a national TV game with Miami on the schedule. These are two championship contenders that only meet twice per season. Pop should have known to rest the guys the night before against Orlando — or in any of their previous three games against lottery teams. Coach Popovich broke an unwritten rule. Now they may have to write a rule.

Pop’s actions displayed a lot of hubris in my opinion. As a fan, it pissed me off. This is supposed to be one of the best games of the year. Although it ended up being a competitive game, we were robbed of the match-ups that we want as fans. Yes, do not fuck with ad revenues and ticket sales because that’s what pays salaries. People buy tickets and companies buy advertising time with an expectation of a certain product. If a guy is truly hurt and can’t play, people are disappointed, but they understand. This undermines the NBA brand.

This has brought up another debate about whether the NBA season is too long with too many games in a short space causing injuries and fatigue. I think the season could stand to drop 10-15 games. It would protect the players better, and make the games more meaningful.

·

On the other side of the coin, are u proud of J.R. Smith these days, whose apathy and immaturity of seasons past is being replaced with focus and smothering defense? How gratifying is it to u that Smith has been vital to the Knicks’ early-season success?

You have to keep in mind, I was a huge fan of Nuggets team of a couple years ago with Melo, Chauncey Billups, Nene, K-Mart, Birdman, and of course Mr. J.R. Smith. He was always one of my favorite players for his instant energy and instant offense. He had so much fire, and you knew a highlight reel dunk was on the horizon. But then his evil twin would appear, and Bad J.R. doesn’t get back on defense, takes bad gambles in the back court, getshit with technical fouls for bitching at refs, gets into fights, and shoots you right out of a game with off-the-dribble fadeaway three-pointers with 16 seconds left on the shot clock.

He hasn’t really changed that much, but a big difference is his relationship with coach Mike Woodson. Yes, J.R. is a couple years older, but Woodson really has a way of stabilizing Smith. He is very tough, and will chew J.R. out if he lazes on the defense , but he also has enough confidence in Smith’s offense to give him a virtual free reign. That was never there in Denver. There was always a short leash. He and Nuggets coach George Karl would butt heads constantly.

Woodson is a father figure for J.R. and that emotional connection goes deep. Smith actually signed with the Knicks below his market value because New York is where he wanted to be. That goes a long way. When you have guys that are on your club with a real sense of loyalty to the team and city, you have a distinct advantage. Money can only motivate you so much. I really hope he keeps it up because he has enough physical talent to be an All-Star.

– Doc Coyle, God Forbid

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Hoop Logic XV – Posted Nov. 19th 2012 on Metalsucks.net

We are only two weeks deep in the 2012-13 NBA season, and yet fast changes abound! The superstar Lakers pulled the plug on their flailing head coach, the defending almost-champion Oklahoma City Thunder moved a major piece, and the league’s most powerful teams are … the Knicks and the Grizz?! Okay fuck it why not!

Now let’s send this wildness over to God Forbid guitarist/superhunk Doc Coyle, our MetalSucks NBA hoops expert, for a dose of clarity on this already bananas action! He’ll know what to make of it! lol

·

After five games, the high-powered, high-priced Los Angeles Lakers fired head coach Mike Brown and enlisted Mike D’Antoni, an offense-first coach who was ousted from the New York Knicks mid-season last year. Doc, u have the benefit of a Knicks fan’s insight: Is D’Antoni the right coach for Kobe and crew?

Doc Coyle, God Forbid: It’s difficult to say right now. In New York, Coach D’Antoni was set up to fail when the team he built was dismantled by the Knicks’ trade for Carmelo Anthony. So D’Antoni went from a squad of young run-and-gun guys to a mismatch of stars and a thin bench made thinner in the trade. Then last season, expectations skyrocketed for the NBA’s best frontline on paper, but the Knicks floundered with no point guards to ably run D’Antoni’s system.

Then you saw how the Knicks flourished with phenom Jeremy Lin; finally they’d found the right PG. But I don’t think D’Antoni could’ve made the situation work, and given the missing pieces and the flurry of injuries, perhaps no coach could. Eventually his spirit was broken, and he lost his team mentally and emotionally in the locker room. He did the right thing by stepping down. New coach Mike Woodson fits this Knicks team better.

As for the Lakers, let me first say that I do not like Mike Brown as a coach. He failed to gameplan properly in those last couple post-seasons as head coach for Lebron’s Cleveland Caveliers. The Xs and Os seemed shoddy. But above all, he is not a coach who inspires players in the way that Doc Rivers, Doug Collins, or George Karl does. Those guys put their hearts into the game, while Brown seems fake and disingenuous. I was happy to see him go.

Which brings us to today. The Lakers’ issue in their awful first five games under Mike Brown was defense. Not offense. Everyone knows that Mike D’Antoni’s teams can put points on the board, but does Lakers personnel fit with his system? He’s never run a team that has two back-to-the-basket bigs like Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. I can’t imagine the Lakers as a fast break team because of their age and lack of foot speed. I really wish they would have re-signed PG Ramon Sessions; Steve Blake is not an adequate back up to Steve Nash.

D’Antoni’s teams are notorious for bad defense. I wonder if Lakers brass figured that D12 can clean up everyone’s mistakes, but he is not at full strength after a back injury. I wonder if D’Antoni can get the defense under control; I am skeptical about that. So this hire is curious to me, especially when Phil Jackson was available. Jackson’s resume speaks for itself while D’Antoni has never even taken a team to the Finals. Big-time pressure will be on D’Antoni and the Laker’s front office to deliver immediately.

·

Speaking of the Knicks, New York’s finest is 5-0 as of this writing. Are u blown away? What does this mean for injured PF Amar’e Stoudemire?

Doc: I am slightly blown away. As I am writing this, they just came off a massive comeback win against San Antonio on the road to put them at 6-0. A Knicks fan always waits for the other shoe to drop. I am taking it with a grain of a salt; after all it’s a six-game winning streak that gets more attention for arriving at the season’s start. They could go lose five in a row and put themselves back at the middle of the pack. But I think there are a few things that should sustain:

First, Carmelo Anthony is playing like an MVP. He leads the league in scoring, rebounds like a beast, and shows a focus on defense that we’ve never seen from him. Second, their three-headed point guard attack (Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Pablo Prigioni) gives them the advantage of always having a floor general on the court who knows how to set up scorers. Third, defense has been unbelievable. Partially because of Mike Woodson’s leadership, and because of hard-working defensive experts like Tyson Chandler, Ronnie Brewer, and Rasheed Wallace. Fourth, confidence and chemistry: These Knicks believe they can compete with the best and actually like each other. That true team spirit can go a long way.

I think Amar’e will fit in nicely when he returns from knee surgery. But for that to work, he has to be eased back in — perhaps coming off the bench for 15-20 minutes. Their second team could use his scoring through lulls when Melo is on the bench. The point guards will get him involved and make the game easy for him. In fact I am really excited for his return, but still he has to buy into Knicks defensive schemes. That’s the key. The offense will come no problem. With a healthy Amar’e and Iman Shumpert, the Knicks could be contenders for real. That will address two concerns: Having a true number-two scoring option and a lockdown wing defender to handle the D-Wades and Kobes of the world.

·

The other most buzzed-about team in this young NBA season is the Memphis Grizzlies. Doc, how do explain their ability to continue last season’s good groove? An underdog’s vigor? Veteran wiles? Lack of OJ Mayo? lol

Doc: People who follow the NBA know that Memphis is on the verge of being a true contender. Their starting five is one of the best in the NBA. Man to man, they probably have the true best front court in basketball. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph really do it all. They are skilled scorers, rebounders, defenders, and passers. And I hope this is the year underrated Rudy Gay finally makes an All-Star team. Mike Conley and Tony Allen are pure athletes and tops steals guys every year.

I was concerned about how they would replace OJ Mayo’s scoring punch, but I watched their win against OKC, and their bench looks great. I was unfamiliar with most of them, but it was impressive to see them single-handedly win a big game for Memphis. Wayne Ellington, Jerryd Bayless, Quincy Pondexter, and Maurice Speights look like a legit second unit. I will watch them more this season to learn more about these guys.

Oh and consider this about Memphis: Two years ago when they reached the Western Conference Finals, they did so without Gay, and last year’s playoff run came despite a hobbled Zach Randolph. So, this is the first time their starting unit has been healthy, and it is all coming together for them. This is definitely a team to watch because they can match the Thunder’s speed and the Lakers’ size.

·

We need to talk about James Harden’s trade to the Houston Rockets and a stratospheric debut performance for his new team. What does your crystal ball foretell for Harden, the Rockets, and his old team, the Oklahoma City Thunder?

Doc: James Harden looks like a superstar in his first two weeks with his new team. We all knew he was good, but perhaps we underestimated his true talent. He automatically makes the Rockets a bubble team to make the playoffs, and here’s why: Jeremy Lin was not ready to be the go-to-guy, and the addition of Harden relieves some pressure. Houston is in a great position in that they are very young and have tons of cap space to sign more free agents. Kudos to the resilience of their front office in finally landing a star after striking out with both Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. I predict that they will sign another big time free agent in the next year or two and become an top-tier team in the West.

See, one thing we are starting to see already is a scouting report on how to stop the Rockets, Harden in particular; they don’t have a lot of guys that can create for themselves besides The Beard and Linsanity. They aren’t deep, but this team is young and full of potential. I look forward to watching them develop.

On the other hand, the Thunder’s prospects are not as bright as they were a year ago. Their end of the Harden move, Kevin Martin, will more than make up for Harden’s 16 ppg, but not his ball-handling, passing, and perimeter defense. Don’t get me wrong, the Thunder are still NBA cream of the crop, but they’d had a dynasty brewing with that young core. I would have preferred the Thunder go after another guy in the Harden mould who does everything: Tyreke Evans. Though the yield is fantastic for the Thunder in the long run: lottery pick Jeremy Lamb and three future draft picks. So, great deal for the future but just passable for the present. The other good news is that back-up point guard Eric Maynor is back from last year’s season-ending injury and will provide some playmaking in the second unit. This is still a major dent in the Thunder’s armor. Their grasp on the Western Conference title is vulnerable, and with the Lakers, Grizzlies, Clippers, and Nuggets all improving, this conference is up for grabs.

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Hoop Logic XIV – Posted Oct. 30th 2012 on Metalsucks.net

It seems like eons have passed since mid-June, when LeBron James’ Miami Heat were crowned champions of the strike-shortened 2011-12 NBA season. But tonight, a new season tips off after a trade-frenzied off-season. And returning to MetalSucks is God Forbid guitarist/vocalist Doc Coyle, our super-brah and resident NBA expert! Below, get the real deal on all the unlikely changes to Western and Eastern Conference superpowers. What teams are better, and which are merely bigger? Read on, ballerz! 

THE LOS ANGELES LAKERS

The Los Angeles sports media is predicting a Lakers championship this season delivered by an all-superstar starting line-up. But Doc, is this Lakers squad an example of too much of a good thing? Or will their play resemble Globetrotters-esque domination?

DOC COYLE, God Forbid: On paper, the 2012-13 Lakers feature one of the best starting line-ups ever. Never before have two former MVP’s been featured in the same backcourt. Kobe is considered to be the best of his era. Steve Nash is probably neck at neck with Jason Kidd as the best PG of his era. Pau Gasol may be the most skilled seven-footer in the NBA, and I haven’t even mentioned the team’s best player, Dwight Howard, the most dominant center since Shaq. Even the fifth guy, Metta World Peace, is a former All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year. It makes me a little giddy just thinking about the offensive options they have, and how Howard makes up for so many mistakes on defense as a rim protector. I watched this line-up’s preseason debut against Sacramento, and it was impressive for their first game together and not having formed a real chemistry yet.

I don’t think you can have too much of a good thing, but here’s the question: Do the pieces fit? The Boston Big 3 of Pierce, Garnett, and Allen fit like a glove and won a championship their first season together. The Miami Big 3 of Wade, James, and Bosh have it down to a science now, but it took time. New York Knicks Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire still haven’t figured it out and they may never. But I think the new Lakers fit together very well: Nash and Howard don’t really need to score a ton to dominate the game. Nash is as a good a pure facilitator as we’ve even seen and will get his teammates the best looks. Howard can control a game just as a rebounder and defender. Kobe probably has to adjust his game the most because he won’t have the ball as much; he will have to play off the ball more, which as we saw in the Olympics can mean mixed results. Gasol will have a great year because he is off the trading block; he will be focussed and will have a lot of room to work while so much attention is paid to Howard.

As formidable as these guys are, we can’t yet anoint them champions-to-be for a few reasons. First off, Miami, OKC, San Antonio, and Boston are too good to be written off. Secondly, though the Lakers improved their bench with nice additions of Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks (and the return of Jordan Hill), we still wonder about the drop-off in production from the starting line-up’s. The second unit looked very rough in the pre-season. Thirdly, this team’s age is significant, and one injury could ruin the whole deal. The only player of their big four still in his prime is Dwight Howard, with Kobe and Gasol at the tail end of their best days. The Miami Heat’s big guys are all in their prime, which is why they are so intimidating. If 38-year-old Steve Nash goes down, who do runs the Lakers’ point? And I wonder if a young, quick team like the Thunder or Nuggets could run these old Lakers legs out of the gym over a playoff series. This is going to be fun to watch.

THE NEW JERSEY BROOKLYN NETS

At last, the Nets are set to start fresh with a new arena, a new town, and a new look. But what about the talent? Do the Brooklyn Nets have enough firepower to threaten the reigning champion Miami Heat?

DOC: Like the Lakers, the new look Brooklyn Nets boast one of the best starting fives on paper. I watched a little of their preseason and it looked like they’re searching and figuring out how to play together. From the outside looking in, it appears that their strengths compliment each other very well with defined role for each starter: I think we know what Deron Williams is going to bring. He’s a top-five point guard, a franchise player in his prime. A big question is will F Joe Johnson’s performance match his giant contract? His statistics have declined every year, although his skills are not in question. Brook Lopez has not reached his full potential, but let’s hope he can stay healthy and learn to grab a rebound or two.

Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries are two of the best hardhat guys in the league: Though on the decline and overpaid, Wallace still is a nice starting 3 who brings it on both ends of the court. Humphries is underrated and one of the NBA’s best rebounders. I also love Marshon Brooks as a sixth man. He’s definitely one of the nice young talents in the game. Also I like their bench on paper, but I haven’t seen them play much.

Sports media is high on this team and ranks them as the Eastern Conference’s third- or fourth-best team, which is a bit bold. I would like to see more of their play, but for now I like this team much more in Brooklyn than New Jersey — and I’m from Jersey. Did I mention how sick their uniforms are? They might have the best look in the league. Coolness counts; look how many people rock Raiders gear all over the country. The Nets are the cool kids on the block for sure.

THE CHICAGO BULLS

In the off-season, the Bulls parted ways with key role players Omar Asik, Kyle Korver, CJ Watson, and Ronnie Brewer. In their places are old-ass Nazr Mohammed, underwhelming Marco Bellinelli, basic Kirk Heinrich, and occasionally impactful Nate Robinson. Doc, do you foresee success for the Bulls’ core of Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Rip Hamilton, and superstar Derrick Rose (who will miss much if not all of the regular season)? Do those weak acquisitions indicate that the organization is cutting losses for this Rose-less season and shoring up for the 2013-14 season?

DOC: If I ran the Bulls, I would tank this season and try to get a top pick in next year’s draft. (Like what the San Antonio Spurs did to set themselves up to draft Tim Duncan after David Robinson was out a whole season.) The departed role players were very important to their success last season. For some reason, the Bulls played great the last couple seasons regardless of who was on the floor. They were insanely consistent when they shifted to the reserves. (Some argue that Taj Gibson should start over Carlos Boozer.) Perhaps like the Spurs, it is the system and defensive culture of head coach Tom Thibodeau that cultivates success, and not the individual players.

Time will tell. For now, they have brought in some solid guys though none really stand out. Although, I really wish Nate Robinson would get a fair shot from some ball club. After all, he was a real spark in Boston’s 2010 Finals run, but with the Thunder he was superfluous behind back-up point guard Eric Maynor. The kid can flat out score and plays as hard as anyone in the NBA.

I am really pulling for Derrick Rose. His excellence and demeanor make him a type of athlete that we should all root for. He has heart. But I am skeptical about his return. Outside of Thunder PG Russell Westbook, no other guard out there relies on explosiveness and athleticism as much D-Rose. I hope the B-Ball Gods are kind to him.

THE NEW YORK KNICKS

Aside from last season’s brief period of Linsanity, the Knicks’ point guard situation was disastrous. So are u pumped about the arrival of ancient-but-stabilizing Jason Kidd and the return of Raymond Felton? Will the Felton-Stoudemire tandem flourish under coach Mike Woodson as it did in former coach Mike D’Antoni’s run-and-gun system?

From what I saw in the preseason, I believe the Knicks have turned their biggest flaw into what may be their biggest strength. First off, Raymond Felton looks unbelievable. He dropped 20 pounds, so doubts about his conditioning need to stop: It’s not last year, and this isn’t Portland. He wasn’t happy there and he never wanted to leave the team he played his best basketball for: The Knicks. Now he’s moving quick, getting good shots at the rim, and passing at a high level. He is better than Jeremy Lin and a better fit for this team. He is less prone to turning over the ball and a much better defender.

