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The Lakers are executing ‘Plan B’ in free agency

Going into this summer, Los Angeles Lakers fans were skeptical, to say the least. There were just four players under contract, including a $33 million dollar backcourt that played less than 20 combined games last season. The team had over $20 million dollars worth of cap room, more than enough for LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh, but very few building blocks in which to attract those players to L.A.. Even after an excellent draft night including acquiring Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, the prospects of the Lakers transforming back into a contender were slim.
 
But then…
 
Carmelo seemed to be changing his mind after a “very convincing” presentation from Lakers brass. There were rumors that LeBron James felt the same way. Kyle Lowry seemed interested in signing. Pau Gasol, for all the trade rumors swirling around him the previous three seasons, was locked in to re-sign in the event that the Lakers made positive strides with any other free agents. Despite what some felt would be a bleak summer, as always, the sunlight was peering through the clouds in Southern California.
 
This is what I called “Plan A” in a piece I penned right here on Silver Screen & Roll weeks ago. The Lakers, despite Kobe’s massive contract and all the mistakes made with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, would rise from the ashes and begin the latest championship era of Los Angeles basketball. With either James, Anthony or both in the fold and Bryant’s deal coming off the books in two seasons, the Show would be locked and loaded for years to come.
 
Plan A, it seems, has been a massive failure. What now?
 
Plan B is well underway.
 
(Read more of this desolation at SS&R)

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What’s the plan for the Lakers in free agency?

The Lakers have already fired their opening shot in getting together their next great championship squad: drafting Jordan Clarkson.

But they also picked up a fellow named Julius Randle–the number 7 overall pick–who hopefully will be a building block in LA for the next decade or so.
 
Beyond that? This year’s free agency could tell us a lot about where the Lakers are headed…or if we’re just going to be asking the same questions for another twelve months. What are the Lakers aiming to do in the coming months?
 
Plan A: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh. Or many of them.
 
As with most offseasons, even with no cap room or assets, the Lakers are going to be involved in the free agent rumor mill. But in an offseason where the team has room for a maximum salary contract? They’ll be involved in every whisper, no matter how farfetched.
 
Which is exactly what this situation is.
 
The Lakers have virtually no shot at the former four-time MVP, nor the former scoring champion nor the former Miami Heat Harlem Shake video MVP. The Lakers are essentially bereft of proven talent, the largest factor that any of these free agents will take into consideration before committing to another team. In short, the Show kind of stinks right now and I’m not sure any of these All-Stars want to descend into this pit.
 
(Read on at Silver Screen & Roll!)… Read more...

Three-peat? Miami Heat Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Mario Chalmers, SG Dwayne Wade, F Shane Battier, F Lebron James, F/C Chris Bosh

 

Key Bench Players: Ray Allen, Udonis Haslem, Norris Cole, Chris Anderson, James Jones

 

Notable offseason additions: Greg Oden, Michael Beasley

 

Notable offseason subtractions: Mike Miller

 

FACT OR FICTION: Three-peat?

 

Fact. If you had to bet on either the Miami Heat or the field, who do you like? The Heat have LeBron so I don’t see anyway to pick the field. James is the closest thing to basketball perfection right now and maybe ever. He’s not perfect, and he can’t do it alone, but with the same core, some veterans and some potential, and a flat-faced coach who gets his guys to commit on the defensive end, the Heat are definitely the favorites.

 

We all have the same questions about the ‘13-’14 Miami Heat: Can D Wade stay healthy enough to be a consistent contributor? Can Bosh and Chalmers be the players Lebron needs if Wade isn’t a superstar? Will the bench have enough firepower or are Ray Allen and Udonis Haslem too old? Does is matter that Mike Miller is gone and Greg Oden is in? Does Michael Beasley still do drugs?

 

We asked most of these questions last summer. Mostly the answer was “yes”: the Heat won the title so they clearly did not have many major flaws. They beat a very deserving Spurs team, and faced some stiff competition along the way. It was no cake walk. Of course, with a guy like LeBron James, some nights the answers to the those questions were “no”, and it didn’t matter. There are going to be nights like that this year too. The worry for Heat fans is that at some point we are going to remember that James is a human being. But for all us NBA fans, let’s hope we aren’t forced to remember that for a few years.

So let’s focus on what’s different.… Read more...

