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Burning Questions

Burning Qs for the 2012 MLB Season (Part 2)

The MLB season has partially gotten underway (16 teams have yet to throw a single pitch as of Friday morning), so to prep, we started our world famous internet renowned popular burning questions for 2012. We launched part 1 back on Wednesday, and here are, what we think, the most important questions from now until October.

Are the Rays the best team in the AL East?
BockerKnocker: No, of course not.


But they will give the Yankees and Red Sox fits, possibly all the way through game 162, just like last year. As everybody knows, Tampa’s rotation is one of the best in the bigs. David Price and James (dare I say “Big Game,” KOBEsh?) Shields form one of the best 1-2 punches in the game, but it is the #3 and #4 slots in the rotation that has the folks in Florida beaming. Matt Moore is probably the game’s brightest prospect right now, including The Bryce Harper Experience. Moore struck out 15 in 9+ innings last year and was credited with the Rays’ lone win against Texas in the ALDS. Then again, he struck out 15 in 9+ innings last year. To anoint this guy so quickly is problematic; not only will this be his first big league season, but he will probably be pitching on an innings limit. Following Moore will be an absolute stud in Jeremy Hellickson, who proved that he can win on the big stage last year. Hellickson posted an ERA under 3 in the vaunted American League East on the way to the Rookie of the Year award. Hellickson, however, had an awful spring, allowing an earned run per inning pitched. Veterans are usually able to shake off the effects of a horrendous spring training, but how the young buck deal with it remains to be seen.

Got to get it together, BJ

The pitching will carry the Rays all year. Even if a starter gets injured here and there, the team has some minor-league depth in Wade Davis and Alex Cobb. The problem for the Rays lies with their lineup card. The franchises in New York and Boston will produce hitting clinics all summer, featuring brand names like Cano, Pedroia, Ellsbury, Gonzalez, and Granderson. Tampa struggled to put runs on the board all year, so they did what any bat-starved team would do. They went out and signed Luke Scott, daily golden sombrero candidate and Rays retread Carlos Pena, and Jeff Keppinger. Nice. There are some familiar faces returning in Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist. But even if those guys have the years everyone knows they can have, the team will need breakout seasons from B.J. Upton (seriously, B.J., we’ve been waiting forever for one from you) and Desmond Jennings.

The Toronto Blue Jays have become somewhat of a sexy sleeper pick to make the playoffs with the extended wild-card format. The always dangerous Jose Bautista leads a decent hitting squad, especially at home, but the Jays just don’t have the firepower on the mound to make a significant move in this 3-horse race. The Baltimore Orioles round out the AL East, but they don’t deserve any more than 1 sentence because they lost to a COMMUNITY COLLEGE team on Tuesday.


Are we in any danger of seeing the Orioles, Pirates, Mariners or Royals ending their years-long futility?
KOBEsh: No, don’t be silly Peter Pan. But that doesn’t mean there’s not signs of life.

There’s not a team in that sad bunch of glorified minor league teams that I would guess play for better than third-place in their divisions, and that’s partially because the Mariners play in a four-team division.

Out of the four, the O’s have the greatest opportunity to continue their tradition of absolute abject suckitude. Looking at … Read more...

Burning Qs for the 2012 MLB Season (Part 1)

Whoa! The 2012 MLB season snuck up on us like a new Rihanna LP – unexpected and yet, we’re incredibly happy it’s here. Like, way too happy.

As is tradition with the birth of every new season, we’re greeting it on MAMBINO like you would any old friend; with incredibly invasive questions, exploring the greatest weaknesses, storylines and potential surprises in the next year.

We’ve rounded up the MAMBINO stable better than Billy Crystal and Daniel Stern could, and written down some questions that HAD to be answered before the 2012 MLB season kicks off in earnest next week (yes, I realize that we’re ignoring “Opening Day” which is an opening series in Japan with the A’s and Mariners that started last Wednesday. No disrespect to my Japanese forefathers, but we’re pretending that baseball isn’t going on yet because those two teams are glorified Triple A squads. It’s not about Japan. For real. It was 80 years ago, everyone’s gotten over it).

Is the Phillies’ window closing? 

Pucklius: So here’s a fun fact for you. The Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies and some baseball-like organization known as the “New York Mets” all finished with losing records last year. Here’s another fun fact for you. All of these teams scored more runs last season than the Philadelphia Phillies.