But the Knicks’ depth at the point guard position is their strength. It feels like there’s a big backlash against Jason Kidd and other Knicks acquisitions, but Kidd looks sharp, active, and agile, and the team’s most undervalued addition may turn out to be veteran point guard Pablo Prigioni from Argentina. Prigioni impressed mightily in the preseason via a pure point guard’s court vision, his knack for crafty steals, and his mastery of the pick-and-roll. He and Kidd are very similar in their approach, and they create a good redundancy. If one point guard gets hurt, the Knicks have got it covered. This three-headed monster could be the secret to the Knicks’ success.

And if Stoudemire can get healthy, I predict that Felton will reinvigorate his career. Besides, Stoudemire’s regression was overblown. Most of his poor play and lethargy came in the first half last season when his conditioning was poor and he was too bulked up above the waist, and that limited his lift and explosiveness. But Stat’s shooting percentage was eight points higher after the All-Star break, and his drop in points-per-game was only because he just wasn’t getting as many shots. He needs to be utilized more or he drifts when not getting enough touches. (I would love to see him coming off the bench where he can be the Knicks’ go-to-guy for offense.) But the major issue with Stoudemire is defense. He is one of the worst defenders in the league, and the Knicks will never be taken seriously unless that improves.

Ultimately, this team needs to be healthy to have any shot at playoffs success. Their age becomes a factor when injuries creep up. Last season, they were ravaged by post-season time and are almost no better right now: Stoudemire is out for a couple weeks, Iman Shumpert is out ’til January, and both JR Smith and Marcus Camby are questionable for opening night. It’s hard to say what they are until we see the full compliment of talent on the floor.

THE MIAMI HEAT

The world champion Miami Heat added two dangerous weapons on offense, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. Doc, was this what they needed? More shooters?

When you have LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh — superstars who constantly require help on defense — adding shooters can only help. Those three guys are so consistent that when one or two other guys step up, the Heat are almost unbeatable. If Ray Allen can provide 12-15 PPG off the bench, that will be something the Heat could not count on in the last two seasons. This is the perfect situation for Ray because he doesn’t have the same pressure to score as in Boston. If Rashard Lewis from 2008 shows up from time to time, these guys will be straight up scary. The Heat have improved for sure.

One issue for me is the durability of guys like Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem, and Mike Miller. I love their tenacity and vigor, but each is getting up there in years and could continue breaking down. And the Heat are still small up front, so what happens if they meet the Lakers in Finals? People forget that in 2009 a Dwight Howard-led Orlando team sent LeBron’s Cavs packing; that could happen again. Also, Andrew Bynum and the Philadelphia 76ers could be a troubling playoff matchup. A truly dominant center is a challenge this Heat team has not faced — no, Pacers C Roy Hibbert was not a real obstacle.

Many seem ready to crown the Heat again, but many of these dipshits also counted the Heat out when they fell behind in each of last season’s playoff series. They are not unstoppable: Boston, L.A., OKC, and San Antonio all have a chance — and a dark horse could rear back and trample. So I could not be more excited about this NBA season. Even the “bad” teams are talented and fun to watch. (Well not Charlotte, but you get my point.) This is gonna be a hell of a year — if we survive December 21st 2012 of course.

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Hoop Logic XIII – Posted June 28th 2012 on Metalsucks.net

Welcome to the final 2011-12 Hoop Logic with ace axeman and peerless prognosticator Doc Coyle from awesome God Forbid. The NBA season is over and that is sad. But as we look ahead to um tonight’s draft and Halloween’s new season tip-off, we can rest assured that finally Lebron James is happy! And all the jerks whom he antagonized with his young man’s cockiness can shut up and enjoy NBA life again. 

So while all butts are slowly purged of hurt, we thank you, MetalSucks reader, for joining us in ceding NBA life to summer, in bidding adieu to this frantic strike-altered, injury-pocked season, and in making sense of Lebron’s farewell to futility. See you after the jump!  

***

NBA CHAMPION MIAMI HEAT

Doc, Lebron James was awesome in the NBA Finals and at long last has netted his first championship. Can his detractors agree unequivocally that he is a real man now?

I’ve been a fan since I first saw 22-year old Lebron in the 2007 Finals against the Spurs. He didn’t play that well and the Cavs were swept, but his abilities reinvigorated my interest in the NBA. I had never seen a player like him before. He was like Magic Johnson with Karl Malone’s physique and Michael Jordan’s speed, scoring ability, and athleticism.

From a playing standpoint, LBJ’s trangressions were his subpar performance in the 2010 Eastern Conference semis against the Celtics and his failure to have any impact in the 4th quarters of the Finals against the Mavericks in 2011. As a public figure, he rubbed the entire world wrong by leaving his home team on national television in “The Decision” and the Miami Heat’s subsequent coronation party where LeBron predicted as many as seven championships. He has warranted plenty of deserved criticism, but not this monumental witch-hunt. I think it’s really unhealthy to wish for the failure of someone who hasn’t done anything to you personally. It says a lot about our mentality.

LeBron’s detractors are a bit like Birthers. No matter how many official Hawaiian birth certificates are released, they will probably never believe. Some of my best friends are ardent, self-pronounced LeBron haters and being a LeBron hater seems to be a kind of immovable philosophy, a religion of some sorts. I’ve heard it said that the opposite of love is not hate. It’s indifference. Hating is a form of caring. For whatever reason, he polarizes the public and draws us in whether you like him or not.

His journey has made great theater. So much of the disdain has risen from LeBron’s inability to live up to his “King” nickname, to show up in the moments when he was needed most. That playing card is off the table now, but some people just plainly don’t like him and it’s not about his basketball ability or, now, his winning acumen. They just tend to prefer a Tim Duncan- and Derrick Rose-type superstar: quiet, humble, classy. I love those guys and their demeanor, but not everyone has the same personality. The NBA and sports in general would be pretty damn boring without bombastic personalities. Loud, controversial athletes like Charles Barkley, Muhammad Ali, Dennis Rodman give us a much more interesting landscape to enjoy. James isn’t even in that mold, but I’m just illustrating that there are many types of athletes and we shouldn’t expect just one style.

My friends say the main thing that they don’t like about LeBron is his arrogance. Michael Jordan was arrogant, but perhaps his charisma overshadowed his arrogance. If you are considered the best in the world in any field, arrogance or overconfidence will come into play at some point. James was anointed as “The Chosen One” on the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 16 while still in high school. He was the most highly-touted player to enter the NBA since Shaq; a once-in-a-generation type of player. And he still lived up to the hype. All I’m saying is that being Steve Jobs, Tom Cruise, Tiger Woods, or Prince comes with a certain amount of hubris. And until you’ve been in that person’s shoes, how can you really know how to handle the adulation, the money, or the criticism when the expectations are so high?

I think he has proved that he is the best in the world, and if he keeps it up, he will be in the conversation for best all time. He is a year younger than Jordan when he won his first title, but I think there is a lot more competition than Jordan had (assuming LeBron doesn’t pause his NBA career for a stint in the NFL). For Lebron and basketball’s next greatest talent, Kevin Durant, I predict a similar rivalry to Bird and Magic where these guys trade title runs for the next decade. Plus, we still don’t know where Dwight Howard will end up, how good the Clippers can be, if Derrick Rose will fully recover, and if the Knicks will ever materialize into anything worth mentioning. I hope he has at least earned some more respect even if those people don’t like him. It’s better to be respected than liked.

True or false: Chris Bosh is super corny.

True, in a sense. People rag on Bosh because he looks a tad goofy, is a finesse-oriented power forward that is mainly a perimeter player, and is playing third fiddle to two of the top talents in the game. But let’s make the Beatles comparison: He’s definitely far more George Harrison than Ringo, and George ain’t no fucking slouch.

I’ll take a little corny as long as you’re effective. In his two years with the Heat, he’saveraged around 18 points, 8 boards, shot a high percentage, played very underrated defense, and made two All-Star games. I would say he has been as advertised. Everyone finally saw his value when he was out with injury this post season: If Bosh hadn’t returned, the Celtics would have taken out the Heat. In the 2010 free-agent class, many would have rated him below Amar’e Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer for best available power forward, yet he has performed better than both of them and with fewer opportunities. I think he plays with a lot of heart, wants to win, and is clutch late in games. He is one of the best shooting big men in the game with a tremendous amount of skill. Not everybody can be as cool as Charles Oakley.

***

WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPION OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Thunder sixth man James Harden had been averaging like 17 pts on 47% shooting in the playoffs. His finals numbers only reached 8 pts per game at 35%. His totals for assists and free throws plummeted too. Doc, excuse my French but what the fuck?

I think the reaction to Harden’s Finals performance has been blown out of proportion. In general, he just missed shots that he usually makes and lost some confidence over the course of the series. The guy is only 22, and sometimes you just have a bad series. It sucks when that bad series comes in the Finals, but he’ll learn from the experience and come back great next year and be great.

I really hate that sports pundits never give credit to the other team’s defense when they just flat-out shut down a star like Harden. The Miami Heat are a dominant defensive team — light years beyond San Antonio, L.A., or Dallas. You’d be delusional to think the Thunder would be able to do the same things to the Heat that they did to those teams. Miami’s ability to clog the lane and rotate quickly on pick and rolls can be devastating. Not to mention their length.

The real question is will OKC be able to keep Harden in town with his and Ibaka’s contracts up at the end of next season? Each will attract a big-money offer in the free agent market and would have to take a significant pay cut to stay in OKC. This could be a pivotal development in the complexion of the league.

Doc, if the Thunder had gotten you on speakerphone at halftime of Game 5, what would you have told them? Reduce the amount of one-on-one offense?

Nothing I could have said would have changed the outcome of that game. It would not have changed Mike Miller hitting seven three-pointers. It would not have changed LeBron’s eye of the tiger and unbreakable focus. Wade played great. Bosh played great. Chalmers even had his best playoff game. It was just the Heat’s year.

Oklahoma City does not need to make dramatic changes to get in the position for a championship next year. They played one-on-one all year and had plenty of success because it’s almost impossible to stop their best three guys one-on-one. In a way, San Antonio inspired them to be a more fluid team in the Western Conference Finals, but it just didn’t last — because it hasn’t been their identity. Their team is still deep as hell, they’ve still got the second best player in the league — the most dangerous scorer on the planet — and this heartbreak will fuel their fire.

The Thunder didn’t lose this series. They were defeated soundly by a very determined team with LeBron playing at a historic level. I mean even the Game 4 cramps heroics seemed as if it was a Hollywood script with LeBron hitting go-ahead three with a minute left on one leg. The Thunder have a chance to become even better, but I think there will be a lot of turnover in the West in the next few years. There’s no telling what the competition will look like and who will emerge as their West rivals. This team plays the right way, is well coached, and has a great attitude.

-Doc Coyle, God Forbid

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Hoop Logic XII – Posted June 12th 2012 on Metalsucks.net

The NBA Finals Championship. Everybody wants some, so few get some. Even the NBA’s best come up short. Like Charles Barkley, ringless. And the great Reggie Miller? No. ‘Nique? Nope. Steve Nash? Not even close. It’s rough going. It takes a team. 

Starting tonight, Kevin Durant and his Oklahoma City Thunder engage the Lebron James-led Miami Heat for their shot at elusive NBA glory. Which team is destined to prevail this hotly-contested, evenly-matched bloodbath? Tough one! If anybody knows, it’s God Forbid guitarist/NBA sexpert Doc Coyle here on MetalSucks Hoop Logic. But first, Doc recaps the tumultuous, expectation-shattering conference finals! 

***

THE EAST

So Doc, the simple truth is that Lebron James saved his Miami Heat from a 2-3 deficit in their series against the Boston Celtics. Is this a huge accomplishment for pro sports’ most scrutinized superstar?

DOC: The biggest accomplishment for the Heat has been the ability to rally in bad times. And this was not always the supergroup Miami Heatles storyline. This team has either dominated opponents or wilted in the face of adversity. Of everybody, LeBron James has come up biggest when his team was down in this post-season. He put up 40-18-9 in Game 4 against the Pacers when the Heat were looking up from a 1-2 hole; then he answered in Boston with a 45-15-5 game when his team trailed 2-3. Resilience is the most impressive thing. Coming back from a deficit shows heart.

I wonder if the injury to Chris Bosh was a blessing in disguise. It exposed the Miami Heat: Suddenly their bench seemed desperately thin, Dwayne Wade turned mortal and increasingly breakable, and coach Eric Spoelstra took fire for his heinous frontline of castaways going in and out of the starting line-up like it was a game of musical chairs. So Bosh getting hurt might’ve been the powder keg for this team. It was then that LeBron returned to his Cavs attitude (acknowledging that he is the best player in the world) and dominated the second half of this series. And Heat role players understood that they had to step up in order to win. Most of all, this team realized that Bosh is the difference between a very good Heat team and a great Heat team.

LeBron James is playing the best basketball of his career, but it will be overlooked again if he fails to win a championship. Remember LeBron was having a stellar 2011 playoff run last year before the Finals when he averaged only 17 points and disappeared late in games. Whatever happens with the upcoming Finals, Heat win or Heat lose, basketball fans need to appreciate this guy — he may be the most gifted athlete of this generation in any sport. Whether or not you like him, you have to admit he plays the game beautifully. Unselfish. Potentially the most versatile player ever.

I want to mention the admirable run by the 2011-2012 Boston Celtics. This team played with more guts than any team I’ve ever seen. If they were not so ravaged by injuries since their 2008 championship, they would have raised one or two more banners. But this year, the return of Chris Bosh was the difference.

***

THE WEST

After game 2, it looked like the Oklahoma City Thunder were to be swept by the methodical San Antonio Spurs. But then Thunder coach Scott Brooks moved his star defender onto Spurs G Tony Parker, a stratagem that stifled Parker, unraveled the Spurs offense, and enabled four straight Thunder wins. Are you amazed that Spurs supercoach Gregg Popovich, master of adjustments, was outmaneuvered like that?

DOC: The adjustments were fairly simple: They put Thabo Sefolosha on Parker and started switching against pick-and-roll offense. Stopping Parker turned out to be a key to the series because his teammate Tim Duncan didn’t play well enough to compensate — and Thunder big men Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka played great one-on-one defense. Duncan played like his classic self in the first two rounds, but that Duncan didn’t continue to show up. The Spurs could afford if one of those two had a subpar series, but not both.

To me, Popovich’s only real error was the move to put Ginobli into the starting line-up. It killed F Danny Green’s confidence, and although Ginobli scored like crazy when he was out there, the Spurs second unit lost their punch. Plus, he and Parker are the main ball-handlers for their respective units; together their awesome flows got disrupted.

But really, there are two reasons that OKC won: The Spurs were touted as the deepest team in the league, but the Thunder’s role players performed way above their heads while the Spurs support guys underperformed. No one predicted that Sefolosha would net 19 points and six steals in game 3, or that Ibaka would have 26 points on 12 of 12 shooting in game 5, or that Daequan Cook would score eight points in 3 minutes in game 6, and Nick Collison would play lights-out the entire series! And who would have guessed that the most consistent, complete team in the NBA would be plagued by no-shows from key contributors Danny Green, Gary Neal, Matt Bonner and Boris Diaw? And that Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard would turn invisible after game 2?

The other reason that OKC won is Kevin Durant did his best Michael Jordan impression, proving he is the NBA’s most dangerous scorer. It is very hard for a team to lose close games when they have that guy — even if their point guard turns it over three times in a row. Every time Durant shoots, I expect him to make it. He is unstoppable. Durant could be a better scorer than Jordan one day. He’s a better shooter, four inches taller, and just as speedy.

The Spurs didn’t lose this series. The Thunder flat out took it. I think the Spurs could have played much better in game 6, but really it seemed like the basketball gods were handing the torch to OKC. Calls went their way, bounces went their way — that’s how it works out sometimes. I feel for the Spurs (game 2 may have been the best offensive basketball I’ve ever seen in my life), but it just wasn’t meant to be.

**

NBA FINALS

This is what we all predicted would be the Finals at the beginning of the year and at the beginning of the post-season. The two best players in the world. The MVP and the runner-up. The weathered villain and the spritely new kid on the block. Oh, I almost forgot about Finals MVP and future Hall of Famer Dwyayne Wade, top-ten NBA talent Russell Westbrook, seven-time All Star Chris Bosh, and current Sixth Man of the Year winner James Harden. It doesn’t get any better than this. I expect a classic series for the ages.

Oklahoma City Thunder (2) vs. Miami Heat (2)

Winner I am pleading the fifth. I have no idea who is going to win. Oklahoma City has the better all-around team and home court advantage, so they should be favored. But Miami has the edge in experience, and a bigger ax to grind since their finals loss last year. These playoffs have proven to me that we should expect the unexpected! Don’t count out either of these teams.

Series 4-3 Please lord let this go 7 games!!!

Doc’s Orders The superstars must play like superstars. I fully expect Kevin Durant to keep up his legendary play, though he has not faced a defender of LeBron James’s caliber in the playoffs yet because there is none. James cannot repeat his poor Finals performances of 2007 and 2011; he’ll have to maintain that killer instinct from the last two playoff rounds.

Will vintage D-Wade show up or will he continue to stutter early in games? Can Westbrook limit his turnovers and his terrible shot selection? Is Chris Bosh healthy enough to counteract the power of James Harden off the bench? Much like the Western Conference Finals, the NBA finals may be decided by role players.

OKC has a clear size advantage, so if their bigs own the boards and I-Blaka is swatting shots into the rafters, the Heat could be toast. Sharpshooter Mike Miller has to remind us he still plays for the Heat; Battier has to keep knocking down threes and dogging Thunder scorers with his crack defense. Most games will come down to late-game execution and strategy. Who will win the coaching game, Brooks or Spoelstra? Time will tell, but I couldn’t be more excited.

