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The King

The Post-Rondo Celtics – Where Do They Go From Here?

(Along with our man Thunderstolt, we sent out an APB for The King after it was announced Sunday that Rajon Rondo was done for the season with a torn ACL. To dispute some rumblings in the New England, our man sent us a couple bullet points regarding his beloved Celtics)
 
The Celtics are not a better team without Rondo
 
The King: Incredibly, some Celtics fans have suggested that the Celtics may be better off without Rondo, citing statistics such as his +/- this year. There are a million ways to prove such thinking is ludicrous, but I’ll do it simply by providing one link:
 
KOBEsh: I have nothing further to add. People are stupid.

Instant Trade Analysis: Justin Upton to the Braves

Atlanta Braves get: OF Justin Upton, 3B Chris Johnson

Arizona Diamondbacks get: 3B/OF Martin Prado, SP Randall Delgado and minor leaguers SS Nick Ahmed, 1B Brandon Drury and SP Zeke Spruill

Since Ted Turner sold the Braves several seasons ago, Atlanta management has subtly turned a team with a nine figure payroll into shrewd, budget conscious operation with an eye always towards the future. Instead of spending multi-millions to sign or retain high-salaried veterans, the Braves have kept a healthy mix of older players with young, emerging prospects, which seem to sprout from their minor league system as steadily as Milton Bradley felony charges.

Although we had a couple initial thoughts here at MAMBINO HQ regarding this trade, we turned to resident Braves fan and writer The King for his thoughts. Let’s get to it:

  1. The Braves have the best bullpen in the game, one of the best rotations and stellar defense. The lineup was the weak part of this team not because of depth, but because of a  lack of superstars (a problem that has worsened with Chipper Jones’ retirement).  Justin Upton gives them a hitter that has the potential to be a superstar. 

 

The King is right in his assessment; the Braves have one of the best young starting rotations and bullpens in the game, a raft of twenty-something pitchers with tremendous upside. More to the point, they’re all on controllable rookie contracts, increasing their value tenfold–look at what 22 year-old pitcher Randall Delgado fetched, after all. The Braves absolutely need more stability in their line-up with a departing Chipper Jones (a legitimate All-Star in his age 40 season) as well as the departing free agent Michael Bourn. Grabbing a five-tool 25 year-old outfielder with a top-5 MVP finish to his credit should do the trick, right?… Read more...

MAMBINO Predictions for the NBA’s MVP, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Coach of the Year

MVP: LeBron James

The King: After winning back-to-back MVPs in the 1990-1991 and 1991-1992 seasons, Michael Jordan was the heavy favorite to win the award for a third consecutive time and fourth overall going into the 1992-1993 season. Despite averaging a monstrous 32.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG and 5.5 APG Jordan lost the MVP to Sir Charles.

LeBron James, who has won three of the last four MVPs, finds himself in similar position with 67% of NBA general managers predicting that he will once again take home the MVP. Does Kevin Durant or any other player have a legitimate chance of dethroning the King? Sorry LeBron haters, it’s not going to happen. Here’s why:

1) He’s the best player in the league: Obviously the number one factor in any individual player award is the performance of the player. What else is there to say? It’s not even close.

2) Team Performance: A huge reason why Jordan lost the MVP was the drop off in performance for the Bulls between the 1991-1992 and 1992-1993 seasons. In the ’91-’92 season, the Bulls dominated the league with a 67-15 record, good enough to win the Eastern Conference by 16 games! The next year they went 57-25, finishing second in the Eastern Conference and third in the NBA – five games behind Barkley’s Suns. Team performance matters. Do you see anyway the Heat fail to dominate the Eastern Conference? Me neither.

3) Good Storyline/Big Improvement: If your team improves significantly from the prior year and your addition/growth/career year helps drive the team’s success, you are guaranteed a MVP. The best example of this is Barkley, who helped lead the Suns to the best record in the NBA after finishing 4th in the Western Conference the year before his arrival. Steve Nash (first MVP), Derrick Rose and even Karl Malone (first MVP) are other great examples.

Where’s this year great story coming from? The Lakers could improve significantly, but it’s hard to see any of the Lakers winning an MVP for the same reason none of the Celtics came close in the 2007-2008 season. I don’t believe the Thunder will increase their winning percentage much more than the Heat, given their already stellar performance last year, their comparatively tough schedule this year and of course departure of James Harden. If Brooklyn or New York challenges for the number one seed in the East, Deron Williams and Carmelo Anthony would garner considerable MVP support, but I just don’t think either team is good enough to challenge the Heat. While it’s true that you don’t see most of the good stories coming – that’s why they’re good stories- unless there is a major surprise, I don’t see the storyline factor coming into play as it has in prior seasons.