NBA Finals Wrap-Up: Some legacies defined, others left alone

I’m sweating blood, crying stomach acid and secreting brain fluid through my pores. A completely normal reaction considering the seven game gladiatorial brawl we just witnessed over the past two weeks.
 
Game 7 concluded Thursday night with an emphatic finish, a 48 minute slugfest living up the symphonic excellence the previous six games had composed before it. With less than a minute on the board, we had a two point ball game with both teams trading blows like the Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin applying finisher after finisher to no avail. It seemed that in a series where the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs countered each other game to game to game to game, that still no team had an edge over the other.
 
Still, at the concluding bell, I wonder: did the best team truly win? Or was the dramatic, heart-rendering finish of Game 6 so emotionally resonant that we’ve all tricked ourselves into believing that Miami’s had the slightly upper hand? Was it all an illusion born of adrenaline and the singular greatness of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade?… Read more...

NBA Finals: Game 6–A Survivor’s Tale

“I’m going to the gym. I’m all jacked up.”–MAMBINO Contributor El Mariachi, 12:17 am Eastern Time
 
We didn’t watch Game 6 everyone–we survived it.
 
It’s been echoed over and over again all night and all morning. It’s not hyperbole: this was one of the greatest Finals games ever. Off the top of my head, only a handful of games are in it’s company over the last 30 years: Mavericks-Heat Game 5 in 2006, Bulls-Jazz Game 6 in 1998, Pistons-Lakers Game 6 in 1988 and Lakers-Celtics Game 4 in 1987. There are others, of course, but there’s no doubt about it: last night’s epic Game 6 already ranks in the Top 10 of greatest Finals games ever, perhaps even penetrating the sacred sphere of greatest contests in American sports history. It was that good.
 
It’s not just the dramatic finish and the toe-curling proximity to which San Antonio was to a championship, but rather the ebbs and flows of such an excellently played contest that really makes this game stand out. Even the last two Game 7s (Boston/LA in 2010 and SA/Detroit in 2005) lacked the 48 minutes–make that 53 minutes–of artistry that last night’s bout had. Celtics-Lakers was a sloppy affair, with both teams shooting poorly, Kobe Bryant chucking away a 6-24 night and the final combined score ticking in at just over 160 combined points. Spurs/Pistons had the same feeling of inertia, slogging towards a 4th quarter that was largely out of reach for Detroit. Game 6 was dynamic from beginning to end, with each team playing crisply, trading blows and fighting to a standstill up until Bosh emphatically landed the controversial finishing blow. This game was so finely played, with so many featured players, that it’s hard to remember one seminal moment in a myriad of them. That’s what sets last night’s game apart–painting a masterpiece without muddling the colors. … Read more...

By the Numbers: The Lakers’ 33-game win streak vs the Heat’s 24-game win streak

(Your weekly dose of Silver Screen & Roll goodness. My newest. Dig it)

“In basketball you can get a unique team and Miami has a unique team. They have great three-point shooting and they’re never out of a game because of that and then they have the best player in the game who does all the little things. I never thought this streak would live forever, no…I just think it’s a streak that could very easily be broken this year.”–Jerry West, Hall of Famer and member of the 1971-1972 NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers

 
The 1971-1972 Los Angeles Lakers accomplished what no professional team had ever done before–in fact, it wasn’t even close. That LA team won 33 straight games, which still stands as an NBA record today. That streak was 13 more than the 20-gamer by the 1970-1971 Milwaukee Bucks, who were on their way to the town’s only NBA championship.
 
The Lakers did all this on the amazing play of three Hall of Fame players, and the inspiration of one more. West, Wilt Chamberlain and Gail Goodrich teamed up to form one of the most lethal inside-out combinations of all time, their play spurred on by the surprise early season retirement of Elgin Baylor. The first of their 33 straight began on November 5th, 1971 and ended nearly two months later on January 9th, 1972 in a 120-104 loss to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and his Milwaukee Bucks. The wins helped the Lakers set an NBA record at 69-13, a mark that stood for 24 years until Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls broke it. Regular season immortality wasn’t enough for that Lakers team–a few months after their win streak ended, the Lakers won the franchise’s first title in Los Angeles, a first for West and a second for Chamberlain.
 
But now this 40-year-old record is on the verge of being broken by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the rest of the Miami Heat. The reigning NBA champions have won 24 straight games which now ranks as the second-most all-time. With only 3 of their next 10 games against playoff teams, what was once thought of as an unbreakable streak is now within range of turning breakable.
 