Doc’s Team I am rooting for the Heat. It is not easy to like them, but I have tired of the “LeBron doesn’t have a ring” narrative. His monumental punishment is disproportionate to his now-distant crime. It will be a relief to start talking about something else.

-Doc Coyle, God Forbid

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Hoop Logic XI – Posted May 29th 2012 on Metalsucks.net

Four teams remain. Each is eight (or so) wins away from sweet NBA glory, the fulfillment of dreams, a top-heavy trophy and watch-sized ring, a summer of bragging rights, and a sweet photo op beside NBA commissioner David Stern. It’s the NBA Conference Finals! Holy shit!

The action got underway this weekend, so as of this writing the Spurs and Heat have netted Game 1 wins against the Thunder and Celtics, respectively. And yet, God Forbid guitarist/backing vocalist Doc Coyle might not be convinced that those teams will prevail. Below Doc returns to take us through the ins, outs, and what-have-yous of this penultimate challenge. But first, a review of round two’s surprising, unsurprising, dismaying, and catastrophic results! Fucking stupid Lakers! I mean, this is Hoop Logic

***

THE EAST

The Pacers jumped to a convincing 2-1 series lead, and were poised to push it to 3-1 with a Game 4 home win. But somehow, the balanced, multi-faceted Pacers failed to win that game or any further games against the ragged, Bosh-less Miami Heat. Doc, what the fuck? 

DOC: This was a startling turnaround. Even without Bosh, the Heat seemed fully able to handle the Pacers. Collectively, we all underestimated the Pacers. They had an All-Star center, great balance, depth, and a fundamental approach to both sides of the ball, and this was apparent in their wins. On the other hand, Bosh’s value was exposed. He was providing almost 20 points and 8 rebounds a game, and in these low-scoring affairs, those points were invaluable. He was also the tallest guy on the team, the longest and most intimidating post defender. So if Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, and Udonis Haslem hadn’t stepped up, the Heat would be toast.

Two things had to happen for Miami to get back into the series after Game 3:

First, James and Wade would have to play Hall of Fame level basketball and carry the team against Indiana’s depth. The dynamic duo was superhuman in Game 4 and no one thought this could be sustained. Yet James and Wade then averaged 65 points per game over the final three games, and were utterly unstoppable.  This goes to show that when a team has the best player on the planet and a top-five talent, they are never out of a series.

Secondly, Miami had to stop Roy Hibbert and David West, who had a serious skill and size advantage inside. I’m not sure if it was bad coaching or just poor execution, but Indiana did not go in the post enough and make Miami pay for being small. West and Hibbert did not get nearly enough shots, but I think part of it is because Miami plays great team defense, and forced the Pacers to stay outside and focus on their wing players.

The Celtics used all seven games to knock out the Sixers, which implies an evenly-matched series. Doc, if for some reason Game 7 had been in Philadelphia, would the Sixers be the ones moving on to the conference finals? Was it that close?

DOC: If you remember, I picked this series to go seven games with the Celtics prevailing. Although the Sixers were an eighth seed, there was evidence that they were much better than that in the regular season. I thought they matched up well with 

Boston because of their youth and depth. Also, you knew the Sixers would play hard for their excellent coach, Doug Collins. There was no quit in this team.

Boston, meanwhile, had some of the worst luck regarding injuries. G Avery Bradley became the fourth Celtic this season to be lost for the remainder season, joining the unenviable club of key rotation guys Jeff Green, Jermaine O’Neal, and Chris Wilcox. Bradley was the key to Boston’s second-half turnaround when they posted the best record in the Eastern Conference. With him out, and Ray Allen a shell of himself due to a bad ankle, Boston was going to be in for an uphill battle.

I also think the “Big Three era” Boston team has never done anything easy, and had a few long series even in their championship run. It seems like they overlooked this Philly squad, or thought that they could coast to the next round. There was a lack of intensity in a couple games, and Philly capitalized. The Sixers played with a lot of guts, and never gave up. The home court advantage was a huge factor, and that’s why we play a regular season. Teams should be rewarded for their consistency. Home court will often tip the scales in a tightly matched competition.

***

THE WEST

Well Doc, so much for our hopes for a hotly-contested second-round series between the San Antonio Spurs and the L.A. Clippers. Why such a smashing: Clips injuries, Spurs’ Terminator-esque efficiency, both? Do you miss Clips G Chris Paul already?

DOC: I have to say I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop with the Spurs, and it just isn’t happening. No one is playing as well. They dismantle defenses with their magical ball movement. And they take away your best option defensively. Anyone who says the Spurs are boring needs to get their head out of their ass. They may be the most fun team to watch left in the playoffs. And yes Gregg Popovich is the Terminator. He has definitely extinguished some lives in his past. Don’t fuck with that guy.

I hadn’t believed that a team could contain Chris Paul for a whole series, but the Spurs did. I suspect he wasn’t totally healthy, but it is further proof that the Clippers are still building and figuring out their identity. Blake Griffin is still developing. If he can improve his post repertoire, jump shots, and free throws, the sky is the limit. Their main flaw seems to be one of their best advantages: The “Lob City” moniker comes from their athletic, high-flying front line of Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, but if those two can’t hit free throws or develop some of the more nuanced aspects of the game, than the Clips will be bounced like this again next year. I look forward to watching this team grow.

Following this week’s round-two ass-whomping at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Lakers were described by F Metta World Peace as the better team that simply played well below their potential. You predicted their defeat, Doc, but is there any truth to that statement? Can we fault head coach Mike Brown and his history of post-season ineptitude?

DOC: The Lakers had two of these games pretty much sealed up before Kobe Bryant of all people took bad shots and committed costly turnovers. The Lakers proved they were good enough to beat the Thunder, but they were finally served some of their own medicine. This is exactly what the Lakers did to this OKC team two years ago, and the Phoenix Suns that same year, and the Denver Nuggets in 2009. Winners snatch victory from the jaws of defeat even when they are outplayed.

I am not a fan of Mike Brown, but I don’t think John Wooden could have pulled this combustible group together. Despite a subpar bench, this team has plenty of talent. But this collection of personalities just doesn’t work for me. Kobe just seems like a bad, unsupportive teammate most of the time. He takes tough love to a whole other level. Andrew Bynum is a perpetual sourpuss who seems disconnected from any type of team unity. No one knows whether Metta World Peace or Ron Artest is going to show up at the arena; I think he has good intentions despite his many transgressions. There is a lot of mental and emotional baggage. Pau Gasol is underappreciated and under-utilized, which effects his productivity.

Expect some serious turnover in the off-season, but Mike Brown should be back. If they could make that Bynum for Dwight Howard swap, all could be saved in La La Land.

***

CONFERENCE FINALS

San Antonio Spurs (1) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (2)
Winner San Antonio Spurs
Series 4-3
Doc’s Orders This is the toughest series to predict because these have been the best two teams in the playoffs. I give the Spurs the edge because they have home court advantage, and their stunning recent dominance. As of this writing, the Spurs have won 19 consecutive games with an average margin of victory around 14 PPG. The truth is OKC is built a lot like Miami: Almost 80 PPG come from their three stars. No one in the league can stop Kevin Durant, but if you can bottle up Westbrook, Harden, or both, than you have a chance. Stopping the Spurs almost seems like plugging hole in a dam. You can’t really zero in on one guy because they get production from so many. This series will be as intriguing as it will be entertaining. It will be a treat to see the game get played as such a high level.
Doc’s Team I have a soft spot for these older teams. I think a Spurs-Boston match up would be just as great as a Miami-OKC Finals. Another ring would give Duncan one more over Shaq and seal his legacy as the best big man of his era. And the Thunder will be in the championship mix for the next decade. I’m rooting for San Antonio.

Miami Heat (2) vs Boston Celtics (3)
Winner Miami
Series 4-2
Doc’s orders These games should be fairly low scoring. If Miami’s Big Two keep playing at this Herculean level by averaging more than 60 PPG, Boston has no chance. Also, if Chris Bosh comes back in the series, Miami will get a huge boost emotionally and physically. But Boston has distinct advantages at the 1 and 5 in Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo, so those guys have to play lights out. Rondo especially has to dominate because Miami has no answer for him. It was Rondo who keyed the Celtics 2010 run. The big x-factor is Ray Allen. If he is knocking down shots, it could change the dynamic of the series. He was virtually non-existent against Philly.
Doc’s team I love this Boston team. I’ve never seen a team with more heart since my old Knicks teams from the ’90s. This is likely their group’s last chance to win a title. They have never faced a bigger challenge than this Heat team followed by the Thunder or Spurs in the Finals. I will be pulling for them, but they are outmatched. They will have to play like it is their last playoff. If they play how they did against Philly, they will get stomped.

-Doc Coyle, God Forbid

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Hoop Logic XI – Posted May 15th 2012 on Metalsucks.net

Hi ballerz and welcome to your MetalSucks Hoop Logic Round Two Preview! God Forbid guitarist/dashing stud Doc Coyle may have just wrapped a killer US tour with Overkill, Suidakra, and Diamond Plate, but it’s on with his NBA thinking cap and back to NBA work predicting the NBA post-season for you. But first, Doc pauses briefly to reflect on a unpredictable, kinda janky round one of this year’s ball battle for the O’Brien. So hey crank up Doc’s new album with God Forbid and get logicked! BOOM.

***

THE SWEEPS

Doc, any NBA fan would’ve predicted a series win for Oklahoma City Thunder. But please tell us how it became a sweep situation?

DOC: It was clear since the off-season that a repeat was unlikely for the Mavericks once they decided not to retain Tyson Chandler, the defensive anchor and emotional leader of their 2011 championship run. Still a very good team, the Mavs could not keep up with the Thunder, who many good NBA minds pick to win the Western Conference.

I didn’t think it would be a sweep, and the win could’ve gone to either team in their first two games. One whistle or bounce of the ball could have swung things in the Dallas’s favor, but it wasn’t meant to be. I think it’s also important to note that not every sweep or five-game closeout indicates that the series was not hard fought. OKC is clearly the better team, but I wouldn’t count the Mavs out for long. I expect them to come back re-tooled next season.

The Spurs’ sweep of the Jazz was less surprising. Just too much Tony Parker, right?

Too much everybody. The Spurs run an 11-player rotation, with very little drop off of talent or intensity. I’ve never even heard of that in the playoffs. Ginobili is even coming off the bench. Seems that this team runs the smoothest and most efficient offense in the NBA. Tim Duncan has stepped out of the Hot Tub Time Machine, and his team is actually healthy this year. I also am amazed how quickly new acquisitions Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw have blended into the rotation. Utah was overwhelmed. This round-two series against the Clippers will be telling about the Spurs’ contention.

Parker sets the tone; he has become dominant in a way I’ve never seen from him. He gets in the lane better than any point guard maybe besides Derrick Rose, and seems to create very easy shots for himself and his teammates. He will have to keep up the high level of output to match Chris Paul, who I think is the best PG in the league.

***
THE NEAR-SWEEPS

The Indiana Pacers fumbled away game one to the half-strength Orlando Magic. They didn’t make that mistake in games 2-5. Did David West and crew send a message via this series win?

DOC: I really do like this Indiana team. They are built like the last few good Indiana teams from the mid 90’s and 00’s: Strong defense, fundamentals, and great team balance. Roy Hibbert has proven to be an upper tier center in the traditional mold, Danny Granger holds it down as the team’s best all-around player and wing threat, and I’ve been very impressed by second-year man Paul George’s versatility and tenacity.

Given all that, I’m not sure they sent much of a message by beating an Orlando team that lost Dwight Howard to injury and barely escaped a locker room mutiny of soon-to-be ex-coach Stan Van Gundy. Without Howard, the Magic are probably less talented than even the Milwaukee Bucks (who missed the playoffs). Indiana’s mettle will be tested by the Miami Heat, who ran them over in the regular season. I expect a tough series, but ultimately for Miami to prevail in convincing fashion.

The wounded Knicks’ defeat by the imperfect-but-scary Heat was a certainty. But the Knicks did take Game 4 for their first post-season win in ages. What does that say about the Heat?

DOC: Not much. Everyone knew that Knicks F Carmelo Anthony would have one or two big time games, and Game 4 happened to be just that. Amar’e Stoudemire finally showed up and had a 20-10 game. The Knicks just played their hearts out and finally got one in an otherwise trampling of a series. But when they’re clicking, the Heat look unstoppable. They will be just fine.

The Knicks were stomped, but they never had a shot in hell of beating the Heat: Starting PG Jeremy Lin was out. Their All-Defensive Team candidate, rookie SG Iman Shumpert, went down in Game 1 with a torn ACL. Their center, Defensive Player of Year Tyson Chandler, was half a man for half the series due to a terrible bout of the flu. His back-up, Jarred Jefferies, was limited to 15 minutes a game due to knee problems. Then Stoudemire decided to fight a fire extinguisher harder than he did for rebounds against the Heat, which caused him to miss pivotal Game 3. Oh yeah, back-up PG Baron Davis suffered a potential career-ending knee injury in Game 4. I don’t think any team could have dealt with that, let alone against the Heat team that is expected to win it all. At full strength, this would have been a very competitive series.

***

THE HEARTBREAKERS

Coach Doug Collins’ Philadelphia 76ers benefitted more than any playoff team from good fortune: Their opponents, the league-best Chicago Bulls, lost their leader Derrick Rose, their hustler Joakim Noah, and their minds in a horrific series-ending misplay. Where do the 76ers deserve credit anyway?

DOC: These guys must have a four-leaf clover shoved up their ass. Even with Rose and Noah out, the Bulls had to do two of the most bone-headed post-season plays I have ever seen to give away Game 6 to the Sixers. I’m speaking of CJ Watson’s failure to dribble the clock out with 13 seconds left and a one-point lead, and then the Bulls’ sending five guys to crash the boards on a missed free throw that allowed Andre Iguodola a clear path to the rim.

So yes, the Sixers are lucky, but every team that has success in the post-season experiences good luck. It’s what they do with it and which Sixers team will show up: Is it the team that started 20-9? Or the team that almost cropped itself out of the playoff picture in April? I like this team because they play so hard and have great athleticism. Their youth and speed makes them a tough match up for Boston, but I expect the Celtics to pull it out in the end because of experience and proven go-to guys in crunch time, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

The Boston Celtics outfoxed another playoff team, Doc. would you chalk up their win over the sleepy Atlanta Hawks to coach Doc Rivers and to good team ethic?

That’s all part of it, but it’s just hard to keep this Boston team down. They just know how to win playoff basketball. Boston also got plenty of good fortune by Hawks F Josh Smith going down and not having to face athletic F Al Horford for a full series. This team goes as Rondo goes. If he is aggressive, stuffing the stat sheet, the Celtics are tough to beat. I also think Garnett needs to keep playing like a superstar for them to succeed. He has to have a 2011 Dirk Nowitzki type of post season for the Celts to have any chance of a title.

***

THE L.A. SEVENS

After the Lakers’ game seven win over the Nuggets, did you wonder why Bynum and Gasol hadn’t just played all awesome like that in Games 5 and 6?

DOC: If you are expecting consistency, than you haven’t been watching this Lakers team all year. Maybe because they already have won championships, there is a tendency for them to get complacent and overconfident. I’ve already expressed that I think Bynum is a total headcase, and Gasol just seems to be emotionally disconnected sometimes. They are great, but they aren’t superstars. Just stars. Shaq was expected to do it everyday, and 

Bynum and Gasol ain’t Shaq. Based on talent, the Lakers are near of the upper echelon in the NBA, but their mental discipline and team cohesion leave something to be desired.

We learned from the Clippers-Grizzlies series that Lakers C Andrew Bynum is only the second-biggest asspain in L.A.: Clippers stud Blake Griffin argues with officials more than he plays defense or executes offense. Are you surprised that the Clippers, despite Griffin’s limitations, toppled the high-energy Grizzlies?

DOC: The criticisms of Blake Griffin are overblown. No one has gotten fouled as hard as Blake since Shaq or, more recently, Dwight Howard. But he’s not nearly as big or strong as those guys. People need to keep in mind that he is a second-year player and shouldn’t be expected to have the refined game of a veteran. He’s still learning how to handle himself, and he has a giant target on his back because he’s the current NBA golden boy that regularly embarrasses grown ass men on SportsCenter every night.

I wouldn’t have been surprised about either team’s victory. This may be the most closely matched series we see for the rest of the playoffs. Memphis had the better top 6 guys with Gay, Conley, Allen, Gasol, Randolph, and Mayo and they were better defensively; the Clippers had two advantages though: Chris Paul, who was always the best player on the floor, and even with Paul, it was the Clipper bench that put them over. It was Nick Young, Eric Bledsoe, Reggie Evans, Kenyon Martin, and Mo Williams that pulled them out of the 24-pt deficit in Game 1, and that was the unit that stretched a slim lead to double digits in the fourth quarter of Game 7. The Clippers are enigmatic because they seem to win tons of tough games against good teams besides having several glaring flaws.

***

ROUND TWO

Oklahoma City Thunder (1) vs Los Angeles Lakers (3)
Winner Oklahoma City Thunder
Series 4-2
Doc’s orders As of this writing, the Lakers just got destroyed in Game 1, which was somewhat expected because of the lack of rest after a long Denver series. For the Lakers to have any shot, Gasol and Bynum have to play lights out, and they have to figure out some way to contain Westbrook and Harden. Durant will get his 30 regardless. If OKC’s big three average 70+ points, L.A. can order tickets to DisneyLand now.
Doc’s team It’s hard not to root for the Thunder. The Lakers are definitely the villains in this movie.