 4) Statistics: General basketball fans and MVP voters are far more familiar with quantitative measures of players’ value than they were even five years ago. For that reason, it’s going to be more difficult for someone to win the MVP when all the advanced statistics indicate that another player is clearly the league’s best, as is likely to be the case with LeBron this year (and was the case with Michael back in 1993).

5) Hate for LeBron/Loser’s Stigma: Two things that worked against James in 2010-2011 were a) he wasn’t considered a “winner” because he hasn’t won a championship and b) people were outraged over “The Decision”. Well, now he’s an NBA champion and with the passage of time, anger over The Decision has dissipated.

The NBA has a lot of young stars right now, so James is certainly no lock for the MVP. With that said, if I had to bet on h

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MAMBINO’s 2012-2013 NBA Season Preview Wrap-Up

After six weeks, our massive 2012-2013 team-by-team preview has come to an end. Shout out to the entire ridiculously pseudonymed MAMBINO writing crew–El Miz, Bocker Knocker, The CDP, El Mariachi, AO, The King, Mr. Marquez and Thunderstolt–for all their contributions. They turned out better than I could have possibly imagined; insightful, well-considered, funny and most of all, right. 

If you haven’t already, check out our predictions for expected Eastern and Western Conference finishes, as well as our 30 team preview series. You’ll dig.


Coming this week: our picks for all the MVP, DPOY and ROY awards, as well as most and least disappointing/improved/suprising and of course, 2012-2013 NBA champion.


Southeast Division 
Atlanta Hawks 


Central Division
Pacific Division

Northwest Division

Philadelphia 76ers
Toronto RaptorsRead more...

Do They Have Enough to Get Past Miami? – Boston Celtics Season Preview

(The King is again traveling. Posting on his behalf. You know the drill)
Starting Five: PG Rajon Rondo, SG Avery Bradley (when healthy), SF Paul Pierce, PF Brandon Bass, C Kevin Garnett

Key Bench Players: G Jason Terry, G Courtney Lee, F Jeff Green, PF Jared Sullinger, PF/C Chris Wilcox, C Fab Melo. C Darko Milicic


Notable offseason additions: Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Jeff Green (missed last season due to health problems), Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo (first round draft picks)
Notable Offseason subtractions: G Ray Allen, F Mickael Pietrus, G Keyon Dooling

If the last few years had proven anything to us, it’s that the Celtics team that shows up to play this spring will perform vastly different than the one that coasts through the 82 game regular season.  Unlike every other team in the league, the Celtics have little to play for during the regular season. Any squad that relies on high-intensity defense and has a “Big Three” that consists of two 35+ year olds, one of which has knees that are less sturdy than a rope bridge during an earthquake, will not be consistent enough to challenge for the conference’s top two seeds. Yet, because the Eastern Conference is so shallow, the chances that Boston fails to clinch one of the top six seeds are pretty low unless they have significant injuries.
The Boston Celtics real season begins when the playoffs start. The NBA playoff structure will require the Celtics to defeat three teams in their NBA Finals quest but the fact is, only one team matters. Unlike the Western Conference which can lay claim to six legitimate title-contending teams, the Eastern Conference has only one elite team – the defending champion Miami Heat. If you’re good enough to beat the Heat, you’re going to beat any other team you match up against in the Eastern Conference playoffs barring injuries. For that reason, the remainder of this preview is going to focus exclusively on how the Celtics match up against the Heat.
The Celtics team that lost the Eastern Conference Finals in seven games last year had no hope of defeating the champs this year. Fortunately for the C’s, the squad they’ve built this year is far better than the one that couldn’t hold onto a 3-2 series last year. For Boston, it’s all about beating Miami. Let’s take a look at how the team’s offseason changes impact their ability to combat the defending champs:


1.   Avery Bradley – I’ve seen a few writers downplaying Boston’s chances to upset Miami this year based on Miami’s performance when Chris Bosh was healthy for the last two games. I’ve yet to see one of these writers mention how injuries at 2-guard for the Celtics significantly impacted their performance. Due in large part to the suffocating defense Bradley played against in the 2 regular season games that he started against Dwayne Wade, Bradley’s plus/minus number around 12. As numerous statistics last year showed, the Celtics are a much better defensive (and overall) team with him in the lineup. As those that watched last year’s conference finals remember, the Celtics surprisingly doubled Wade more often than LeBron. With Bradley’s aggressive on and off-ball defense, the Celtics can afford to direct more of there double teams at James this year while still limiting Wade’s production.

Bradley is also an underrated offensive player.   Before enduring two shoulder injuries that required offseason surgery (which will keep him out for the beginning of the season, and perhaps longer), he showed a much improved jump shot, as evidenced by his 41% 3PT FG%.