As far as I can tell, prognosticators tabbing the Phillies for a sixth consecutive NL East title are doing so out of sheer habit and laziness while ignoring the fact that the Braves have been rising for years and the Marlins, who won’t be as good as Jeffrey Loria thinks but will still be good, have a solid crop of young talent (Josh Johnson, GianCarlo Stanton, Logan Morrison) that has been overshadowed by the big name free agent signings (Jose Reyes, Mark Beurhle) as well as some guy named Hanley Ramirez, all of which has closed the gap considerably. The Phillies meanwhile have an almost ancient short stop in Jimmy Rollins, an aging Chase Utley, who hit a paltry .259 last season and won’t be healthy for the start of this one, and a grand total of one player, Hunter Pence, who had a plus-.300 batting average (.314) or a plus-.500 slugging percentage (.502). Meanwhile, Ryan Howard, who according to recent sabermetric-centric story in ESPN Magazine doesn’t help a team that much more than he hurts one anyway, won’t even play until as late as June following a torn Achilles tendon on the final out of Philadelphia’s 2011 postseason. Essentially, this means that if you somehow manage to get lucky and score 4 or 5 runs against the Phillies remarkable starting rotation you probably have a pretty decent chance of beating them — and in the pitchers nightmare that is Citizens Bank Park, scoring 4 or 5 runs isn’t something a competent Major League offense should find all that hard to do. Just imagine what that offense will put up when it finds itself in places where batting average and runs created go to die like Citi Field or Petco Park.

I should note that Philadelphia did win 102 games last season — and outscored opponents by a league-best 184 runs — but those numbers are almost entirely a result of a stellar pitching rotation. Now, that rotation is stellar, and far be it from me to question the abilities of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, but Roy Oswalt is gone and Vance Worley, who struggled last September, and Joe Blanton are the likely men to jump into his position. They do not inspire the same kind of fear and th… Read more...

Mambino’s NBA Preseason Projections: Looking Back

We like to think of ourselves as NBA geniuses. For instance, BockerKnocker took a lot of heat for omitting Dwight Howard from his Eastern Conference All-Star team, but was rewarded with Dwight’s predictable no-show production in last night’s contest. At the outset of the season, we answered 20 Burning Questions, predicting the outcomes of the most juicy plotlines that the NBA had to offer. Some were right, some were wrong, and most, unsurprisingly, won’t be decided until the end of the season. But we couldn’t just keep you fools waiting. The following will summarize some of our rights and wrongs with regards to the first half of NBA basketball.

Stunningly Right

The questions get asked every single year, but as the members of both teams creep into their mid to late thirties, the issues reared louder and longer than ever. Who would wilt first?  The San Antonio Spurs or the equally ancient Boston Celtics? Take a look at the standings. I think you have your answer.

While the Spurs are thriving despite losing Manu Ginobili for most of the season with a broken hand, whereas the Celtics have not responded to a season-ending heart condition to Jeff Green the same way.  I thought that the reason might be because of San Antonio’s depth, and that seems to be one of the reasons they’ve been able to withstand an injury to their best or second-best player. Matt Bonner, Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, Gary Neal and DaJuan Blair have been fantastic between a consistent Tim Duncan and Tony Parker gone bonkers (and quietly inserted himself into the MVP race. But that’s a MAMBINO post for another day).

KOBEsh: The advantages and flaws of the LA Clippers

I projected that with the trade for Chris Paul (looking better and better by the day), the Clippers would run one of the best offenses in the league. With them 7th in points per game and 4th in points per shot, they’re clearly exactly what I thought they’d be. However, I pointed out that two of the Clippers’ fatal flaws would be their defense and coach Vinny del Negro. They’re middle of the pack defensively and I’ve personally watched a number of games in which del Negro has fumbled timeout management, as well as plays out of the huddle. They’ve yet to run out of steam, but this team won’t make any noise in the postseason if they don’t learn how to defend, and soon.


BockerKnocker: The New Jersey Nets’ atrocious final season in New Jersey

New Jersey’s long 2nd half started with Deron Williams, having a stellar year otherwise, nearly airballing the game-tying 3 in last night’s All-Star game. At the beginning of the season, I hoped that the process of moving to Brooklyn could accelerate. After all, the Nets roster at the time consisted of D-Leaguer extraordinaire Sundiata Gaines and Johan “Only Jared Jeffries Has Worse Hands Than Me” Petro. Bad news, folks, those two guys are still alive, although nobody would blame you if you’ve caught a glimpse of the dead carcasses that New Jersey trots out every night.