San Antonio Spurs (1) vs Los Angeles Clippers (5)
Winner Los Angeles Clippers
Series 4-3
Doc’s orders I’m going out on a limb with this one, but my gut tells me that L.A. can match San Antonio’s depth. They proved that they can play defense in the Memphis series, and they still have the best player on the court. The most intriguing second-round match-up.
Doc’s team I became a quiet fan of the this Clippers team when they signed Chauncey Billups, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Tim Duncan and co. get another title to cement their legacy.

Miami Heat (2) vs Indiana Pacers (3)
Winner Miami Heat
Series 4-1
Doc’s orders With Chris Bosh going down in Game 1, the Pacers have a chance. I think Bosh is very underrated. At a long 6’11, he’s their most undervalued defender. Now who will guard KG in the next round if the Celtics and Heat match up? Also, how can they replace the 15-20 points and 8-12 rebounds a night that Bosh provides? Indiana has to pound it inside through HIbbert and Danny Granger has to show up. This team goes as Granger goes.
Doc’s team I usually like the underdog, but it would be nice for LeBron to get a ring and silence the critics. Wanting people to fail is not in my wheelhouse.

Boston Celtics (5) vs Philadelphia 76ers (8)
Winner Boston Celtics
Series 4-3
Doc’s orders Philly matches up well against Boston because of their athleticism. The Celtics have to be true to their identity and execute down the stretch. Through two games, Boston has not played or shot particularly well. Their margin for error is much smaller than in years past.  It’s hard to gauge the Sixers, because I don’t really know who they are. But I don’t underestimate them.
Doc’s team Boston all the way. It’s their last chance at a title. I love this team because they seem to play in a very classic way or how I imagine the crisp Celtics dynasties of old carried themselves.

-Doc Coyle, God Forbid

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Hoop Logic X – Posted Apr. 30th 2012 on Metalsucks.net

Two Fridays ago, Doc Coyle and God Forbid kicked off their kickass tour with Diamond Plate, Suidakra, and headliners Overkill. So it’s easy for you, an NBA-loving metalhead, to forgive the Hoop Logic Playoff Preview for arriving here on day three of the post-season in progress. As you see, it’s worth the slight wait cuz Doc, master of NBA insights, and MetalSucks Senior Editor Anso DF play the age-old game of TR00 or False? with each top-seeded playoff contender. Which teams have a tr00 shot at championship glory, and which are posers who just waste everybody’s time? What do you think?

NOTE Due to the quirks of publishing schedules, these Doc-Anso exchanges took place prior to Derrick Rose’s season-ending knee injury. They’ll cry about that in the next Hoop Logic. Read on:

***

TR00 or FALSE? ORLANDO MAGIC

ADF: In the final weeks of the NBA regular season, shit got fucked up in the Magic Kingdom: It was alleged that superstar C Dwight Howard had asked Magic management to dispatch head coach Stan Van Gundy. And with a handful of games left to play, Howard announced his plans to undergo back surgery that will keep him out of action until next season (which one source reported as a veiled refusal to play for Van Gundy).

Doc, can the rest of the Magic suck it up and ball hard in the playoffs thanks to this break in the Van Gundy-Howard distractions? Do they have enough weapons without their big canon? Is this team TR00 or FALSE?

DOC: False with a capital Fucked.

Without Dwight Howard, the Orlando Magic is not a playoff team — they’re the Phoenix Suns without Steve Nash. Their playoff opponents, the Indiana Pacers, have a virtual bye to the second round; they will run over this squad.

I am not really sure what to make of the Dwight Howard/Van Gundy drama. The rumors that fly out of these situations never seem to amount to much more than baseless gossip. I never expected this to spiral this far out of control, but it doesn’t make any sense on the surface for Dwight to stay in town if he hated the coach. Dwight Howard is the second most important guy in Orlando next to Mickey Mouse. If he really wanted Van Gundy out, I’m sure management would have fired him early in the season. Especially since they were ready to do anything to keep Howard.

So the suggestion that Howard is faking or embellishing an injury just seems way too far-fetched to take seriously. And I think Stan Van Gundy probably should have been fired after the Magic were upset by the Hawks in last year’s playoffs. He is a good coach, but has worn out his welcome. His team peaked three years ago, and they need a change. Also, he was completely out of line talking to the press about Dwight Howard wanting him gone. I don’t blame D12 for giving up on the guy.

***

TR00 or FALSE? CHICAGO BULLS

Doc, we’ve talked about Chicago’s shortcomings on offense. But the team won nine of 14 games in which superstar guard Derrick Rose was nursing a bad groin. Then, when Rose finally returned in mid-April, he quickly exited again with a bad foot or something. Upon Rose’s return to awesomeness, the Bulls will go deep — but can they survive the playoffs’ first round at less-than-full strength? Are the Bulls TR00 or FALSE?

DOC: TR00ish.

The Bulls have played admirable while Derrick Rose has been on the shelf. They have depth, size, and perhaps the NBA’s best and most consistent work ethic.

But the postseason is different from the regular season. Final scores are lower and closer. Teams can scout better, then prepare better. A team’s depth is not as big of a factor because rotations shrink and games are separated by rest days. These games will come down to one or two plays, and if Derrick Rose is not fully healthy, Chicago doesn’t have the firepower to keep up with Miami.

***

TR00 or FALSE? LOS ANGELES LAKERS

ADF: Unlike the Magic and Bulls, the L.A. Lakers have been solving problems en route to the playoffs: Though Kobe Bryant sat for seven games with a shin issue, F Metta World Peace (fka Ron Artest) cranked up his leadership and his offense to match it. Meanwhile, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum got more touches in Bryant’s absence, leading to better balance and team chemistry. Also, the addition of G Ramon Sessions has invigorated the formerly-abysmal Lakers bench by putting Steve Blake back in his comfort zone as a sub. Considering a well-rested Bryant and key contributions from effort guys like Matt Barnes and Josh McRoberts, do you foresee a recently-unfathomable appearance by the Lakers in this year’s NBA finals? Should we consider the Lakers TR00 or FALSE?

DOC: TR00

On paper, the Lakers are a bona fide contender. They have one of the best players of all time still producing at a high level, arguably the two most skilled low-post seven-footers in the game, Ramon Sessions pumping new life into the backcourt, and championship pedigree.

But this Lakers team has more issues than Celebrity Rehab. Metta World Peace’s latest display of violence — a brutal elbow to the head of Oklahoma City Thunder G James Harden — will bench him for the first round of the playoffs. He was playing his best offensive basketball in years, and is their best on-the-ball defender. Not good.

I am convinced that Andrew Bynum is also a nutcase. Some of his statements are bafflingly misguiding and egotistical. It’s hard to believe that all of this turmoil and drama will lead to a team spirit that is conducive to winning. Kobe Bryant needs to get the troops in line for this to work. The Lakers are like that really hot chick who is a psychopath. Tempting, but beware.

***

TR00 or FALSE? BOSTON CELTICS and SAN ANTONIO SPURS

ADF: It’s been said that the playoff schedule favors old and creaky players like the superstars of the Celtics and the Spurs. But is rest all that’s needed for these teams to best big-boner foes like the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder, respectively? Is the threat of a wily, experienced team TR00 or FALSE?

DOC: TR00.

I believe that you truly can never count out teams that have won it all. We all know that both these teams have the heart, guts, and skill to win it all. The question is, do they have the legs?

Boston has gotten back into contention by having one of the best second-half records after moving Kevin Garnett to the five and moving G Avery Bradley into the starting line-up. It might be fool’s gold, but my main issue with Boston is their lack of size: They don’t have one true center on the roster, so big teams like Chicago and Indiana could eat them up. But I will never count out this Celtics team: Though a four seed in 2010, they went all the way to game seven of the NBA Finals. Anything can happen in the playoffs, and I expect upsets this year.

The Spurs had the best record in the West last year but got bounced by an eighth-seeded Grizzlies team. That defeat has hurt the Spurs’ credibility. Of course, their regular-season record and consistent, dominant play put them at the top of the contenders list among Miami, Chicago, and OKC. This is team will have to at least reach the Western Conference finals to prove that last year’s post-season breakdown was a fluke. We should point out that Spurs G Tony Parker has been unstoppable this year and San Antonio’s young guys are great. I also love the late-season pickups of Boris Diaw and Stephen Jackson; those gritty guys fit like a glove. Gregg Popovich is the coach of the year … maybe every year.

***

TR00 or FALSE? LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

ADF: The other L.A. team was nearly pronounced DOA in March — but then tore off 13 wins in 15 games, including some real blood-and-guts efforts down the stretch. Doc, do you agree that Blake Griffin’s offense is one-dimensional, that Caron Butler is dangerously uneven, that injured PG Chauncey Billups is desperately missed, and that C DeAndre Jordan is probably a non-factor in high-impact playoff basketball? Or is the idea that anything is possible with Chris Paul? TR00 or FALSE?

DOC: False.

I love this Clippers team, but I love their potential even more than their reality right now. Chris Paul is a BEAST. He is the best true point guard in the league, and has that cunning, controlled steady-of-hand that’s possessed also by guys like Steve Nash and Jason Kidd. He plays his best ball in the post-season and is as clutch as any NBA player.

I also love Blake Griffin. I’ve never seen a 20-10 guy who shoots better than 50% get so much crap about his flaws in his second year. Mo Williams coming off the bench is great and they have solid role players. That’s the good stuff.

What I don’t like is that the Clippers’ below-average defense. That will not get it done in the playoffs. Caron Butler is not the player he once was; he can’t seem to hit open jumpers consistently or make plays off the dribble. Coach Vinny Del Negro does not seem to be a championship-caliber leader who can inspire or strategize on both sides of the ball. And all of the above would be irrelevant if G Chauncey Billups was healthy: CB4 and CP3 in the same backcourt was deadly and unique. Skill, smarts, and experience squared. Nick Young is a nice young piece, but he can’t replace Chauncey. They won’t be able to overcome the top teams out West.

***

TR00 or FALSE? OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER and MIAMI HEAT

ADF: Doc, is it most likely that the Thunder and Heat will meet in the NBA Finals? How do these squads match up? Might we agree that one team surrounds two high-mileage/high-output superstars with a grab bag of mediocrity, and the other runs three young scorebots amid a posse of angry studs who don’t conceal their throbbing hard-ons for blocks and boards? Which team has the edge in the post-season? Which mega-team is TR00 and which is FALSE?

DOC: Both TR00.

Expect these teams to meet in the Finals. LeBron is the best player in the league. Kevin Durant is the second best. D-Wade and Russell Westbrook are top-10 players at least. And you won’t find better third wheels in the league than Chris Bosh and James Harden. OKC is a more complete team, but they aren’t without big problems: turnovers. Miami has the experience edge, and the chip on their shoulder after having blown last year’s opportunity.

I expect Miami to win the championship this year, but again I state that anything can happen. Down the stretch, Miami didn’t play well, but I bet that was mostly because of boredom and a concern for resting key players. I expect the return of the well-oiled Miami we saw in the first half of the season. Miami — and mainly LeBron — have to win this year, for every year that LeBron fails to win his first championship, the albatross around his neck gets heavier and his accomplishments seem diminished. I believe that desperation will carry them through.

These are the most athletic teams in the league. A finals showdown would make for one of the most entertaining championships in recent memory. I really hope it happens, but if any team can beat Miami, it’s the Thunder. Hold on to your seats, people!

-Doc Coyle, God Forbid

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Hoop Logic IX – Posted Apr. 6th 2012 on Metalsucks.net

With the post-season just weeks away, NBA gameplay gains a cacophonous roar. Every tip, deflection, and turnover matters. Within each breakaway lies the seeds of hard fouls and flared tempers. A twisted ankle could destroy a team’s championship bid. So we say fuck March Madness — this is NBAnarchy.

It’s hard to keep up, but join MetalSucks’ Hoop Logic with God Forbid guitarist/Knicks fan Doc Coyle and ne’er will you be lost in the din. This week, just try to keep your boobz and ballz calm as Doc boldly launches himself beyond Xs and Os and into the psychology of being traded, the boner battles inside the Lakers, the super-fail of the Think B4 You Speak campaign, and the latest altitude drop for Knicks fans.

***

ITEM 1 NEW YORK KNICKS: THE RIDE

What an emotional rollercoaster for Knicks fans: Last season, the
 Raymond Felton-Amar’e Stoudemire pick-and-roll game yielded the most
 Knicks success in a decade; then the Felton-Stoudemire tandem was 
dismantled in a February trade for Carmelo Anthony, and the Knicks 
limped to a crappy conclusion of a once-promising season. Despite the
 additions of G Baron Davis and awesome C Tyson Chandler, crappiness
 continued this season until Lin-sanity, in which the hobbled Knicks
 were rescued by the unlikely heroics of the NBA’s only Asian-American
 and only Harvard alum; then, the return of injured Carmelo Anthony 
coincided with a six-game losing streak.

But the departure of head
 Coach Mike D’Antoni was followed by a run of nine wins in 11 games;
 but now, as the Knicks cling to a small lead over the Milwaukee Bucks
 for the final Eastern conference playoff spot, it’s announced that F 
Amar’e Stoudemire is out for four weeks (back) and G Jeremy Lin for 
six weeks (knee surgery). Holy shit, Doc — some teams can’t catch a 
break; the Knicks can’t stop catching breaks, good and bad! Are you
 freaking out? Should the Knicks organization start including Xanax
 with ticket sales?

DOC: This Knicks team has had the most turbulent season I have ever heard of, and although there have been some stretches of terrible basketball, the ebb and flow of the season has been very exciting. You certainly can’t accuse this team of being boring.

At this moment, I think the Knicks have probably a 50-50 chance of making the playoffs. These injuries could not have come at a worse time. The loss of Lin is much more damaging than that of Stoudemire because You can make a case that Carmelo Anthony plays better without the latter; his scoring usually increases in Stoudemire’s absence. You can make a case also that the Knicks’ defense will be much improved once Jarred Jefferies (knee) returns from injury next week; Stoudemire is the team’s worst defender by far.

But by losing Lin, the Knicks don’t have their best penetrator and distributor — plus the one thing all teams need late in the season: young legs. Now carrying the load at point guard is Baron Davis, who battles lingering back and hamstring injuries, questionable conditioning, and his outside-shooting touch — and is roughly as turnover-prone as Lin. Sure, Lin is not a great defender, but improved under Woodson and at least he has quickness. Davis could get eaten alive by younger, quicker guards.

The biggest concern is the timing of these injuries: The final games of the Knicks’ schedule is extremely tough, while the Bucks close the season against weaker teams. The Knicks play the Magic, the Bulls (back-to-back), the Heat, the Celtics, Bucks, Hawks, and Clippers in the final stretch. To make the playoffs, the Knicks will have to at very least split these games and sweep the contests against the weaker opponents. If the Knicks do squeeze into the playoffs, they will need an effective Amar’e Stoudemire on the court, especially if they face the Bulls or Heat, which seems inevitable at this point.

So, it has been a crazy year, but it makes things more fun that the Knicks are playing hard, and that every game counts. There’s more of an underdog element there in spite of their pre-season hype and star power. Their season actually mirrors the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants season to this point, which obviously ended in storybook fashion. I will sound like an idiot if they don’t make the playoffs, but this is going to be fun either way.

***

ITEM 2 ODOM!? THEY DAMN NEAR KILLED HIM!!

Last week, F Lamar Odom finally began to show signs of life after a 
despairingly crappy first three months with the Dallas Mavericks. Doc,
 your awesome band God Forbid has had experience with an 
emotionally-charged change in personnel, so can you explain how a guy 
like Odom might return to excellence after his unhappy departure from 
the Lakers?

DOC: Without inside knowledge of what’s going on with Lamar Odom, it is very difficult to get a good read on this situation. I remember hearing an Odom interview with ESPN analyst and talk show host Stephen A. Smith right after he thought he was traded to New Orleans (in the deal for Chris Paul that was later voided), and he sounded like a broken, devastated man. He was crushed.

I don’t think people really understand how difficult it can be to get traded. Part of me thinks that it is somewhat inhumane, and for some reason I draw a correlation between professional sports and a very highly-paid slave trade. I know bringing up those type of issues can be dicey, but I don’t mean it in a way to race-bait or make it racial; trades happen in most professional team sports, even those that are not predominantly black like the NBA. It’s just that there isn’t much precedent in any professional field outside of the military where people can be shipped anywhere. The practice of player-trading treats these people like expendable commodities — not like people.

I suppose it could carry the same weight as being divorced or kicked out of a band or anything that can result in a kind of abandonment. Head-shrinking from a distance seems foolish, but I suppose Odom is dealing with some of these issues, and it’s affected his performance. I hope he can learn to move on. It’s something we all have to do. We all deal with loss or change that is perceived as negative at first. It’s a cliché, but if you can make it through the tough part, you always come out a stronger, wiser person. I feel for him, and wish him well. He’s a good guy.

***

ITEM 3 BROWN’S BENCH FOR BRYANT AND BYNUM

It was perceived last week that first-year Los Angeles Lakers head
 coach Mike Brown had removed megastar G Kobe Bryant and C Andrew
Bynum, respectively, from close games at vital times. Disregarding 
Brown’s intention — which we may never know — how do you view these
 moves? Do you agree that Bryant’s love of low-percentage shots often
 stifles the potent Lakers offense, and that Bynum should never attempt 
three-point shots — least of all against a small team that’s 
defenseless against his post game?