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Keep Building – Utah Jazz Season Preview

(As per usual, The King is in transit today. I’m posting on his behalf)

Starting Five: PG Mo Williams, SG Gordon Hayward, SF Marvin Williams, PF Paul Millsap, C Al Jefferson

Key Bench Players: PG Earl Watson, SG Raja Bell, SG Randy Foye, SG Alec Burks, SF Jeremy Evans, PF Derrick Favors, C Enes Kanter

Notable offseason additions: PG Devin Harris, G Mo Williams

Notable offseason subtractions: SG Randy Foye, SF Josh Howard
Kevin O’Connor received an awful lot of Executive of the Year Support for someone who failed at their job. 

Back in February, 2011, O’Connor made the decision to start the rebuilding process when he traded Deron Williams to the Nets for Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and two first round picks. It was a great move by O’Connor – the Jazz had no chance of competing before Williams became a free agent and inevitably left utah. By trading him with a year and a half left on his contract, he was able to maximize his value and avoid the fiasco the Nuggets experienced in trading Carmelo Anthony. 
O’Connor, like everybody else, figured the Jazz would have to endure a losing year but be rewarded with the lottery pick in a loaded 2012 draft that would help the team in their rebuilding process. The Jazz roster didn’t buy into the plan however, finishing a surprising 36-30 and earning the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs.  As result, they lost their lottery protected pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves (in a trade involving Darius Songaila and Antonio Daniels from 2009, of all things).
Missing out on a lottery pick because the Jazz overachieved likely didn’t upset most fans. What is likely upsetting them however, or at least should be, is that management is convinced the Jazz are ready to contend, as evidenced by the trades for Mo and Marvin Williams. 
As one of the top five-units in the league, the Jazz frontcourt is certainly championship caliber. Al Jefferson is a prolific scorer down low and only his subpar defense is keeping him from being an elite player. At 27 years old, he’s likely to match or exceed last year’s production. Starting power forward Paul Millsap has really blossomed into quite the player as well, averaging a career best 8.8 rebounds per game last year.
The real gem in the front court though is Derrick Favors. Only 21 years of age, he still has a lot to learn but did show significant improvement last year. At 6’ 10’’, he’s a little shorter than the ideal center. However, he has the athletic ability to develop into a dominating defensive anchor and has shown enough offensive promise that dreams of him becoming a perennial all-star don’t seem too far-fetched.
Enes Kanter, last year’s number three overall pick, appears to be another promising frontcourt player for the Jazz
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Kyrie Irving, Future Top-5 Player? – Cleveland Cavaliers Season Preview

(Some magic from The King, who’s mobile today and so I’m posting on his behalf)

Starting Five:PG Kyrie Irving, SG CJ Miles, SF Alonzo Gee, PF Tristan Thompson, C Anderson Varejao

Key Bench Players: PG Donald Sloan, SG Daniel Gibson, SG Dion Waiters, SF Omri Caspi,  PF Jon Leuer, and C Tyler Zeller

Notable offseason additions:Dion Waiters (4th overall pick), Tyler Zeller (17thoverall pack), C.J. Miles
Notable Offseason subtractions: G Antwan Jamison

Losing LeBron James was the best thing that ever happened to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

I certainly didn’t think this was true at the time, but in hindsight, this was the only possible way for the Cavaliers to win a championship. If the Cavs had resigned LeBron, they would have become a rich man’s version of the late-1980s Hawks: a team with one star player surrounded by limited talent that was not good enough to compete with the league’s current elite, yet too good to pick early in the draft where the vast majority of stars emerge. Not to mention, the Cavaliers had zero payroll flexibility with gigantic contracts for overpaid players–in other words, they weren’t going to be able to get better through free agency. The Cavs’ hopes for a championship would hinge on unearthing an All-Star (or perhaps two) with cheap, late round first draft picks to compete with the league’s up-and-coming teams such as the Chicago Bulls and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

With LeBron gone, the Cavs were essentially assured to be one of the worst teams in the league. This meant two things: (i) the Cavs’ draft pick was guaranteed to be in “superstar” drafting territory and (ii) with no hope of competing, the Cavs could trade their (few) marketable assets for draft picks such as Mo Williams, who, in what may turn out to be one of the greatest trades of all time, they turned into the #1 pick in the 2011 draft.

What it didn’t mean was that the Cavs fans would be doomed to years’ worth of pitiful basketball. Often times, rebuilding a team into a playoff contender can take half-a-decade or more. Watching your home team during those rebuilding years can be brutal – ask the Washington Wizards fans.  If you had talked to any Cavs fan during the 2010-2011 season, they had resigned themselves to the fact that they would endure 5-7 years of uninspired basketball like so many of the rebuilding teams before them. Yet, if you had spoken with those same fans a year later, you’d notice that they were decidedly more upbeat about the Cavs’ prospects. The reason why: 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving.

Simply put, Kyrie Irving is the next NBA superstar. Coming out of Duke after playing only 11 games during an injury-riddled freshman year, there wRead more...

Tim Duncan or Kobe Bryant? Who has had the better career?