Inevitably, there have been comparisons between these two teams, with the Worldwide Leader summoning up images of West, Chamberlain and company with every Heat victory. At this point, there’s little doubt that the Lakers’ 33-game streak is the more impressive of the two. However, with the improvements in sports science and scouting, as well as the expansive media and public scrutiny following the team, is winning 24 games in today’s NBA more impressive than it would have been in 1972? Is what LeBron and company are doing that much more difficult than how West’s Lakers glided through one of the low points in league history?
 
(Peep the rest after the break!)

 
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A Potential Dynasty? – Miami Heat Season Preview



Starting Five: PG Mario Chalmers, SG Dwayne Wade, SF LeBron James, PF Chris Bosh, C Joel Anthony

Key Bench Players:
SF Shane Battier, SF Mike Miller, PF Udonis Haslem, SF James Jones, SG Norris Cole, PF Dexter Pittman


Notable offseason additions: SF Ray “Judas Shuttleworth” Allen, SF Rashard Lewis,

Notable offseason subtractions:
PF Juwan Howard, PF Ronnie Turiaf


What better way to start off the 2012-2013 NBA season previews than with the reigning NBA champs? I’ll be honest, I am rooting against the Heat to the point where I’ve considered consulting a voodoo shaman, but they truly look like the class of the East and a threat to repeat. It’s hard to hate on LeBron right now, as he has been invincible and undone a lot of damage by tuning everyone out and just playing. Luckily, Dwayne Wade was a real punk last year and took the torch to new heights. I look forward to booing him in person this season.


In my opinion, this team SHOULD be hard to cheer for if you’re not in South Florida and last year’s Heat finally understood that. Their role in the NBA narrative is the villain, as the favorite should be, and their all-black uniforms only confirm a sinister intent. A Heat dynasty may usher in the apocalypse and end everything we’ve ever loved, which makes it even more fun to root against. Heat fans should embrace that they are relevant enough to be hated, which is a big step for them, and every team in the league would want that core. It’s good to be a Heat fan – but like Lakers fans know all too well – you can’t ever count on an impartial stranger to join your side ever again. You’re either with us or whatever underdog we’re playing against. People are far more likely to actively cheer against your team in your face. Welcome to the club, Miami.


Led by the power trio of a God-mode LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh, the Heat have established the modern model for a contender with their overwhelming star power and slow upgrades of its supporting cast. Last year saw the Heat pick up Shane Battier and finally get some timely production out of Mike Miller, but this year they added some real shooters off the bench. As the NBA watched the rich get richer, the Heat gained the right to dish open threes to Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis for peanuts. Honestly, the Celtics are better for it, but where does Judas Shuttleworth’s signing in Miami for less money rank in the all-time free agent disses? It’s a lock for Top 10. And after this off-season, is there any doubt that the new CBA may improve long-term parity by making it harder to sustain winners but make the short-term worse? Teams are either building to the top or racing for lottery position, which will benefit the contenders as long as high salary players are shed to avoid payment.


Not 1, not 2, not 3…

While the Heat faithful were promised an unreasonable 7 titles, there’s no question they should be considered the favorite for a repeat. Although Boston and NY could put up a fight, Miami will have a smoother road to the Finals than whoever survives the imminent slugfest out West. The Heatles 1.0 were a formidable team, but the 2.0 version put the pieces together in a way that should have the rest of the league running scared. They figured out their hierarchy (give the ball to LeBron), got better role players, picked up the team defense, and even got the Wizard of Oz to give Chris Bosh a spine, who provided the gutty play and gritty post defense that the Heat desperately needed to win a title.

This year, they should be better. They’re deeper, LeBron looked All-Universe in the OlympRead more...

"I’m Kind of Freaking Out" – Keys to an OKC Victory in the NBA Finals

Along with The CDP doing aces on the Miami Heat keys to victory in the Finals, we’ve dispatched our main man Thunderstolt to look at the OKC side and determine what the keys to victory are. Keep in mind that this has been edited, as he’s barely slept, can’t eat and quite frankly, is barely a human being right now. This is him at his most serene, probably the result of some sort of placebo. As the title of the post says, earlier today his first message to me was “I’m kind of freaking out.” Peace be with you, brother. Let’s get to it!