DOC: Andrew Bynum better pray to the basketball gods that his knees hold up for at least another five or so years, because he is digging himself a reservoir of bad mojo with his horrific attitude. True, Bynum is having a dominant, breakout season. We are finally seeing him fulfill the potential that was touted for years, and he has become the second-best center in the NBA — behind Dwight Howard — and has a better skill-set on offense than even Howard.

The problem is that he is feeling himself a little too much. He has hobbled and coasted to two rings on the backs of Kobe and former coach Phil Jackson, and feels that he has carte blanche to do whatever the fuck he wants because he made one All-Star game. This smells eerily like Stephon Marbury-type of behavior. Bynum needs to grow up and get it together, because a megalomaniacal asshole is only tolerated when producing at a very high level.

Kobe, on the other hand, has earned the right to take “bad” shots. His resume is that of one of the top five or ten players to ever play basketball. In his 16th season, Kobe leads the NBA in scoring, and can still do things that only a few other guys in the league can. He is shooting around 43%, which is low for him, but Kobe is a very smart player. He has a tendency to play hero-ball when he feels like there is no one else to do it, and much of the time, he is right to: The Lakers bench has been summarily decimated since their last championship in 2010 (much like their counterpart in the East, the Celtics). They lost key contributors Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza, and Shannon Brown. Left with marginal replacements like Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy, Kobe has done what he deemed necessary to keep the Lakers afloat. Sometimes it’s to the detriment to the team, but if anyone deserves the leeway, it’s Kobe Bryant.

What we’re really seeing with the Lakers is coach Mike Brown doing his best to earn this team’s respect. Few people that can replace Phil Jackson without seeming unimpressive by comparison. Kobe, Pau, and Bynum have rings; Mike Brown doesn’t. He has to prove himself to them, not the other way around. This can be a very difficult proposition, especially with an Alpha dog like Kobe. I’ve never been a big fan of Mike Brown for anything but his defensive acumen. He has to be like a prison inmate: Beat up the biggest guy on the first day to show everyone he’s not a punk. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Maybe that was the significance of benching his two stars.

***

http://youtu.be/Nasp3euSqjM

ITEM 4 THINK B4 YOU SPEAK ABOUT THINKING B4 YOU SPEAK

NBA game TV viewers are probably familiar with a recent anti-hate
 speech spot called Think B4 You Speak (above). Aimed at young ballers, the spot is right on-target at first,
 but ends up sailing wide of the mark: Its young, relatable trash-talkers are 
joined by Suns forwards Grant Hill and Jared Dudley (at :16), two of the NBA’s 
least “cool” players whom no kid would hesitate to defy. And they
 describe insensitive use of the word “gay” as “not creative” and
 “offensive to gay people”; that first part is a head-scratcher, and 
the second should probably be expanded to “offensive to all people.”
 And if we really nitpick, Hill’s use of the words “dumb” and “stupid” — 
the former once a common synonym for “mute” and the latter for 
”mentally dim” — sends a mixed message about acceptable language. Doc,
 is this a public-service air ball? Shall you and I launch a better 
campaign called “Don’t Be An Asshole When Talking Shit”?

DOC: I may piss some people off with my view on this issue, so I apologize in advance if I offend anyone. I am a bit torn on using the word “gay” to describe something as being corny or unfavorable.

First off, I can totally understand how a gay person would not want their sexual preference to be a synonym for “wackness.” I do have empathy. I was politely chastised by a gay woman friend of mine for speaking this way a couple years ago. This was the first time it dawned on me that it was perhaps offensive to gay people. At first, I was embarrassed because I felt oblivious. But than after thinking about it for a while, I realized the reason I was so oblivious was that I never associated calling a Good Charlotte song “gay” with actual gay people. I suppose I’m compartmentalizing, but it’s true. As far as I was concerned, it was two different usages for the same word.

And I know that it’s childish to speak that way, but the truth is I am extremely anti-homophobia. To hear the word “faggot” makes me sick to my stomach, because it is usually coupled with venomous intent. I’ve had a dozen conversations pointing out the ignorance and simple-mindedness of this language to overcompensating, insecure male friends of mine who make shitty homophobic comments or slurs. My issue is with intent, not words.

What bothers me about the Think B4 You Speak campaign is activist political correctness and the constant policing of language. I am a huge fan of George Carlin. I consider the man to be the preeminent philosopher and social commentator of our time, although he is no longer with us. One of his main themes is society’s continued progression to euphemistic language that removes the balls and truth from words. Using the word “gay” to describe a crappy, romantic comedy is not my Alamo, so I will more than likely follow the herd and refrain from using it to be a considerate citizen.

But our different social groups — black, white, gay, Muslim, atheist, republican, liberal, disabled, fat, skinny, ugly, stupid, or whomever group you represent — need to stop sitting around waiting to be offended. I thought that Don Imus shit was actually funny, and I generally think he’s corny as hell. Rush Limbaugh is one of the worst humans on the planet, but he shouldn’t have to be worried about being fired for saying stupid, crazy shit. As for Tracy Morgan … um … well, maybe he went over the line, hehe.

I just wish that people weren’t so sensitive and eager to nail themselves to a cross as a result of a perceived injustice. If everyone cries wolf, we won’t know real offense or injustice when it actually occurs. I understand that vernacular evolves with time, but spots like Think B4 You Speak seem forced, heavy-handed, and to be frank, they have become annoying. I can’t imagine there were messages on TV every five minutes in the ’60s explaining that Colored people would like to be called Negroes — then one in the ’70s saying that Negroes would like to be called Black, and then one in the ’80s saying that Black people prefer the term African-American. In 2012, it’s ”Oh, hold that. Can you please call us Black again?” I’m sure “Pigment-Enriched Humans” is next.

All I’m saying is times will change if you just let them. Let’s all chill out and watch some ball! Playoffs soon baby!!!!

-Doc Coyle, God Forbid

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Hoop Logic VIII – Posted Mar. 30th 2012 on Metalsucks.net

In last week’s Hoop Logic Trade Deadline Aftermath super-special God Forbid guitarist Doc Coyle breaks down the many moves of NBA contenders and rebuilders. But as we enter the final month of the regular season — each team has around 15 games to play — our Hoop Logic focus returns to on-court action and the scramble for post-season position. Just days after the release of God Forbid ‘s newest classic, Equilibrium (get it), Doc returns to talk us through key injuries, record-setting coaches, hard fouls that (God forbid!) lead to serious injury, and more. The guy knows everything. Read on.

***

ITEM 1 JUST SAY THE WORD: RU-RU-RUBIO

On March 9, playoff hopeful Minnesota Timberwolves took a brutal blow to the gonads when star G Ricky Rubio suffered a season-ending injury. Awful since 2005, his team had been heating up, but now has lost seven of 11 games since Rubio’s exit. What does the Doc Coyle crystal ball foretell for Minnesota’s post-season dreams?

DOC: There’s always next year. The T-Wolves were a bubble team all season, and with the stiff competition out West, the post season is always about teams playing well down the stretch. The loss of Rubio is just too big of an obstacle. And for a young team, there’s a mental impact of losing a star player. If their confidence suffers, they lose momentum, and Minnesota still hasn’t proven that they can win without Rubio. And don’t forget that starting C Nikola Pekovic — a double-double machine really solidifying their middle — has been missing games with a bad ankle. So they have issues besides Rubio that even F Kevin Love can’t solve, even if he’s proving to be the best power forward in the NBA.

Actually I was surprised that Minnesota did not make a move at the trade deadline to flip Michael Beasley or Luke Ridnour for a point guard to enable a playoff push. But it seems that T-Wolves leadership is being conservative and thinking long-term, which I suppose is smart. If they don’t make the playoffs, they get a nice pick in what is projected to be the deepest draft in a decade next year. They will have a very young core, and pieces if they want to make trades. If Rubio can come back healthy next year, this team has a very bright future. Rubio/Love could be the Stockton/Malone for this generation.

***

ITEM 2 TOM THIBODEAU: FUTURE KING OF COACHES?

With a win over the Orlando Magic last week, Chicago Bulls’ Tom Thibodeau set a new record for quickest NBA head coach to 100 wins. Part of the second-year helmer’s success is his stock of top talent like G Derrick Rose, but still, many are in awe of Tibs’ smarts and leadership. Is he destined for the stature of gurus Phil Jackson and Pat Riley?

DOC: I wouldn’t start the Hall of Fame ceremony yet, but there is no denying Thibodeau’s ability to get his team to play hard for 48 minutes every night. The Bulls’ team defense is suffocating and unrelenting to the point that even on a tough scoring night, they give themselves a chance to win. Their 13-5 record without MVP Derrick Rose is a testament to consistency. It’s incredible. In one week’s span they beat East contenders Miami, Philly, and Orlando — without their best player.

He’s not of a Riley or Jackson pedigree until he gets a couple championship rings, but his chances are great to do that in the next few years. To me, Tibs is more in like Spurs head coach Greg Popovich: Each gets a crew of non-big name players to perform at a high level. Each is an excellent scout and can maximize talent; bench guys like John Lucas III come out of nowhere and drop 20 points on you. Same thing with the Spurs’ undrafted or second-round gems like Danny Green or Travis Neal who pop up and can ball for real.

I do have one gripe with Tom Thibodeau: He works his team so hard and their discipline is so sharp that, in a way, the Bulls’ regular season record exaggerates how good the team really is. In the post-season, the opposing team is playing just as hard, can scout you in a detailed way, and has the talent to match, so Chicago can be beaten. Especially when they are struggling to score. It’s not really a knock on the coach, but maybe an indication that he does such a good job in the regular season, he has overstretched the Bulls’ expectations.

***

ITEM 3 FISH STORY

On Trade Deadline day, longtime Lakers G Derek Fisher was traded to the Houston Rockets, but chose not to report to the team. Days later, it was announced that he and the Rockets had agreed on a so-called ”buyout,” and on Wednesday Fisher joined the Oklahoma City Thunder. I’m totally unclear on how this works: The Rockets expressed that they wanted him, but a player like Fisher can kinda refuse to join a team to which he’s been traded? And that team gets stuck with a bill and less return on their trade? Doc, can you shed some light on this?

DOC: Derek Fisher was bought out of his contract. The way this works: If a player in the last year or last couple years of his deal is dissatisfied with his team, or the team needs to waive him because of diminishing skills, the team and player can negotiate a buyout usually at around 50% of the original deal. The terms have to be agreed upon by both parties.

In this case, it worked in Houston’s favor in that they ended up saving half of Fisher’s pro-rated salary from this year and next year’s salary. They also save that money against the cap to the tune of around $2 million.  I don’t think Derek Fisher is the player that puts Houston over the hump to make the playoffs this year, nor does he fit their future at age 37.

You see deals like this with older players who are much more effective on high-level teams, and some of these guys would rather retire than play on struggling team. Remember Chauncey Billups threatened retirement at the start of the season if he was claimed by an undesirable team, after he was amnestied by the Knicks? And the Spurs signed Boris Diaw last week after his buyout by the Bobcats, so this is fairly common.

There is a chance that Houston suspected that Fisher would do this and made the trade to free up cap space. Keep in mind, trades have to match money-wise, so this may have been Houston’s strategy all along. The Lakers should be worried though because Fisher gives OKC, their biggest threat, some championship experience. I can picture him hitting some big shots in the playoffs as payback for being jettisoned.

***

ITEM 4 GUILTY OF FOULING BLAKE?

New Orleans Hornets rookie Jason Smith was ejected from a March 22 game against the L.A. Clippers for a hard foul on superstar dunkbot Blake Griffin. The next day, it was announced that Smith would be suspended an additional two games. Even Smith issued a lengthy apology, but is this punishment too stiff? Does it send a message, purposefully or not, that there are special protections for NBA revenue mines like Griffin?

DOC: Frankly, I think Smith’s suspension should’ve been for five games. This is not the NFL, NHL or MMA. NBA Basketball is not about hurting people. Every time a player leaves his feet to go to the basket, that player is in danger of having a bad fall or collision that could lead to serious injury. And if you haven’t noticed, I’ll tell you that these fellas jump really, really high. They come down hard, and can land on their head, back, or tailbone. It’s scary and plays like this make me sick.

Don’t get me wrong. I love tough, physical defense like the old Pistons and Knicks teams from the late ’80s and early ’90s. But there is a difference between a tough basketball foul while making a play on the ball and a move designed to hurt or intimidate someone. In the latter, it seems like having been outclassed, the fouler takes a cheap shot because he can’t compete on a level playing field. It reminds me a bit of that play in the 1984 playoffs when Celtics F Kevin McHale clotheslined Kurt Rambis of the Lakers. That’s considered a classic play, but I don’t think there is a place for it. What if someone gets paralyzed, brain damaged, or killed?

Players are tired of Blake Griffin dunking on them. Tough shit. Play better defense. It’s a pussy move in my opinion, and I think the penalties should be very stiff to discourage plays like this.

–Doc Coyle, God Forbid

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Hoop Logic Volume VII – Posted Mar. 20th 2012 on Metalsucks.net

So, you just saw God Forbid guitarist Doc Coyle wielding an axe in his band’s new video for super-jam “Where We Come From” and in these rad live pics. You’re pumped for God Forbid’s forthcoming Equilibrium record (pre-order here) and for their April-May tour with fucking Overkill. And now, you’re reading Coyle’s breakdown of the many movements leading up to last week’s NBA trade deadline in this week’s Hoop Logic Trade Deadline Aftermath Special! It’s great to be you! 

ITEM 1 
In February, phenom Jeremy Lin led the ailing New York Knicks back to a .500
 record, winning eight of nine games without injured star F Carmelo 
Anthony. Upon Anthony’s return, the Knicks lost eight of their next 
ten. Then coach Mike D’antoni resigned on Wednesday; reports pointed 
to friction between D’Antoni and Anthony, and Knicks stars Baron Davis, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Lin expressed displeasure with the
 change. What do you make of this, Doc? Has Anthony pushed out their
coach and alienated his teammates?

Doc: This is a situation where I don’t think anyone is “wrong”. D’Antoni got the short end of the stick in that an upper-tier coach never should have been hired for those first two dismantle/rebuild years. Losing is not good for your psyche, so by last season, when he got the horses he needed to truly run his system, they blew it up mid-way through the year to get Carmelo Anthony. D’Antoni’s system was working when he had the right components, and both he and GM Donnie Walsh were against giving up so much for Carmelo. All in all, their instincts were probably right to have waited until the off-season to acquire Anthony. But owner James Dolan took over negotiations and usurped his GM and Coach’s authority, which ultimately lead to Walsh’s resignation. D’Antoni didn’t really want Melo, or at least not at the high cost because Melo just isn’t the type of player that fits into his system.

But D’Antoni had enough talent to at least be respectable. His Knicks team was expected to be at least in the middle of the playoff pack, so it was too much to bear to fall seven games under .500 once, and then drop six games in a row after Linsanity cooled down. At that point, it seemed like the Knicks wouldn’t play hard for him, and the time for excuses was over: He finally had a point guard to run the system (Lin, Davis), two starters from last year’s All-Star game (Melo, Amar’e), a center fresh off a championship (Tyson Chandler), and one of the deepest benches in the league. I don’t think he utilized his talent in the best way, nor was willing to bend his system enough and to force the team to work hard enough on defense.

I think D’Antoni was doomed from the start — because of the Melo trade, the lockout-shortened season with little training camp or practices, and the key injuries. In the end, he was a defeated man, and change was needed, but I do feel for him because I think he can be effective in a more suitable situation.

***

ITEM 2 
Assistant coach Mike Woodson will lead the Knicks the rest of this 
season. As a Knicks fan, who do you want for head coach duties next
season? Rumored candidates include retired guru Phil Jackson and
 super-coach/ESPN commentator Jeff Van Gundy.

Doc: As of this writing, the Knicks are 3-0 with wins over the floundering Trailblazers by 42 and the very good Indiana Pacers in back-to-back contests. The team looks renewed, but I am not willing to call it a 180-degree turnaround yet. There are a few things I do like about Woodson that I think fit this squad more than D’Antoni:

1. He plans to run the offense more though Amar’e and Melo, and in deeper position on the block and in the post. I don’t see why a team would pay these guys $20 million a year but not use them as marquee players. They combined to average 51 points a game last year and I’m tired of Melo getting the ball behind the 3-point arc. I want some of that physical “bully ball” he was famous for. I also want Amar’e taking it to the rim — not shooting 20 footers. His explosion seems to be coming back.

2. Woodson is a tough coach, unafraid to get in a player’s grill, chew someone out for missing a defensive assignment, or pull someone out of the game for poor effort. Guys like Melo and JR Smith will walk all over a coach who isn’t tough like a substitute teacher; Woodson will command this group’s respect.

3. Woodson is a defense-first coach and that is what you need to win playoff games in this league. And that’s what you need to compete in the Eastern conference, traditionally a tougher, more defense-oriented conference. Leave that finesse in the West. Marcy Projects son! WHAT!?!

As for next year: Phil Jackson seems like a pipe dream. I would love to see him in New York, but his health concerns me. And bringing him to NYC would likely be another Pat Riley situation: He made the Knicks an instant contender, but not enough to take down Michael Jordan; likewise, Phil Jackson can’t conquer Lebron, Wade, and Bosh in Miami.

The return of Jeff Van Gundy would be great because he’s a true New York coach who can handle the backlash in this city. But my money is on Woodson staying.