The emergence of rookie MarShon Brooks has been delightful, and Deron Williams has had another brilliant season. But Deron is not a number 1 option (most point guards aren’t). Brooks is a serviceable #2 for now, but he will undoubtedly be shipped to Orlando in ANY possible deal for Dwight Howard. The team has just 10 wins this season, and has lost 8 out of its last 10, sitting dead last in the Atlantic. The Nets are

Read more...

BQ #1 – Who makes The Leap?

These Burning Questions hardly make sense anymore, considering the fact that the 2011-12 NBA season started almost a month ago. But MAMBINO doesn’t quit anything, unless it concerns KOBEsh playing organized basketball (He will use all of his fouls. All of them.).

A common topic used by other people who write on the interwebs is the attempt to find the next great player. Whether it’s a local columnist raving about a player who hasn’t yet stepped onto the national scene, or a fantasy sports writer (nerd alert) advising readers to target a specific sleeper in late rounds, the concept is fairly simple. Who makes “The Leap?”

BockerKnocker: Paul George, Indiana Pacers SF

Let’s start off with a fun fact that I couldn’t possibly have made up: Paul George’s parents are Paul and Paulette George. That’s fantastic.

But back to the business:
George attended Fresno State, where he played for two years before the NBA. He never produced a collegiate body of work worthy of a top-5 selection. In fact, his own school labels him as “the program’s premier free throw shooter, an astute defender, multi-dimensional scorer and leader by example.” You’d think that if your school FIRST describes you as its best free throw shooter, George would be of the Caucasian ilk. But then again, he can do stuff like this:

In his rookie year, George didn’t really make an impact in the box scores: 7.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, and a steal in a shade under 21 minutes per game. He struggled to keep up with the scoring prowess of teammate Danny Granger. Additionally, George often deferred running offensive sets to point guard Darren Collison, despite showing a nimble passing touch since his days at Fresno. But for all of his offensive troubles last year, George was a lockdown stopper on defense. As Indiana made a late season playoff push, coach Frank Vogel inserted George into the starting lineup for the final 24 games of the regular season, providing a defensive complement to the Pacers’ run-and-gun offense. His moment came in the postseason, as he was assigned the task of shadowing Derrick Rose for all 5 playoff games. While the 1-seeded Bulls easily dispatched the young Indiana squad, Rose shot an inefficient 18-57 from the field; a 32% clip is hardly ever, if at all, connected to the league’s MVP. The nation met Paul George during that series, saying hello to a player who used his elite athleticism to become a force on defense (my favorite type of player).

But you can’t make The Leap without improving on both ends of the court. What made me choose George for this BQ was the fact that he lists Kobe Bryant as his favorite athlete. No, I’m not worried that he’ll get all busy in Colorado. The importance in choosing Kobe is that George says that Kobe “works harder than anyone else to be the best.” While nobody questioned his ability to defend on the perimeter, George did consistent work in the offseason with his offensive game, noting that he “didn’t want to be an offensive liability” for the Pacers anymore. And that work ethic has resulted in a favorable uptick this year, through 10 games: improvements in almost every statistical category, including an eye-opening 25% jump in 3-point shooting percentage.

And it’s not just the stuff that he can control, either. George was reported to have grown a full 2 inches, which would list him at 6’10”. Not too surprising until you realize that he’s a freaking swing… Read more...

BQ #2 – Could the Heat Possibly Fall Short…Again?

Everybody has more or less settled into this malaise where it doesn’t matter whether or not the Miami Heat win this year. The unnecessary venom has been tucked into the back pocket, and hoopheads are widely declaring that LeBron will be hoisting his first Larry O’Brien trophy in June. It’s a simple argument: the Heat have the most talented roster, and after a solid year together, they’re ready to win 2 more games than they did last year.

But since we’re in the business of giving you something to read that you can’t find anywhere else, the Bossman and I have compiled a list of reasons why Miami could fall short once again.

5. Dwyane Wade’s perimeter shooting has not improved.

BockerKnocker: It was surprising to see how ineffective the Heat offense was when the Boston Celtics employed a roaming 2-3 zone defense last week. The concept of a zone defense places each individual defender in a “zone,” as opposed to assigning each defender to a corresponding player on offense. While this makes it more difficult for the offense to drive to the basket, the zone defense allows for open shots on the perimeter. This isn’t a foreign concept; teams have recognized the advantages and disadvantages of zone defense since its inception. Boston switched to a zone defense because LeBron and D-Wade were bullying their way through the paint and scoring at will. And even though the Heat eventually won the game, it was more because the Celtics expended all their energy coming back from 20 points down, that they didn’t have enough to bring it home.