He saw this coming.  From the moment he told Clay Bennett he would be his GM, Sam Presti saw this as his vision.  His vision has brought them to within four wins of raising a banner. 

Presti has done his job.  Now its time for Scott Brooks and his staff to finish theirs for this 2011-2012 season.  The good news is the Thunder doesn’t have to change much from the previous three series to be successful in the Finals.

It seems fitting the first championship foe ever for this Thunder squad is against the Heat – after the next two weeks either KD or LeBron will have a ring and a banner to raise this fall.  Soak that one in.

Other than that quick little hit, I going to stay away from the obvious KD vs LBJ narrative because I’m pretty sure 99% of the blogosphere is writing about that (My thoughts on that matchup: The two best players in the league going at it for their first title and we’re in for a hell of a series. That cover it? Okay, good). So let’s stick to basketball, shall we? Presenting the Thunder’s keys to victory.

Russell Westbrook vs The World

As I mentioned in my last post for MAMBINO,  Westbrook has evolved as a player not only throughout this lockout shortened regular season but over the last 15 playoff games as well.  He has kept his foot on the gas pedal when need be, but surprsingly has pulled back to get other guys involved as well.  His defense in the playoffs has been underrated, relentless and most importantly, he is finding ways to contribute to wins other than the stat sheet. 

This could be a big, BIG series for Russ.  Westbook has been a sponge in these playoffs not only from what his coaching staff is telling him but from opponents as well.  In my four years of watching the Thunder play, I don’t think I have ever seen Russ use a screener more than once in a set.  Against the Spurs, they ran him ragged through screen after screen as Tony Parker used the same big man to find a crease in the defense.  You know what happened?  Russ threw it back right at ’em and started using his big men to use a screen two or three times until he saw daylight to drive to ball and either find a slashing big man or shooter in the corner.

More than likely Chalmers will start on Westbrook to start the series but that could have disasterous ramifications if they stick with Mario too long.  Westbook will see Chalmers, Wade, LeBron, Battier and anyone else who Coach Spoelstra thinks can slow him down for stretches.  Russ must keep doing what he has been doing and playing with poise and composure.  He has been fantastic at picking his spots thus far and they need him to continue that for the Thunder to make the final step.  Plus, the idea of Westbrook having more shot attempts in the Finals and Thunder winning would make Skip Bayless’ head explode (so America wins, as well as OKC!). Depending on what the Heat defense gives him, that could be a reality. 

Like A Bosh 

Chris Bosh is the key cog on both ends of the floor for the Heat, Thus, Serge Ibaka must … Read more...

Celtics/Heat Mid-Series Check-In from Two Haters

Similar to yesterday’s mid-series check-in on Spurs/Thunder with our man Thunderstolt, today two pathetic Lakers apologists bring you our updated thoughts on the Eastern Conference Finals match-up between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat. 
The CDP and I have been fascinated in a series that like the Western Conference Finals, has taken a turn for the unexpected. In a two-game swing, Rajon Rondo and the C’s have stormed back into the scrum where they were once not only left for dead, but reanimated as a Zombie and then put back down by Mila Jovovich. 
As a hardcore pathetic Lakers apologist, I’m going through a bevy of emotions on a night to night basis rooting for either the Celtics or Heat. I find that I’m consistently pulling for the team that’s losing to win, hoping that every contest ends in a heart-breaking last second shot and ultimately in Game 7, just hours before the tip, all members of both teams get a debilitating, but eventually curable case of syphilis and they just have to cancel the Eastern Conference Finals. 
My sociopath tendencies aside, let’s press on. Last night, the Thunder were able hand the Spurs their third consecutive loss after their 20 game winning streak, heading back to Oklahoma City with a 3-2 lead in their back pocket. Will the Heat be able to do the same?  