***

ITEM 3 

Dwight Howard announced in a press conference on Thursday that he’ll
waive his option for free agency after all, and will remain with the
 Orlando Magic for at least another full season. Have you ever
 witnessed a more bullshit-filled press conference, my man? Beneath all 
the talk of “loyalty” and “family,” wasn’t Howard’s subtext basically 
”No trade offer was good enough, and no team would let a superstar
 drift into free agency and get nothing in return, so I’m stuck here in
 Orlando a bit longer”?

Doc: I don’t think that was the case. Howard is a nice guy who didn’t want to be a villain. And the Orlando Magic is still a pretty damn good team, so there’s no logic in asking to be traded to the New Jersey Nets — who won’t contend for the playoffs til next year anyway. I also think Dwight is very indecisive — he seemed to go back-and-forth on wanting to leave — and has a lot of people in his ear telling him to different things.

At the end of the day, Howard didn’t want to be a Shaq copycat by leaving Orlando for L.A., and for some reason he didn’t want to go to the Bulls. I don’t understand that, so I’m unsure of Dwight’s acumen for picking a “winner.” For the future, a lot will depend on Orlando’s playoff performance. Orlando has a chance to upset Miami because of their lack of size up front, so time will tell. Otherwise, we will be going through this drama again in another year. That means more bullshit speculation from ESPN’s Chris Broussard and his “sources.”

 Yippee!

***

ITEM 4 The Golden State Warriors solved their redundancy problem by trading
one of their high-impact guards, Monta Ellis, to the Milwaukee Bucks 
for injured, underachieving C Andrew Bogut. Doc, can you take us 
through each side of this deal? The Bucks are more powerful now,
 right? What do you expect from the Warriors this season and next?

Doc: The word on Golden State is that new coach Mark Jackson and Monta Ellis did not get along. Ellis has been on the trading block for a while now, and his prolific scoring might be empty calories since it has not led to wins. Like you said, Steph Curry’s presence essentially made Monta expendable. And Golden State has been clamoring for a center like Bogut since the off-season striking out with Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan, and now Dwight Howard. The problem now is that your two best players, Bogut and Curry, are extremely injury-prone, which scares me, but their upside is huge. But very few deals like this come without risk, and with their chances to make the playoffs this year being nonexistent, the change makes good sense to me.

On the Bucks side, I think it’s an issue of Bogut’s inability to stay healthy. Because they are right in the playoff hunt, Ellis’ firepower certainly can’t hurt. He’s very talented and useful to the right team, kind of like a more explosive version of Lou Williams or Jamal Crawford. If you could get him to be a more committed defender, his value goes up even more. Unfortunately, I think with Ellis and Brandon Jennings in the same backcourt, you kind of get the guard version of Melo and Amar’e in New York: Jennings and Ellis are both undersized, hold on to the ball a lot, and take a lot of low-percentage shots. So I am very curious to see how this will work. The one thing I like about the deal is that now you have insurance if Brandon Jennings becomes a free agent in 2013 as he has hinted.

***

ITEM 5 The Portland Trail Blazers are now in rebuilding mode, having just
 dealt inconsistent F Gerald Wallace and aged C Marcus Camby, and 
having parted ways with coach Nate McMillan. Did you foresee this
 disastrous season for such a talented, well-balanced, and well-coached 
team? Is it that players are reeling from the off-season loss of star 
G Brandon Roy and the loss of number-one overall pick C 
Greg Oden? Seriously what the fuck?

It is really hard to figure out this Portland situation. Things were going bad quickly and they made big changes, but it’s not a true blow-up or rebuilding situation. If guards Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton got shipped out as well, than okay, that’s a dismantling. Both were on the block though, so maybe I’m reading this wrong. And Nate McMillan lost his team mentally and a mutiny was in tow. I saw the 42 point loss to the Knicks (McMillan’s last game), and it was probably the worst effort I’ve seen in an NBA team game, so things were very, very bad.

I am not chalking up their poor play to Brandon Roy’s retirement or the demise of Greg Oden. Neither of those guys was a true factor last year outside of Roy’s heroics in game four comeback in that series against the would-be champion Mavericks. Plus, the Blazers started out the year great. I don’t follow them super close, but they have some nice young pieces like Nic Batum, Wesley Matthews, and All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge – and they get a great lottery pick from the Nets in the Gerald Wallace deal. Portland never stays bad for long thanks to one of the best front offices in the NBA. I expect good things down the line.

***


ITEM 6 Of the other notable trades — Nene for McGee, Sessions for
 Walton/Kapono, Fisher for Hill, Sixers pick up Sam Young, Jackson 
for Jefferson — which teams are positioned to improve the most?

Doc: In the short term, the Lakers have plugged a giant hole at point guard and got some much needed youth and quickness in Ramon Sessions. I am not sure what Jordan Hill brings to the table, but overall the Lakers are in a better position to compete out West where all of the top teams boast a high-caliber point guard. I wish they had been able to swing the Michael Beasley deal because their bench is still suspect. Derek Fisher is a true professional and champion, so it kinda sucks to see him go out like that. He just got waived by Houston, so he may end up on a contender somewhere.

In the long term, you really have to look at the Denver Nuggets trading Nene to Washington for Javale McGee. According to reports, Denver was looking to trade Nene all along after re-signing him. By doing so, they got younger and saved a bunch of money in the meantime. They also got very lucky in the emergence of impressive rookie big man Kenneth Faried, who made Nene more expendable. Now, Javale McGee is a bit of an enigma, but has great potential and athleticism. Maybe being around a more stable, talented group and a great coach like George Karl will get him on track. Denver also just inked Wilson Chandler to five-year deal, so things are looking up.

-Doc Coyle, God Forbid

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Hoop Logic Volume VI – Posted Mar. 8th 2012 on Metalsucks.net

NBA All-Star weekend provided lots of thrills and laughs — and at least one broken nose — but now it’s back to the marathon race to an NBA championship, and its  pace intensifies with every score, steal, and rolled ankle. Some teams will lunge for the lead, others will be trampled under foot, and still others will limp to the nearest bench. MetalSucks’ NBA expert and Knicks superfan Doc Coyle, guitarist of awesome God Forbid, takes senior editor/Lakers apologist Anso DF through the wild start of the season’s second half.

ITEM 1 Earlier this week, NBA analyst Ric Bucher sparked a firestorm of criticism after suggesting that the Lakers trade mega-star Kobe Bryant. Wow, right?

I am going to chalk these comments up to an attempt by Bucher to grab headlines. I’d have to imagine that for a member of the sports media, which essentially moved online in a minute-by-minute, play-by-play, Twitter-fueled blog-Fest, you are in competition with every other NBA beat writer out there for the limelight.

I’m going to assume his claim was pure bluff because trading Kobe Bryant would be FUCKING STUPID! Kobe isn’t as good as Michael Jordan, but he’s the best we’ve had since MJ in terms of accomplishment, style of play, and ambition. Jordan won his sixth NBA championship at age 35, and retired for the second time at the end of that season. Kobe is 33 years old, leads the league in scoring, plays through injuries like the Terminator, remains the best closer in basketball, and shows no signs of slowing down.

The fact is the Lakers made a giant blunder by trading Lamar Odom without getting back some more youth and scoring off the bench or at least a serviceable point guard in return. Derek Fisher’s age has begun to show, and Metta World Peace is a liability on offense. They are the most top-heavy team in the league, but it’s a hell of a top. A team with Kobe Byrant and two of the NBA’s top five seven-footers always will be competitive. And there is still a chance to land Dwight Howard, but the Lakers likely would have to give up Bynum and Gasol.

I would not move Gasol unless I get something amazing in return. That abortive off-season deal for Kevin Martin and Luis Scola will not do. Thrown in Kyle Lowry with Scola, and we may be talking. There have also been talks about landing Timberwolves F Michael Beasley — that would be amazing. The Lakers would immediately get a young guy who can create his own shot and contribute 12-20 points nightly. As the Wolves have a surplus at the forward spot, and he doesn’t fit in their future plans, I hope the Lakers land him.

***

ITEM 2 In the offseason, the Bulls landed a major scoring threat and defensive stopper in Rip Hamilton. But his tenure with Chicago so far is marked by nagging injury and little assimilation into his new team’s system. If Hamilton’s issues persist, do the Bulls have enough offense to match the Miami Heat?

No, they don’t. For the Bulls to even have a shot, Rip Hamilton and Carlos Boozer need to play lights out in the playoffs. Because of Rip’s injury problems, I haven’t really seen how he works in their offensive flow, but on paper he gives them everything they lacked last year. Unfortunately, we all may be hoping for the Rip from four or five years ago, and it remains to be seen if he can get back to that level of production.

Between the injuries, his age, and the lockout schedule, his conditioning must not be great. Poor conditioning has affected a bunch of quality veterans like Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Lamar Odom, who all came to training camp in sub-par shape (Stoudemire due to back injury). Pierce and Dirk seem to be hitting their stride now, so hopefully the same will happen for Rip. Currently, the Bulls have the best record in the league, so I will abstain from shedding any tears for them.

***

ITEM 3 I’m consistently impressed by the resolve of Ty Lawson and his banged-up Denver Nuggets: They’re not an elite team now, but they’re hanging tough until the return of major weapons Nene and Danilo Gallinari. Will their deceptively mid/low playoff seed give them a sneaky edge?

I’m don’t think the Nuggets will end up with a low seeding in the playoffs. Right now in the Western Conference, there is only a four-game difference between the third and eighth seeds — with Portland, Utah, and Minnesota knocking right on the door. It’s really going to be about who gets hot going into the post-season.  Talent-wise, I would put Denver in the upper tier because of their depth. Obviously, this depth and talent matter only if they can stay healthy. Nene and Gallinari just came back on Monday, and there is a strong possibility that the team will re-sign F Wilson Chandler, another athletic, skilled up-and-comer that came their way in the Carmelo Anthony trade. Denver has been misfortunate in regards to injury early in the season with maybe only New Orleans and New Jersey having worse luck.

Because of all of the ex-Knicks on the Nuggets, I am definitely rooting for them out West. They are also one of the most exciting teams to watch. The way they move the ball and run the break is awesome. As with Philly, not having a true closer makes them somewhat questionable in the post-season, but I wouldn’t want to go up against them in the first round.

***

ITEM 4 Friday was the 50th anniversary of the legendary 1962 game in which Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points. How meaningful is this landmark achievement today?

It is very meaningful because this record will more than likely never be broken. Unfortunately, I think it is a little over-hyped in that Wilt Chamberlain was 7’1″ and 275 pounds in an era that just didn’t feature a whole bunch of big, tall, strong guys. He had an advantage that doesn’t apply today. Shaq and Dwight Howard could have had a shot at that record because of their unique physical attributes if they were transported to 1961. Meanwhile, Shaq had to play against monsters like Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwan, David Robinson and Yao Ming, and he was still dominant. Unstoppable in his prime. In 1961, he might have scored 120 in a game.

***

ITEM 5 Dude, on Sunday in an impressive win over the Knicks, Celtics G Rajon Rondo’s line read as follows: 18 points, 20 assists, and 17 rebounds. Holy shitballs! 

Yeah. Rondo is a beast. He has been one of my favorite players since he went nuts in the 2010 playoffs, upset the Cavs, and essentially ended LeBron’s run in Cleveland. When a guard puts up a stat line like 18 points, 20 assists, and a career-high 17 rebounds, it really does read like a video game, and in fact it’s only been done twice in NBA history — by Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson.

I think it reflects the idea that Rondo may be the most unique player in the league. If he could shoot consistently, he would be a top-five player. My favorite thing about him is that he plays the game the right way: He is a true point guard who understands his job to run the offense and get others involved before looking for his own shot. His quickness, freakishly long arms, and big hands give him the tools to put up these big rebound numbers and be one of the game’s best on-the-ball defenders; plus, Rondo is highly disruptive in the passing lanes and one of the top steals guys in the last few years. So the rumors that he is on the trading block baffle me. The Celtics should want to rebuild around Rondo, not flip him; they will not get equal value back. Unless you could get Deron Williams or Russell Westbrook in return, trading Rondo seems like a disaster waiting to happen. If you read last week’s Hoop Logic, then you know how I feel about GM Danny Ainge’s decision-making of late.

***

ITEM 6 I remember and completely agree. That Perkins trade — ugh. Let’s move on to Jeremy Lin news. The red-hot Knicks guard has cooled off, and somewhat predictably, this coincides with the return of Carmelo Anthony from injury. Your thoughts, my Knicks-loving friend?

It’s not looking good in the Big Apple. Defenses have caught up to Lin and he hasn’t seemed totally comfortable since Melo returned. Some of this is expected. The Knicks had the league’s easiest first-half schedule, and now the pendulum has swung back the other way with the toughest schedule to close the season. No one thought Lin would keep up at that All Star pace with 25 points, 10 assists shooting 50% from the field. Plus, you have a lot of new pieces in addition to Melo like JR Smith, Baron Davis, and Josh Harrelson, who were not there when Linsanity was at full tilt. This seems like a good problem to have, but chemistry was a big question before this full team finally arrived.

Expectations aside, I am officially calling “Linsanity” over. It was fun while it lasted, but now there is a scouting report on Lin (defenses must force him to his left), the stretches of five or six games against bad teams are over, and Melo’s presence has disrupted the offensive flow.

Here is what I’m seeing: Starting before the All Star break, the Knicks fall behind early and big (15-20 points down) in every game with the exception of their blow-out win over Atlanta. The starting five is shitting the bed and their bench is bailing them out. I have never heard of a scenario like this. The chemistry in the starting unit just is not working. Most of the time, they get back into the game, but the inconsistency is staggering.

I’ll be honest, I have questioned whether Melo and Stoudemire could work together, and I really don’t think it will ever work. I could be wrong, but with Carmelo Anthony in the line-up this year, the Knicks are 12-17 and 6-4 without him. This team has far too much talent to play this poorly. They are now one of the deepest teams in the league, and the time for excuses is over. Maybe coach Mike D’Antoni and Melo don’t mesh. It’s possible that a different coach could make it work, but I am skeptical. Maybe they can turn it around but I will be pleasantly surprised but if they finish the season with a winning record. If I could swing a deal to get Dwight Howard or D-Will, I would pull the trigger. I agree with Charles Barkley on this one. “The Knicks have stars, but no superstars.”

– Doc Coyle, God Forbid

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Hoop Logic Volume V – Posted Feb. 27th 2012 on Metalsucks.net

What’s up, Hoop Logic readers! Doc Coyle here, welcoming you to the All-Star break and the halfway point of this hectic, exciting 2012 season. There have been expected developments (like Miami’s domination) and unexpected ones (like New York’s early failures and salvation by Jeremy Lin). But the second half of the season is always more telling than the first. It’s really all about how you finish, not how you start, and our memories reserve little real estate for teams that “kicked ass” back in December.

There will always be surprises, so let’s see which teams fall off and which rise from the depths. Last year, for example, the Sixers were well below .500 before the All Star Break and the Celtics had the best record in the East. How quickly things can change! I can’t wait. 

ITEM 1 What’s up with LeBron’s recent talk of someday returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers? Do Miami Heat fans want to hear that? Is it his way of winning back his former fans in Ohio?

Doc: I think it was just an overly nice response to a very loaded question: “Would you ever come back to play for the Cavs?” That’s a tough one to answer. He is remorseful for the way he left and probably feels like he owes those fans. He is from Akron, Ohio, and yearns for redemption on some level. So maybe he’s not being disingenuous, but it is still a gaffe. He should have just said that he was focused on the Miami Heat, kept it short, and avoided the subject altogether. It’s a little bit of a cock-tease, and it almost feels like an ex telling you she is still in love with you — while she is married to a new guy. It’s a mindfuck and pretty unfair.

I think LeBron just feels bad. The backlash from “The Decision” has turned him into one of the most hated sports figures in the world. There are a lot of reasons not to like him, and most of the animosity has been brought on by his own actions. Having had many discussions with my friends who adamantly hate LeBron, I know that it’s his arrogance that turns them off. I understand their point of view, but I am a lot more sympathetic to the guy.

They see a cocky, obscenely rich, new-school pro athlete that somehow doesn’t embody the purity of the sport. They view him as a Terrell Owens or Alex Rodriguez type rather than Cal Ripken or Joe Montana. But that is oversimplification. I see the most physically talented guy ever in any sport. I see a guy who grew up without a solid family support system around him, and who was the most hyped high school basketball player of all time. He should have two or three rings already, but there are mental blocks that he has not overcome yet. I see a guy who’s made mistakes and the story isn’t over. We’ll see what happens, but I love watching him and feel lucky that I’m seeing him in his prime.

***

ITEM 2 Last Monday was the third time in ten days that the Milwaukee Bucks entered a fourth quarter leading the Orlando Magic before booting away victory. Are these what’s called a “lockout loss,” in which this compressed season’s rigorous schedule saps players of stamina? Are you seeing a lot of that? Is it mental or physical?

This doesn’t have anything to do with the lockout. It’s really simple: good teams find ways to win games, and bad teams find ways to lose games. Talent is usually what separates the two, but one of the biggest differences between winning and losing is confidence. You need a culture of winning. You have to believe that you deserve to win and that you can compete with the best. Countless times when a bad team is in a close game with a good team, the game just slips through their fingers because it’s almost a moral victory that the game was ever close. In other words, the bad team is just happy with their respectable effort and they kinda give up. They’re lacking the extra will and focus it takes to close games strong. The perfect example of this was last year’s first round playoff series between Chicago (1) and Indiana (8): The Pacers were up by double digits in every game but found ways to lose all except one.