Each Miami possession against the zone defense was shockingly full of turnovers, hesitation, and maybe a dash of fear. They played as if they hadn’t practiced their offense against a zone…which makes you think…is it possible that they didn’t practice their offense against a zone? Most NBA players can’t stop LeBron or Wade in a man-to-man scheme. And on a good night, the two are legitimately unguardable. But one thing stuck out as Sportscenter rolled highlights of Miami’s last second win in Charlotte (another game in which the zone defense rendered Miami very average-looking): neither of the two kings of Miami had attempted a 3-point shot for the season. (They have each attempted 1 shot behind the arc since the Bobcats game.) My thought: why not? I can get behind the notion that every player should attack the rim, first and foremost, but a killer perimeter game is the perfect Plan B when things veer off schedule. Instead of forcing their way to the hoop, would it kill them to take a couple more 3s? As superstars, both LeBron and Wade will get to the line, and additionally, more often than not will the Heat eek out close victories even against the vaunted zone defense. But truthfully, it is a bit startling to see a less-than-dynamic offense coming from South Beach.

The biggest culprit is Dwyane Wade, a career 29% shooter from downtown. For all of his strengths, that is one very glaring weakness. He needs to spend less time telling us what he’s wearing, less time stuffing Gabrielle Union, and less time throwing alley-oops to Bron in practice. Figure it out, D-Wade; your three point shooting percentage baffles me as much as how you spell your name.

4. Because even NBA players in their primes can’t stay healthy for this long

KOBEshigawa: Last year, these core members of the Heat played in these number of games-

LeBron James: 79
Dwyane Wade: 76
Chris Bosh: 77
Joel Anthony: 75
Mario Chalmers: 70
James Jones: 81
Zy… Read more...

BQ #3: How does Derrick Rose follow up his post-MVP season? What will it take to lead Chicago to a title?

After Derrick Rose won his MVP for leading the Bulls to a league leading 62 wins and a number one overall seed in the playoffs, I realized that that award is only recognized for greatness reserved to Hall of Famers (or Hall of Famers in waiting). Any man that won the MVP had a Hall of Fame career in back or in front of him. For the 22 year-old Rose, this is obviously the latter.

His individual play isn’t going to be the story here. Rose will be great, and with youth and a clean medical chart on his side, I will expect the same play from him as last year (and he better – the dude is the CRUX of my fantasy team, LukesRetirementParty). He was undoubtedly the guy who most made THE LEAP last season, and thus, I don’t know how much better he can truly get. The real story is going to be if his supporting cast is good enough to beat the Heat and Celtics to get to the NBA Finals.

How will this play out?

The rest of the Bulls roster is so strong, it’s hard to believe that this team came up short during the free agent bonanza of 2010. Carlos Boozer, who was never the same player after his wrist injury last year, cannot be as bad as he was in the playoffs (Bulls management hopes, anyway). The Bulls biggest and most glaring weakness, was the rotation of Kyle Korver and Keith Bogans at shooting guard. With former All-Star and NBA champion Rip Hamilton now in the fold, it is like the Bulls replaced Mr. Bean with James Bond. Though not the long distance threat they truly needed (Ray Allen), the Bulls now have a guy that can come off screens and hit shots reliably. Unlike human statue Bogans or stand-still shooter Ashton Korver, Hamilton can move very effectively off-ball and is still considered an apt defender.

This Bulls team is built remarkably like the Dallas Mavericks of last June. In Rose, they have a transcendent individual, much like Dirk. But the superstars stop there. The rest of the roster is filled out with specialists and role players, guys like Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, Kyle Korver, Taj Gisbon and CJ Watson. The Mavericks made their way to a title with a past his prime Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler, JJ Barea and Shawn Marion playing prominent roles, each to perfection.

If the Bulls have any hope of replicating Dallas’ run in June, they must have every single one of their role players at the top of their capabilities. That means Boozer fighting for hard rebounds and making fadeaway jumpers at the elbow; Rip Hamilton coming off of a hard Joakim Noah screen and tearing to the cup; Kyle Korver hitting corner threes with no hesitation; Taj Gibson coming off the bench and providing no indication that Carlos Boozer has left the game; Omer Asik not falling over his own feet; Luol Deng adding to every facet of the game, as Shawn Marion 2.0.