KOBEsh: Most of us on MAMBINO were calling for Miami in five games, or perhaps even the disgraceful sweep. If you had to distill the key to the Celtics’ evening of this series, what would it be? Or could you even do that? 
The CDP: Interesting question. I think we’re all a little surprised that Boston was able to strike back and really hit Miami in the mouth. There’s no doubt that this C’s squad is a veteran squad brimming with pride, but their team has less depth than ever and serious injury problems. Although there is no doubt that Miami is missing Chris Bosh, Ray Allen needs surgery and only came alive in Game 4. I’ll be very interested to see how Miami reacts – will they fold like a house of cards or show the resolve of a champion? 
Boston has made an impressive series of adjustments and their stars have risen their game to accompany the stakes. Here’s what I’ve seen Boston do right to even up the series:
  • Starting Strong: Instead of digging themselves a hole and trying to claw their way out, which would play into Miami’s strengths, Boston has been impressively focused to begin games. Dwayne Wade was totally shut down in the first half of Games 3 and 4, while Boston went back into the locker room with the luxury of a double-digit lead. With Miami relying on Wade and LeBron so much, it takes a lot of effort for them to come back from these kinds of deficits.
  • Find a Way to Score: Miami is still a defensive team at heart and uses their athletic defenders to force turnovers and fuel its transition game.  On the back of a resurgent KG, a stunningly dominant Rondo, and some big games from Paul Pierce, Boston has been able to score points against this Miami defense, putting well over 100/game after only managing to score 79 in Game 1. 
  • Role Players:  There’s no doubt that Miami overpaid Mike Miller/Joel Anthony and Shane Battier has been a bit of disappointment, but Boston played Keyon Dooling/Michael Pietrus/Marquis Daniel nearly 60 minutes in both Games 3 and 4. And won. Think about that! Boston always seems to get these kinds of performances from their role players when it matters. I’ll never forget Leon Powe and PJ Brown burning my Lakers in the NBA Finals a
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Chris Bosh: Indispensable in More Ways than You Know

Bosh should have stayed in Toronto
solely because he actually looks like a Raptor.

The list was LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki. After them, in no particular order was Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire, Ray Allen, Carlos Boozer, Joe Johnson, Rudy Gay and David Lee. These were the free agents of 2010 for the National Basketball Association. Never before had so many perennial All-Stars been free agents in the same summer. Some, more than others, had the ability to transform the fortunes of a franchise for the next decade.

When the clock turned to 12:00 on July 1, every basketball writer on the planet was focused on getting the scoop on where each of these esteemed ballers were heading, and for what money. The rumors flew fast and furious at a pace that made even Ric Bucher’s hair move.
I remember having very little doubt that Wade was going to remain in Miami, regardless of whoever came there with him, and that Dirk’s return to Dallas was all but sealed. I thought that Boozer, Stoudemire and Johnson would probably move, and would have a positive impact on whatever new environ they settled in. But nothing mattered as much as where LeBron landed.
From there, we all know the story. We covered it extensively on this blog (here and here) which I’m sure you went directly towards regardless of the other 14,569 articles…just on Yahoo Sports. With James following Wade and Bosh to Miami, the storylines were as follows:

Will LeBron ever be able to win the big one, even with more help?
How will Wade and James co-exist?
Does Wade’s and James’ skillsets render each other’s redundant?
Who gets the shot with 2 seconds on the clock?
Can LeBron solve his fourth quarter woes even with a better supporting cast?
Does going to Miami increase the pressure on LeBron?
How will Cleveland handle LeBron’s return?
Who’s team is it: LeBron’s, or Dwyane’s?
Why would LeBron chooes to side with his biggest rival, Wade, rather than try to defeat him?
How many teams have ever had two of the best five players in the league?
All of those questions ignore Chris Bosh. He’s made 7 All-Star teams and is Toronto’s all-time leader in points, minutes played, rebounds, blocks and double-doubles. He is one of the finest players in the NBA and within its top 25 most talented. He is very very good. So why does he constantly get ignored when talking about the Miami Heat? Especially when I think he may be its most irreplaceable player?
Chris Bosh is more “not a lot of things on the Heat” than “is a lot of things on the Heat”. What do I mean by that? He is not their best player, nor is he their MVP. He doesn’t have the most well-rounded skill set, nor is he the best scorer. He’s not the best rebounder…hell…he’s not even the third best rebounder. He’s not their best shot blocker, and wouldn’t be considered the first, second, third or even fifth best defender.
But Bosh is Miami’s most irreplaceable player. It’s relatively simple. Without him, the Heat go from a slightly flawed title contender to a very flawed playoff team.  If the team is missing either LeBron or Wade, the Heat could still win a championship (not both, obviously — don’t get crazy now). But without Chris Bosh, I don’t even think they could get past the Knicks.
The most basic metric here, as should be with any form of competition, is winning and losing. Without Bosh, the Heat are on a two-game losing streak. I don’t think that thRead more...