The bright side of lots of close games that you end up losing to good teams is the awareness that you have enough talent to compete. You are not getting blown out. You just need to work on execution, and winning close games is tough without a star caliber player who can create his own shot under pressure. There are only 10-15 guys like this in the whole league, so not every team will have one on their roster. Even loaded teams like Portland, Philly, and Denver have been struggling to close games over the last month because they don’t have that guy.

***

ITEM 3 Doc, the Celtics are in free fall. They are losers of five in a row and below .500 for the first time in over a month. Is it time to break up the big 4? Or do they have enough in the tank to make another run?

I have mixed emotions on this. I am still pissed at Celtics GM Danny Ainge for making one of the worst trades in history by sending Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green last year; I believe that this Celtics team never emotionally recovered from it. That core unit of Garnett, Pierce, Rondo, Allen, Perkins, and Big Baby had been one of the closest groups I’ve ever seen. They cared for and trusted one another. When players become expendable and business overshadows the team-family concept, that belief in a winning culture begins to wane. I think that trade disrupted everyone’s sense of security and chemistry, and judging from the way Miami just steamrolled them in last year’s playoffs, I’d say the run with this group seemed to be coming to an end.

The C’s re-signed Jeff Green before this season and reportedly were close to locking down premiere power forward David West. Than they lost West to Indiana, and Green’s heart condition means he’ll miss this season entirely. For the Celtics, losing Green really damages their scoring and depth in the worst way. And though they added some solid reserves — like Mickael Pietrus, Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox — the squad is ravaged by injuries and I think that’s the main reason they’ve been struggling so badly (two losses in a week to awful Detroit?).

There’s an argument to be made for trading their Hall of Famers for young prospects and future draft picks and starting the rebuilding process while their stars’ value is high. Every contender out there would kill to have Ray Allen or KG as an extra weapon. But unless Boston totally falls out of the playoff hunt, the Big 4 deserve the respect of getting one more run at a championship together. They still don’t have any size up front, but never write off a team with a championship pedigree. They will get healthier, and the trade deadline is nearing, so a surprise deal could shake things up. I also think that because of the lockout schedule, older teams like the Celtics were doomed to have a difficult regular season anyway. But everyone said this team was done three years ago and then they were one quarter away from winning a second title in 2010. I think there will be at least one big upset in these upcoming playoffs; I always have to remind people of the 2000 Knicks who reached the Finals as an 8 seed without star Patrick Ewing. It’s a new season come playoff time.

***

Hey did you catch a reply of Mavericks G Delonte West’s gross finger dislocation last week? Do you as a guitarist get extra-freaked out by this type of injury? 

Part of the reason I’m such a huge basketball fan is because I do play. Playing is probably my favorite hobby outside of music, but I’ve been out of action for the last year or so because of a back problem. Besides those issues, I don’t think I’ve ever had a hand-related injury that’s affected my guitar playing. Anyone who plays knows the most common finger issue is jamming your fingers when the ball comes straight at you as your fingers are extending out. That always hurts but never seems to do any long lasting damage, although I can imagine that breaking a finger would probably be something that could happen easily.

Any physical sport where you are banging with people and taking contact comes with injuries, so it’s normal. I don’t really think about it when I play ball. I did stop dancing in mosh pits because of a hand injury many years ago.  So for me, Hooping > Moshing.

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Hoop Logic Volume IV – Posted Feb. 17th 2012 on Metalsucks.net

Hey ballers! Welcome back to MetalSucks’ Hoop Logic, the only column on Earth where metal and NBA basketball collide, take a step back, and then collide again even harder. In our awesome fourth edition, God Forbid stud/NBA expert Doc Coyle takes a break from prepping new album Equilibrium (out March 26) and packing for this killer Overkill tour to talk hot NBA action with me, MS senior editor Anso DF. Hellz yeah! So join us as our Doc examines the Lin-fection that’s afflicting balls all over America, gives his prognosis for the sickly Lakers, checks for lumps on the newly announced All-Star team rosters, and more!

ITEM 1 At the peak of their dysfunction, the Knicks have unearthed an unlikely treasure in PG Jeremy Lin. Lin is the NBA’s only Asian-American and only alum of Harvard; most amazingly, Lin had hardly played before last week and was basically a last resort mid-season addition for his team. But then Lin immediately powered the woeful Knicks to five straight wins — while their two best scorers sit out — and now LINsanity fully grips the NBA. Mind-blowing, right?

Doc Coyle: At the time of this writing, the winning streak — or shall I say Lin-ning streak — is up to seven, and with a gimme game coming up against one of the NBA’s worst teams, the New Orleans Hornets, that streak should reach eight straight wins. Let’s face it, this is the biggest story in sports, to the point where it has transcended sports altogether and has become regular news. It’s all they are talking about on sports radio and ESPN. Hell, even Obama is talking about it. I don’t know if I can take it, I’ll have to go to a Lin-sane asylum. These puns never get old.

For those who don’t know the story (live under a rock much?), I’ll recount it very quickly: Undrafted Harvard grad Jeremy Lin, who was previously cut by the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, and was warming the far end of the Knicks bench for over a month, gets inserted into an underwhelming performance against the lowly NJ Nets as an act of desperation by Coach Mike D’Antoni. The Knicks record was 8-15 at the time, and they were the most disappointing team in the league. Then Lin scores 25 points and dishes eight assists, winning the game virtually by himself. The next game, Carmelo Anthony (groin) and Amare Stoudemire (death in family) go out. Lin goes on to break records for most points and assists (and turnovers) in his first five starts. The Knicks go undefeated without their stars and climb back into relevancy.

I have never even heard of anything like this, let alone witness it firsthand. It’s kinda hard to digest the fact that it has happened to my favorite NBA team within a couple weeks of my favorite football team’s Super Bowl victory. What is my reaction? Pinch me. I’ve just watched a group of guys that were playing the worst team basketball I’ve ever seen transform into a cohesive, energized unit that moves the ball, hustles, and cares about each other. They look like they are actually having fun. The turnaround is startling.

Two questions remain: Is Lin for real? Can they continue the success when Carmelo Anthony returns? My answers to each question is a tentative yes. I’ve watched every game except the Utah game, and I think Lin is for real. His on-the-ball defense is a bit questionable, but he’s smart and has quick hands. He also needs to get his turnovers under control. As for Melo, I don’t see how one of the game’s top scorers doesn’t make this team even better. I really think he wants to win, but Melo has to be willing to fit in and let the offense flow. Plus, he and Stoudemire have to commit more to defense. Their return is a defense downgrade from bench guys Jarred Jeffries and Bill Walker.

ITEM 1.1 Do you expect teams to adjust to Lin and his moves?

Doc: Teams already have started to adjust. Lin saw tons of traps and double teams on the pick and roll from the T-Wolves and Raptors. Hence the very high turnover rate. Plus, opposing teams, especially the point guards, are playing extra hard to not be shown up by this “new dude” who’s getting all this attention. A lot of people compare Lin to Steve Nash, but his slashing, finishing ability around the rim really reminds me of Tony Parker. The truth is when Melo comes back opponents won’t be able to double Lin. That’s the reason that I think things will actually get better. Just having someone to orchestrate the offense makes the Knicks a vastly better team. When Baron Davis (back) returns, the Knicks will have a nice point guard in the wings to run the floor when Lin rests. This Knicks team could be really scary come playoff time. Only time will tell.

****

ITEM 2 We talked about the underachieving Orlando Magic last week. Let’s talk about some overachievers this week: It’s no surprise that coach Doug Collins is getting great game from his 76ers, but holy shit could anyone have predicted this awesomeness from the Utah Jazz?

Doc: Actually the Utah Jazz have come down to earth, currently hovering at .500 and having lost seven of their last ten. I am not worried for the Jazz though. This season will be crazy. There will be lots of ups and downs with teams going hot and cold. We’ve already seen a bunch of teams start slow like the Mavs and Celtics, and some teams have been up and down like the Lakers, Nuggets, Magic, and Grizzlies. I love Utah’s frontline: Al Jefferson, Paul Milsap, Derrick Favors, and rookie Enes Kanter. All those dudes are 6’9 and taller, 250 lbs or more. So, prepare to get your ass beat up when you play the Jazz. Even if they finish around .500, it’s not a bad place to be after losing a franchise player like Deron Williams. Now, the truth is that PG Devin Harris just doesn’t have it anymore. Their guard play has to improve to compete with the big dogs in the league.

****

ITEM 3 Last week the NBA All-Star team rosters were unveiled. Awesome first timers include Pacers C Roy Hibbert, 76ers F Andre Iguodala, and Lakers C Andrew Bynum. What you think?

Doc: There are definitely a few questionable selections. I won’t talk about the obvious choices like Lebron and Kobe; those choices are obvious and require zero debate. I would like to mention guys who deserve it but for whom it could have gone either way:

First, Luol Deng is very deserving. He is the Bulls second-best player by far, and a team doesn’t win games at the Bulls’ rate with only one guy playing great. Deng is a top-five two-way player and always has to guard the opposing team’s most dangerous wing player. And he is also the only guy on the Bulls who can consistently create his own shot. Props to Lieutenant Deng!

Next, I am happy that Andre Iguodala made it. Philly was having too good of a season to not be represented in the All Star Game. Considering their top scorer comes off the bench, and they are the most balanced team in the league. Iggie made the most sense. He is their most talented and versatile player and probably the best distributor at the 3 spot after Lebron. He could average 20 if he wasn’t so unselfish. You want that dude on your team.

Out West, you have to give it up to Blazers C LeMarcus Aldridge who really deserved to be on the squad last year. Spurs G Tony Parker often gets left out because of huge depth at the point guard position in the Western Conference. Well deserved. You also can make the case that he was snubbed last year.

Now onto the guys who should not have made it: The only reason Grizzlies C Marc Gasol and Pacers C Roy Hibbert were named all stars is that the NBA requires team GM’s to select one center to each reserve squad. Al Jefferson from Utah deserves to be on the West All Stars more than Marc Gasol. You can make a case that Rudy Gay and Danny Granger deserve to represent their respective teams more than their centers.

And Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce aren’t even the best players on their own teams this year. And because of the Nets’ awful record, it’s questionable whether Deron Williams deserves his spot. I get the feeling these GM’s select the reserves based on reputation and not specifically on current performance. But this season, there are too few games to base these decisions on. A third of the season is not enough time to make quality judgements.

ITEM 3.1 I’m glad Deron Williams made the team; it will help him stave off a frustration-induced breakdown. But some standout snubs include Hawks F Josh Smith and Warriors G Monta Ellis. To you, who got overlooked?

Doc: Josh Smith seems to be the most obvious snub. He is as dominant on the defensive side as he is on offense, and he’s kept the Hawks winning with Al Horford out. And I’m high on Al Jefferson. He is one of the few big men with a truly effective low-post game. The guy has been hovering around 20 and 10 his whole career, and yet everyone is talking about Paul Milsap; I like Milsap, but he’s the second best player on his team. Many pundits just repeat what their peers are saying. No respect for Jefferson. Kyle Lowery probably should have made it, but there are just too many good point guards in the west. Out East, I would have liked to see Rajon Rondo, and Tyson Chandler is having a great season. Monta Ellis is nasty, but he’s not gonna get any love until the Warriors start winning. They reward winners with All Star action.

ITEM 3.2 On the flipside, who made it undeservedly? Dirk Nowitzki right?

Doc: Dirk Nowitzki’s all-star appointment amounts to a lifetime achievement award for his legendary 2011 playoffs and Finals performance. Even he said he didn’t deserve to be an all star. I would have rather seen Danilo Gallinari, Al Jefferson, or Kyle Lowry in his place. I hate this type of selection. He already has a million All Star appearances. Missing one won’t kill him, while some of these young guys now playing at a high level may never get another chance. I say you should always give it to the young guy.

ITEM 3.3 At age 38, Steve Nash has made his eighth All-Star team. Amazing right?

Doc: Steve Nash is doing things at 38 that no one should (leading the league in assists and top ten in FG%). He is keeping his Suns team competitive despite below-average talent. Please, someone trade for this man and put him on a contending team. Except the Heat. They will be invincible if they get Nash.

ITEM 3.4  Nash definitely needs a championship ring. Hey, will you miss Tim Duncan or Kevin Garnett, who miss their first All-Star game since the freaking ’90s?

Doc: Nope. They had their time. I’m ready to see some fresh blood. Duncan should not have made it last year either.

****

ITEM 4 At the time of this writing, the Lakers are taking a long look at available-but-expensive PG Gilbert Arenas. Doc, what do you think of Gil and does he signify desperation on the part of the talent-packed but awful Lakers? If the Lakers problem is bad chemistry, then what can a renowned headcase contribute?

Doc: Kobe Bryant said it the best,”It can’t hurt.” The Lakers have the worst bench in the league, and they have a 37-year old point guard who can’t stay in front of anyone anymore. Their problem isn’t chemistry. The Lakers problem is having only three players who contribute on a regular basis. The reason that Kobe is leading the league in scoring is that he has to score that much. This Lakers team has always been best with balanced scoring and with Kobe scoring 25 rather than 40.

But Arenas will not be expensive. He was amnestied earlier this year, which means he already got the money from his very large contract. He can sign for the veteran’s minimum and still be one of the highest paid players in the league. Also, he had the same knee surgery in Germany that Kobe had. That has done wonders for Kobe’s game. In his prime, Gilbert Arenas was one of the best. His issues lately are clearly directly to his knee injury, so if he looks good in the workouts, give him a shot.

I also don’t think this Lakers team is done making changes. I heard a rumor that there is a trade in the works that would send Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol away for Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, and Luis Scola in a three-way trade with Orlando and Houston. This would not surprise me. The Lakers are still in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. We will know in a month or so when the trade deadline hits.

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Hoop Logic Volume III – Posted Feb. 8th 2012 on Metalsucks.net

Hey MetalSucks readers! It’s me Anso DF, MS senior editor and NBA mega-fan. I’m up here in italics to welcome you to this week’s installment of God Forbid guitarist/NBA expert Doc Coyle’s awesome Hoop Logic column. I love NBA trends, tricks, talk, and TV, so for this third edition, I backed Doc into a corner and hammered him about the league’s hot issues. Are we metal’s Charles Barkley and Ernie Johnson, but with tighter bods and fouler mouths? You be the judge!

ITEM 1 The Orlando Magic: A core of All-Star players with recent NBA finals experience. A superstar on the trade block. A dearth of team chemistry. A string of blowout losses. Are the Magic in big trouble?

Doc Coyle: I think it’s now clear that Orlando’s quick start was an aberration caused by Hedo Turkoglu’s early return to form and Ryan Anderson’s Most Improved Player-level start. Now that those two shooters have come down to earth a bit, and Jason Richardson’s and Jameer Nelson’s age is starting to show, this Magic team is more reminiscent of last season’s Magic: the best center in the league surrounded by good, not great, talent. The model is actually not too dissimilar from the Lebron James’ Cavs of 2005-2010. There are only a few guys that can carry an NBA team, but when the weight of an impending trade slowly deteriorates locker room camaraderie, the cracks will show on the court.

 

At the season’s start, I believed that Dwight Howard had a pretty good chance of returning to Orlando for a few

reasons: One, he had been with the team for eight years (longer than Lebron, Carmelo, and Chris Paul stayed with their respective draft teams). Two, Howard seems like a good, loyal guy who cares about that city. Three, Orlando is a pretty big market, so the Magic organization is not afraid to spend money; they have one of the league’s highest payrolls and just built a luxurious new arena. Four, the Magic are a pretty good team with potential to benefit from some crafty maneuvering (although they’re handcuffed by a couple difficult-to-unload contracts). Also, the loss of Rashard Lewis, Marcin Gortat, Vince Carter, and Mikael Pietrus now seem ill-advised, but they had hit a similar wall last year and gambled big.

But recent reports state that D12 is on the way out, especially after the recent bad losses. Supposedly, the Magic’s plan was to keep him until after the All Star Game — in Orlando this year — so as not to ruffle any feathers in an event with political ramifications. And the truth is that losing a star is not the end of the world. In fact, Denver and Utah have come out on top of their respective superstar trades, with drastically better records than their trade counterparts, Tri-State-area disappointments New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets.

Even the Cavs have rebounded rather quickly, scoring two of the top three picks in the 2011 draft and netting franchise player Kyrie Irving, possibly the best natural point guard since Chris Paul. If the Magic send Howard to the Knicks for Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, they get 30 points and 18 rebounds in exchange for Howard’s 20 points and 15 rebounds. That’s two top-25 players. Then unload Tukoglu’s shitty contract. They could do a lot worse. Make the best deal. The Orlando Magic will be alright.

ITEM 2 Last Monday, Clippers F Blake Griffin perpetrated the year’s (and possibly NBA history’s) most brain-smashing dunk over Thunder C Kendrick Perkins (above). In its wake, the jam’s legend status was cemented by a roar of fan appreciation. Did that slam rock your face, Doc?

Doc: Let’s be clear about one thing: The main reason I watch NBA basketball is to witness superhuman shit. For fundamentals, go watch the WNBA. And I was watching the game as this happened. I screamed in disbelief at the television for about two minutes. It’s one of the few dunk highlights that’s more impressive in real time than in slow motion because you can feel the power and high degree of difficulty. Perkins is 6’10″, 280 pounds. He’s one of the toughest guys in the league. So it’s pretty crazy for Blake to do that to Perk. This is more proof that Blake Griffin is special and maybe the most athletic guy ever at his size. He’s almost a hybrid of Shaq and LeBron.

You gotta respect it.