Everything went perfectly for the Mavericks last year, and they were rewarded with a championship. The Bulls, likewise have no margin for error. Ironically, the price that Chicago has to pay for not extending a large contract to Lebron or Wade is demanding complete perfection from 11 guys on the roster. It’s extremely rare that you have a title team led by one star, whose abilities are augmented not by a peer of the same talent, but rather by a cadre of complimentary players. The Bulls have that team. Playing the sheer odds of all those different factors aligning, I’m not sure that Chicago will have enough at the proper time to beat the Heat.

How will this affect the season?

There is one part of basketball (sports, really), that seems to outreach any limitation a team may have in terms of its collecti… Read more...

BQ #4: Can Memphis continue their playoff success during the regular season? Can Zach Randolph be an MVP?

We would have loved to finish all the burning questions before the season started. Really, truly. But we both work full-time jobs, with bars to go to and rent to pay. We would love to apologize, but we do this for free. Handle it.

Why is this even a question?

The Grizzlies were once the laughing stock of the league; not just because of their poor on-court performance, but even more so because of their poor front office management that only prolonged their in-game deficiencies. In a few short years, GM Chris Wallace traded 26 year old 7 foot star Pau Gasol to the Lakers for 27 year old draft bust Kwame Brown, Pau’s fat brother Marc Gasol and a draft pick. He drafted All-Star Kevin Love, only to trade him to Minnesota for the disappointing OJ Mayo. Only two years ago, with the number two pick in the 2009 Draft, Wallace took Hasheem Thabeet, whose only discernable NBA skill seems to be being 7’3″. Thabeet was selected over other more talented, albeit shorter, players like Tyreke Evans, James Harden and Eric Gordon. Extensions were handed out to Rudy Gay ($82 million) and Mike Conley ($45 million), when most critics argued that both players were worth only 2/3 of that.

Then something miraculous happened; all of the moves started making sense. Pau’s fat brother turned out to be one of the league’s most effective centers. Marc was recently rewarded with a $55 million dollar contract extension. With the Lakers’ pick, Memphis selected young, fearless guard Greivis Vazquez. Draftee Mike Conley went from potential bust to NBA-quality point guard and Rudy Gay proved to be worth the money so many thought he did not earn. The most unforeseen benefit of all these moves was that the cap room created by Kwame’s expiring contract allowed the Grizz to trade for undervalued head case Zach Randolph.

Last May, the Grizzlies barely beat out competing Suns and Rockets squads from making the playoffs as an 8th seed. Many people saw them giving the top-seeded Spurs a hard time en route to a definite San Antonio victory, but nothing more.

There are a lot of really good NBA players, but very few elite NBA players. I don’t really know why this is. What’s the difference between OJ Mayo and Dwyane Wade? Well, the easy answer is that Wade is just much better than Mayo. He gets to the rim whenever he wants, possesses tremendous court vision and always seems to get a bucket whenever his team needs him the most. But…couldn’t OJ Mayo do this? Couldn’t he see the court as well as Wade? Could he weave in and out of the lane and get to the basket as easy as #3? And let’s expand this further; could we apply all these same questions to Eric Gordon, Josh Smith, DeMar DeRozan and Monta Ellis? I think they all could be as good as Dwyane Wade. But they aren’t. While some of these guys give or take in athleticism or natural skill, the advantages that each man has in some facet of his game should be enough to equalize the playing field. It doesn’t though. Physically, I don’t know that there’s a large difference. I can’t tell you why Wade is an elite player and these other guys are not.

This is how everyone used to feel about Zach Randolph. I could have written the same paragraph about him, comparing Z-Bo to Amar’e Stoudemire, Tim Duncan or Charles Barkley…except instead of “I can’t tell you what the difference is”, I would think “well, because he’s crazy”. Some guys, like Z-Bo, don’t make THE LEAP because something in their minds is h… Read more...

BQ#5 – Can the Nets Go to Brooklyn Yet?