I heard Kevin Durant was all butthurt about the public reaction and complained that the first-place Thunder still weren’t getting their deserved respect. Someone needs to give him some cheese with all those sour grapes. He needs to get over it. Blake gets attention because he does phenomenal things — but so does Kevin Durant. Basketball people know that Durant is a top-two or -three player in the league and that his Thunder might be the NBA’s best team. They are getting their respect. What Durant needs to worry about is the fact that his team lost that game to the Clippers, and I think the Clips have more talent. It could be insecurity in his voice as the Thunder have a contender on their heels.

ITEM 3 LeBron James’ all-powerful Miami Heat (18-6) are 0-2 against the Milwaukee Bucks (10-13). What the hell? Are the Heat for real or not?

Doc: Despite a pair of losses to the Bucks, the Heat are the frontrunners to win the title this year. And the Bucks are better than people think. They look like a contender to make the playoffs this year with a surefire All-Star reserve in PG Brandon Jennings. They also beat the Spurs, Rockets, and Lakers.

I can point out three games that the Heat seemed to have had wrapped up, but then stumbled under pressure. They could’ve been the only three-loss team in the NBA. So I’m not worried. They have tools that no other team in the league has. Lebron James is playing on another planet. Chris Bosh has proven he is an indispensable part of the Big 3 (despite Shaq hating on him). They have better chemistry this year, and are deeper at every position.The truth is that no one will remember some early-season game you lost to an average team. Nothing matters expect the playoffs.

Last year, the Spurs and Celtics each had the best record in their conferences at the All-Star Break, and what did that do for them in the playoffs? This lockout season will favor young, deep teams because of the frantic schedule and ever-growing number of injuries. So I am not surprised about the current division leaders. I think the playoffs will be about who is healthy and who is clicking at the right time; anything could happen. Shit, the last lockout season (2000) had an eighth-seed Knicks team with a .500 record go all the way to the Finals.

If the Heat can figure out how to close games, then no one will stop them. Barring major injuries of course.

Image by Doc Funk // docfunk.tumblr.com

ITEM 4 I’m bummed about how referees are handling offensive charge vs. defensive block calls. Plus, the practice of “drawing a charge” encourages play that runs counter to the spirit of basketball and creates huge potential for horrific injuries. What do you think, man?

Doc: The biggest problem with this call is the incessant flopping. I would like to see more no-calls. Off-the-ball flops should be ignored, and obvious flops should be punished with a technical foul. Players have become so good at snapping their head back or contorting their bodies after a play that it has become kind of ridiculous. Derrick Rose and Chris Paul are particularly good at this.

I also wish they would just let guys bang more. Some of the calls in the post, especially with a guy like Dwight Howard, just seem kind of arbitrary. I see two guys banging on the block, and most of the time, there is no culprit — both guys are fighting for position equally. I just wish they would let them play.

–DC

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Hoop Logic Volume II – Posted Jan. 30th 2012 on Metalsucks.net

“Star-Crossed”

We are one third of the way through the 2011-12 NBA basketball season, and there seems to be enough of a sample size to get a pretty good idea of how the season will shape up.  What we’ve seen is for the most part what we thought we would: Lockout Ball. With a compressed 66 game schedule, no real training camp or pre-season, and back to back to back games with 4 games in 5 nights, what you get is ugly basketball. We’ve seen tons of blowouts, scoring and shooting percentages are down, there are lots of turnovers, and the injuries among key players are piling up. Players due to miss significant time (6-8 weeks or more) include Brook Lopez, Manu Ginobli, Andrew Bogut, Zach Randolph, Al Horford and Eric Maynor, and we’ve seen plenty of guys in and out of the lineup with minor injuries. It’s too many to name.  This is what we expected.

What we — or at least I — didn’t expect was an illumination into the after-effects of the recent formation of super teams.

Let’s start with the original Big 3 of the modern era in Boston with Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce (and later Rajon Rondo forming a Big 4). The Celtics are essentially a .500 team who seems to be aging exponentially. This is a team who last year at the All Star break had the best record in the East and was expected to go all the way, until an ill-advised trade shipping Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City for essentially nothing (since Jeff Green missed this entire season due to a heart condition requiring surgery).  Now there is talk of dismantling the team and rebuilding. This is a dramatic turn of events for a supposed elite team.

As I mentioned in the last post, I am a diehard Knicks fan. If you’ve been following the league, you know that I am not only depressed by what I have seen, but absolutely flummoxed by what has transpired in New York. They are flat-out terrible with a 7-13 record, losing 6 games to sub .500 teams. This team, featuring two guys who started in last year’s All Star game, has been the disappointment of the league (and possibly the most disappointing team in five years), and has come to represent what happens when you build a team on the shoulders of individuals and not team ethics and how players compliment each other.  It is still early in the season and things could change, but I am skeptical.

What is happening is the opposite of synergy, and it seems as if the chemistry of the players actually has them playing worse.  Amare Stoudemire’s PPG have dropped from 25.3 to 17.8 and his FG% has dropped from .502 to .426. Carmelo Anthony is shooting a career worst 39.4%.  They are one of the worst shooting teams in the league, 2’s and 3’s. They are near the top of the charts in turnovers and fouls.  They are a below average rebounding and defensive team. They lead the league in isolation plays, which shows there is no offensive flow or ball movement. The only things they do well are getting steals and dunks, as they are league leaders in both categories. This team was projected to be a top 4 or 5 team in the East but will be lucky to make the playoffs at this point.  It’s hard to watch.

On the contrary, the big surprises of the year on the winning side of things all feature teams with no big time stars. Philadelphia, Indiana, and Denver are a combined 37-16.  What’s happening on these teams is balanced scoring, unselfishness, deep rosters that go 9-10 player rotations, commitment to defense and hard work, and a result of what happens when a good, disciplined coaching philosophy is bought in on a grand scale. To have good teamwork, the players have to trust each other.  That is what we’re seeing with the teams I mentioned.

The situation in New York serves as a cautionary tale teaching us that combining random stars together does not guarantee success, and can actually go horribly wrong if assembled poorly. Boston won a title, and Miami may have the most potent team talent-wise in the league, but at least their stars compliment each other.  The members of the trio in Boston filled distinctly different roles with very little overlap, and they also displayed a willingness to put egos aside and sacrifice individual stats for team success.

Although Dwayne Wade and Lebron James seem to have similar games and they experienced some growing pains early last season, I think they’re a very successful example you could use as a comparison to the Michael Jordan / Scottie Pippen combo. Here are the similarities: shooting guard/small forward set up, extreme athletic advantage, both are two-way players dominating both the defensive and offensive sides of the ball, and an ability to run the offense through either guy because of their tremendous ball handling and distributing skills. Chicago won six titles with an average point guard and no-name centers. Miami can follow the same model and do well.

So the superstar thing can work, but Dallas proved last year that if you have one great player and a strong supporting cast, you can beat stars. Conventional wisdom says that you need a star to have success in the playoffs because in close games it will come down to one shot and you need a closer to take that shot. I really wonder if that will hold up this year. OKC, Miami and Chicago seem to clearly be the top teams and they all have stars. Can Philly, Indiana, and Denver have success in the playoffs? If one of those teams breaks though, maybe conventional wisdom can change. People often forget the Pistons team with no superstars that beat the Kobe/Shaq Lakers and effectively ended that dynasty.

If I had to put money on one of the teams, I would say Denver has the best chance to break through and make a conference finals or championship series. The Western Conference is a little more wide open than the East, and if Denver can get Wilson Chandler or JR Smith back from China, the already deep team will get even deeper. Plus I really believe in George Karl as a coach. I also highly recommend the NBA TV show The Association, which profiles Denver this year. It is a top-notch documentary series that gives telling insight on an intriguing young team. The last two seasons covered the Lakers and Celtics, so it’s cool they are going outside of the box.

Even though my favorite team is a disaster, I’m enjoying this season thoroughly with all the different storylines. The T-Wolves and Clippers, perennial doormats, are among the most exciting teams. Is it all over for the aging, struggling Lakers, Mavs and Celtics? Will the Knicks team be broken up this soon? With the trade deadline looming, how much turnover will there be? I am pumped to see what happens. Stay tuned!

– Doc Coyle / God Forbid

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Hoop Logic Volume 1 – Posted Jan. 11th 2012 on Metalsucks.net

This is my first foray into the world of sports blogging, but I am a diehard NBA fan and could no longer contain all of my thoughts and views on the league.  I started out watching the NBA in 1994, the year after Michael Jordan’s first retirement when the Knicks made a title run with a tough as nails, substance-over-style group of quasi-thugs.  When I get into something, whether it be comic books, action movies, heavy metal, or basketball, I tend to obsess over it.  I suppose this characterizes me as a nerd.  I’ll wear that hat because I pour over stats incessantly trying to break down the ins and outs of the game.

I was a dedicated Knicks fan as they transitioned from the Ewing, Oakley, Starks bunch of the mid ’90s to the Houston, Sprewell, Larry Johnson squad of the mid ’90s, early ’00s. When that team was dissolved, my band started touring, and I fell off for a few years roughly until Lebron James came into the league. People love to hate that dude, but I had never seen a player like him and it re-sparked my interest in the sport. The talent pool was suddenly much more potent than what I was watching in the mid ’90s.  Jordan had no equal in his era, and I had missed the Bird/Magic rivalry first-hand. Lebron, D. Wade, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Carmelo, etc were doing some superhuman shit, and I was hooked again.  Every year, since 2006, I’ve been more and more drawn in to the point where I devour every game, article, sports-radio broadcast, twitter feed. You get the point. I might as well share my thoughts and analysis. Here it goes. Watch me spew:

Lockout

The 2011/12 NBA basketball season began on Christmas Day to the delight of fans worldwide. Thank the b-ball gods, because it almost didn’t happen. The league endured it’s second lockout in less than 15 years, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. With a changing of the guard in sway, the emergence of the super group in Miami, Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire pairing up in NYC, the rise of young powerful teams like MVP Derrick Rose’s Bulls and Kevin Durant’s Thunder, the NBA was at its highest level of popularity since the MJ era.

There was a lot to lose and the lockout threatened years of goodwill and growth. Or supposed growth. The alleged reasoning behind the lockout imposed by the league was two-fold: 1) Due to bloated player salaries and the economy tanking, 2/3rds of the teams were supposedly losing money. They wanted billions back in the revenue split which previously favored the players heavily (57-43%). 2) After Lebron and Melo left their “small market” teams to join other stars in big cities, and the impending exodus of Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, the NBA wanted better competitive balance between big and small markets as well as more control over player movement. Especially in regards to teams being able to keep their stars.

The way I look at it, both sides were wrong, and could probably never get everything they were asking for. The players were previously overpaid, and made out like bandits on the previous collective bargaining agreement. The average NBA salary was 5.5 Million per year, making them the highest average paid players in history for any major sport. Keep in mind, this was divided much like the division of wealth in the rest of America; a few stars got most of the money, a bunch were in the middle, and a lot more got the scraps. Overall, the players had it good though. Long, guaranteed contracts. The truth is if teams were really losing money, then the players should have been willing to take a cut. It’s not fair to make out when the business is going well, but not feel the pain when it takes a hit. All of the benefits, but none of the risk is not how fair business agreements usually work. Shared risk, shared reward.

My take on the league is that most of their money problems were their own fault. If overpaying X player just because you don’t want to lose him to another team will put you in the red, don’t sign him. The league wanted the new CBA to save them from themselves. They spend like drunken sailors and get buyers remorse when they add the numbers up at the end of the year. The NBA needs more balanced revenue sharing amongst franchises similar to the NFL in order for money to be made across the board. Essentially, the players had to pay for grievances between the owners, but the league had all of the leverage, so they could squeeze the players for rollbacks, fair or not.

The Aftermath

Thankfully, an agreement was reached when all hope was seemingly lost. Now that have basketball back I’m as giddy as a school-girl, although something that really bothers me about the post-lockout atmosphere is this propagandized perception of big market dominance in the game of professional basketball. This is mainly due to superstars joining together in the last few years starting with the Celtics in 2007, and most recently the Heat and Knicks; there is a broad sentiment that “big market” teams run the show and that the players have too much power in being able to join forces and create dynasties. It has also been suggested that this phenomenon is actually a new thing, and that it is bad for the game.

First off, this is NOT NEW. The Boston Celtics and LA Lakers have combined for 33 championships. Combine that with Chicago’s 6 and San Antonio’s 4, you have staggeringly one-sided dominance from a few franchises. The NBA has been built on dynasties. This has been accomplished by certain teams  establishing a pattern of grouping multiple Hall of Famers together time and time again. Bill Russell had Bob Cousy and John Havlicek. Jerry West had Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain. Larry Bird had Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish. Magic had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy. Jordan had Pippen and later Rodman. Tim Duncan had David Robinson. Kobe Bryant had Shaq.  Do I have to go on? Arguing that this is new is completely absurd, and is willfully ignoring history.

Guys like Charles Barkley, whom I love, say that this type of player movement is bad for the game. Sounds like hypocrisy coming from a guy who teamed up with Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler late in his career to try and win a championship before hanging it up. I watched that era, and everyone was essentially denied a title shot because of MJ’s Bulls. The truth is that it was a low point in terms of talent in the league. Those Bulls teams never had any real competition once they got past the Pistons in ‘91. Jordan’s Bull’s were 6-0 in Finals appearances with no series going to 7 games. Barkley comes from an era where dudes fell on their swords and stayed with a team and didn’t win a title except the gaps when Michael Jordan retired.  Patrick Ewing would probably have a ring if he had a #2 to help with the load in ’94 and ’95.

Melo, Lebron, Chris Paul, and Dwight Howard have given the teams that drafted them 6-8 years to win before moving on. Back when players stayed in college for 3 or 4 years, eight years was damn near an NBA career. The blame is on those franchises for not surrounding those guys with the talent to win. They are grown men, and should have freedom to work where they want once their contracts are fulfilled. People want them to have loyalty to the teams and city, yet these franchises trade guys right and left when it suits their needs. No one ever expects a team to show loyalty to a player. The players don’t owe anyone anything. While these guys played for these teams, the franchises and cities benefited to the tune of probably billions of dollars. Get over it.

I don’t want to make this a race thing, but I do feel like the league, and some in the media and public, seem to have a problem with young, black men calling the shots and controlling their destiny. It’s not a problem if the brass in the front office manage their assets well and build a great team through keen drafting, signs and trades. But as soon as these business savvy, young men “conspire” to play together, it rubs some the wrong way. People rarely mention that Lebron, Wade and Bosh all took pay cuts to play together. You didn’t hear backlash to this magnitude when Danny Ainge and Kevin McHale “conspired” to give away Kevin Garnett to the Celtics and join with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. The hypocrisy makes me sick. I get it, you don’t like Lebron.

The other straight up lie that has been propagated irresponsibly by the sports media is the idea that “big markets” are king in the NBA. Excuse my language, but this is straight-up, corn-fed bullshit! NBA players are attracted to storied franchises that have a legacy like the Celtics and the Lakers, and they are also attracted to larger media markets because players can maximize endorsement income, which often is much greater than their basketball salary with the biggest stars.

So how has this actually played out? In the #1 market in the US, the New York Knicks have sucked for 10 years, and haven’t won a title in 40 years. In the #2 market in the US, the LOS ANGELES Clippers have only made the playoffs 7 times in 40 years, never making it past the second round.  People never talk about the fact that the Celtics were terrible pretty much from the time Larry Bird retired til KG and Ray Allen showed up.  New Jersey, Washington DC, Philly and San Fran are huge markets and the Nets, Wizards, Sixers, and Warriors are rarely mentioned as contenders in recent years and none of those franchises has won a title since the early ’80s.

Meanwhile, in the past 20 years, San Antonio has 4 titles, Detroit has 3, and Houston has 2. In that same time span teams like Portland, Utah, Phoenix, and Indiana are consistently competitive. They draft well, always rebuild very quickly after their stars retire, and get back to contender status because the teams are managed well. Two of the best young teams are in the smallest markets, OKC and Memphis, so it can happen.

Players are always going to want to play for the Lakers, Celtics, and Bulls because of legacy as well as the fact that these are some of the biggest and most exciting places to live in America. We couldn’t get a big free agent to come to NYC for 10 years, so what does that say about the bright lights and big city? Did anyone in Cleveland shed a tear for us when the Cavs were making Finals appearances during that same period? Doubtful. These dimwitted owners are somehow perplexed that it’s difficult to attract players to Minnesota and Toronto in a league that’s 75% black. NBA players want to go to Miami and LA for the same reason that regular people want to go to these places.

You can’t legislate these desires. I’m all for more balanced revenue sharing like the NFL, so teams can stay in the game financially across the board. I’m all for teams being able to pay their own players more than other teams so there is a financial incentive to stay. All I’m saying is the general imbalance is old news in the NBA. At the end of the day, I want to see great, exciting basketball and the Big 3 in Miami gives me that. CP3 with the Clippers will give me that.  I also like deep, balanced teams that lack a superstar like Denver or Philly. Good basketball is good basketball. I don’t care where it comes from. I will be there.

Now, that I got that off my chest, tune in soon for my continued thoughts on this crazy, post-lockout four-games-a-week nuttiness called the 2011-12 NBA Basketball season.

– Doc Coyle / God Forbid

One Reply to “Hoop Logic”

  1. I hope you give us a few more of these before the playoffs end. It’s been a wild ride so far with the Westbrook injury and the Spurs shutting down “the greatest shooting backcourt of all time”. I can’t wait for the Pacers/heat and Spurs/Grizzlies matchups. Gonna be some good shit.

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