It would have been simple, convenient, and expected for me to have become a New Jersey Nets fan. First and foremost, I grew up in the great state of New Jersey. In fact, the first NBA game I ever attended was at the swampy Brendan Byrne Arena, and only recently can I say that I’ve seen more games at Madison Square Garden than wherever the Nets called home. Second, I could have spared myself some early childhood ribbing from “real” Knicks fans who thought that being born and raised in NYC was a pre-req. And last, but certainly not least, former Net Kendall Gill gave an inspiring, fan-attracting performance in Nickelodeon’s “My Brother and Me” — so in other words, it’s a miracle that I’m NOT a Nets fan.

That miracle took the form of the Sportschannel New York, later known to us as Fox Sports Net New York and now known to us as MSG+. The problem was that Nets games were broadcast on a paid cable channel, one that my parents chose not to buy. Lo and behold, that led me to watch another enterprise on the Madison Square Garden network, the New York Knickerbockers. The Knicks were good in the 1990s, making two Finals appearances under the tutelage of Pat Riley and the play of Patrick Ewing. As I latched onto the orange and blue, however, I was still a Nets sympathizer…until 102-76.

You know that feeling you get when you hate something associated with sports? And even better, when you’re aware that such hatred makes no sense, either because the object of your anger doesn’t deserve it, or because you realize that sports means too much to your life? Well, the late Drazen Petrovic was my first hate moment. When the first-place Bockers crossed the Hudson into Jersey in the 1992-93 season, Petrovic diced the Knicks to the tune of 28 points and 6 assists. I will never forget that Croatian smile after he drained a 3 in the face of fan favorite John Starks (granted, Starks probably deserved it since his choice of trash talk to Petrovic implied that Croatians were responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing). That smile bred hate in my 7-year-old face. I would never forgive the Nets for that.

So when the news came out that Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov would be moving the franchise to Brooklyn, I was ecstatic. I’ve already said my goodbyes. Go fail elsewhere, guys. Not in my state. So how will the team say goodbye to New Jersey?

Due to the lockout, the preseason consisted of a home-and-home series for all NBA teams. Each squad was scheduled to play one home game and one road game with another franchise in geographic proximity. I caught the Prudential Center game on TV, and attended the MSG game, thanks to an absurd connect from Mambino friend El Miz. I noticed that the best part of this home-and-home series was to see the adjustments made from either team in the second game. For instance, after Nets rookie MarShon Brooks had himself quite the debut in the first contest, Knicks guards defended him more aggressively in the second, forcing him out of his comfort zones. Tyson Chandler figured out that Brook Lopez is scared of…well, everything, so a little nudge here and maybe an “inadvertent” elbow there, got The Punisher off of his game.

The Nets, on the other hand, did not make any discernible adjustments from the first game to the second. What made matters worse was the obvious lack of professional talent on New Jersey’s roster, which was apparent from the opening tip, as journeymen Sundiata Gaines and Shelden “The Landlord” Williams log… Read more...

Burning Question #6: Are the Clippers a title contender?

Merry Christmas! For your gift (besides this wonderful blog we do for free…you thankless sack), you will be magically transported to an alternate universe where the Los Angeles Clippers are the talk of the town. In this make-believe land of pretend, the Clips will be predicated as a playoff team by all, and a title contender by most. Chris Paul, the best point guard in the game, will be roving the perimeter, throwing dishes to energetic bigs Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, with All-Stars Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups and Mo Williams bombing from distance. As we drop further into insanity and delusion, this fantasy Clippers team will be talking trash to their 16-time locker room neighbor Lakers, even though they’ve competed in two exhibition games, had 7 days of training camp and won approximately nothing. But now Christmas is over, and your gift is over. Time to return to reality, where all of this really happened.

WHAT THE EFF? THIS ALL REALLY HAPPENED? WHEN? WHERE? HOW? HUH???

That sums up my feelings on how I feel about the Clippers. I can’t believe this happened, and I buy some of the hype, but not all of it. In fact, I can’t believe that I even had to use “Are the Clippers a title contender?” as a title for a post. Let’s get after it, shall we, friends? And for real, Merry Christmas.

Why is this even a question?

Because the Clippers acquired Chris Paul, Blake Griffin is a mack truck in the form of an ugly human being, the team re-signed DeAndre Jordan and acquired Mo Williams, Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler. In that, they have two of the best 15 players in the league, a top-5 center and 3 guys in Mo, Billups and Butler that have been to the Finals (though Caron was sitting for his trip). They have the most talented backcourt in the league, and arguably the best starting frontcourt in the West.
The Clippers gave up a lot for Chris Paul, but what this says most to me is the tremendous depth that the team had before the trade. Even after giving up Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu and Chris Kaman, the team still seems as loaded as ever. As amazing as it is, the Clippers have more former All-Stars in their starting lineup (four) than the Lakers have on their entire roster (three). Even in my most vehement Lakers-induced disdain for the Clippers, I have to say that this is one of the best 8 teams in the league. Wow. I just threw up.

How will this play out?

I just listed all the strengths of this team, and believe me, there are many. But looking past the highlight reels of Lob City, the ballyhooed acquisition of Paul and the sexy story of the bridesmaid Clippers perhaps becoming the starring attraction in a city shared with the Dodgers and Lakers, this team has some serious problems.

No frontcourt depth: The recent signing of Reggie Evans was a great move by GM Neil Olshey, but as LeBron, Wade and Bosh showed in last year’s Finals, even the youngest and most athletic of legs will wear down over a 82 game season. What happens when you put those legs through a 66 game sprint with a three-man rotation? Evans is a solid piece and a definite rotation player, but in order for Blake and DeAndre to play less than 40 minutes a night, they need another big man to sop up the minutes to preserve something for the playoffs (and this isn’t even taking into account Jordan’s penchant for fouling the CRAP out of guys).

Lack of continuity: These guys haven’t played together. Granted, if there ever was going to be a player to bring your team together in a 10-day span, it would be Chris Paul. However, Butler, Billups and CP3 are all b… Read more...

Burning Question #7: Is this the end for this Lakers era?

What I loved most BockerKnockers’ excellent 2011-2012 Knicks preview was the prevailing notion of “feeling”. Knicks fans feel the excitement again. They have a reason to care about their team and to be optimistic about the year. They are not counting down to the 2012 draft, nor are they waiting until a forthcoming free agent class. The feeling is finally about the here and now. It’s about the basketball in the moment, how their team will play today and what will be coming in 5 months rather than 2 years. There is an expectation of winning, rather than just hoping not to be embarrassed. In every word from my blog brother’s latest post, I felt every bit of excitement emanating from the Garden and beyond. This is the beginning, not the end. It’s a good time to be a Knicks fan. And then there’s us, the Lakers faithful, coming into tomorrow with the exact OPPOSITE emotions.

I’ll be honest with you; it’s pretty sweet being a Lakers’ fan. Fellow MAMBINO contributor and friend of the blog El Miz often refers to me as an “arrogant Lakers fan”. I’ll agree. I don’t know if there’s any other kind.

A little “joke fad” going around right now is the term “white people problems”. My roommate often says this when he complains about having to “sit in his chair all day for work” or “feeling like he never has enough fresh squeezed orange juice.” This is all very tongue in cheek; he knows that people are going hungry in the Sudan and that kids his age grow up crack addicts. But relative to his situation, things like “the best bench press wasn’t available at our gym” are a problem.

Similarly, we in Laker Nation have “Laker fan problems”. Oh, a trade didn’t work out for Chris Paul (the best point in the game) and we STILL have Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum on our team? #Lakerfanproblems. We didn’t make the Finals last year after 3 in a row and two titles, in which the Lakers beat their archrival Celtics in a Game 7 for the first time in 65 years? #Lakerfanproblems. Darn. We are in daily trade rumors for the best center in the game, Dwight Howard, and that might be a distraction for the team? #Lakerfanproblems. I might be an arrogant Lakers fan, but I am pretty realistic about it. Our problems are just relative to our situation. But our situation is usually winning titles and creating legends. If that sounded terrible, I’m happy because it was meant to be. Lakerfanproblems means you are a part of a tradition that expects greatness in the present and on into the future. We always look ahead, never content with just the present.

I’ve written about how the Lakers didn’t need to change roster personnel too much to contend for another couple years. But the organization, as forward thinking as they’ve always been, knew that the roster needed to change if they wanted to contend for the next 10 years.

Why is this even a question?

Jerry West and Elgin Baylor played together for over 11 seasons, went to 6 NBA Finals and never won a single one of them. West then teamed up Wilt Chamberlain for five seasons and took one title in four attempts. Kareem and Magic went to 8 Finals and won 5 together in 10 years as teammates. Shaquille and Kobe spent over 8 seasons on the same squad, going to 4 Finals and winning 3 of them.

This will be Pau Gasol’s 4th full season with Los Angeles, 5th overall. In case you haven’t been following the news, the organization put their union in to seri… Read more...