It’s no secret that THE GREAT MAMBINO features a number of Simmons disciples here. We drink the Kool-Aid, heavily so, and listen to the musings of a man who spends an impossible amount of time thinking about basketball as a mere hobby.

Of course, with a false prophet, you’ve got to have the good book. And of course, in this sacriligious perversion of an analogy, the bible is The Book of Basketball. For the uninitiated, Simmons wrote a mammoth 700 page dissertation, the premise of which was that the Basketball Hall of Fame should be organized into a pyramid. In this concept, Simmons sets 96 players into five groupings, moving numerically upwards from several-time All-Stars, to the immortals of the NBA. In other words, Bill found a neat, clean (and profitable) way to rank the greatest ballers of all-time from bottom to top, with justifications, disguised as chapters, for each man.

It shouldn’t surprise any loyal reader of MAMBINO that we’d naturally gravitate towards the particular ranking of one Kobe Bean Bryant. Simmons begrudgingly respects Kobe, though every part of his green and white being is dead set against ever truly liking the Black Mamba. Thus, when I read the updated paperback rankings in 2010 after the Lakers’ 16th championship, I was surprised to see that Kobe had been elevated from the 16th spot, all the way to number 8. Just behind Tim Duncan.

And thus the debate started. While I have the utmost respect for Tim Duncan, who rightly wears the Barkley-ian badge of “Best Power Forward Ever” proudly upon his lean shoulder, I simply don’t believe that he could ever outrank Kobe on the pyramid. The King, an infrequent contributor to MAMBINO and Boston-area scumbag, heartily disagrees.

This debate raged throughout the playoffs, and as both men were unceremoniously dumped from contention (is there any other way?), the stage was set for a late-August post where we scrap for any reason at all to talk about basketball. So here it is: Kobe or Duncan? Who has had the better career?
The King: To answer this question, I think you have to define what makes a player great. To me there are four factors that make a great player:

1)     He is a winner who is essential to his team’s success

2)     He played well during the most important moments
3)     He individual performance was strong
4)     He made his teammates better
Let’s look at how Kobe and Timmy compare to each other on the four characteristic listed above:

He is winner who is essential to their team’s success

If we were talking about beating rape charges, Kobe would be the clear winner here (Editor’s Note: First of all, alleged rape charges. Second of all, low blow, man). However, since we’re talking about basketball, Duncan gets the edge.

Yes, Kobe’s five championships are one greater than Timmy’s four, but when we are talking about all-time greats, the role on the championship team matters. There is no questioning that Kobe Bryant was the alpha dog on the2009 and the 2010 championship teams. The 2000 – 2002 championship teams on the other hand?   Any non-biased fan has to admit that Shaq was Batman and Kobe was Robin. On all those championship teams there were at least three other players in the league you could replace Bryant with and still win the championship. There was only one player in the league you could replace Shaq with and still win the championship. That player is none other than Tim Duncan.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Not only was Timmy the alpha of all four Read more...

MAMBINO’s Eastern Conference Finals Preview

The Miami Heat versus the Boston Celtics. As soon as Derrick Rose got hurt five weeks ago, this is the matchup we all saw coming. And it is going to get messy.

Even in missing starting power forward Chris Bosh and no one on the Miami roster peaking right now save for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, essentially every person whose opinion you care about is picking the Heat to win this series. I suppose this more than anything is a testament to the greatness of South Beach’s best two players, who are playing at an otherwordly level right now.

Barring an unforseen injury to the Heat’s two remaining All-Stars, this series will be a romp. In our series preview, we’ll let you know why, but also, what the hell Boston would have to do to squeak out the massive upset. The King, our resident Celtics fan, will try to decode a method to the madness that would be a Boston series win. Here we go:

MIAMI in 5 games

Is this more a question of “how Miami will win this series” or “why Boston is at a serious disadvantage”? I think it’s a bit of both, to be honest.
Without Chris Bosh, the supporting cast on this Miami roster is not only worse than last year’s runnner-ups, but one of the worst in the entire playoffs. Wing players Shane Battier and Mike Miller are shooting 27% and 37% respectively from the field. Udonis Haslem has slipped to just 5 points and 5 rebounds in 18 minutes, down from 6 and 7 in the regular season. Joel Anthony, playing 23 minutes a game has watched his usually strong post defense slip a bit, while only putting in 4 points and 4 boards. Mario Chalmers is the only saving grace of the role players, playing confidently and throwing down a 11/4/3 line. Going forward, I find it hard to believe that these guys will give the Heat much more than this. I’d expect performances equal or slightly better than what they’ve been doing the first two rounds.

I bring all this up to illustrate how unbelievable Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are. Bron’s 29/9/6 nightly stat line, as well as Wade’s 24/4/3, are elevating an weak Miami team from D-League throwaways to potential Finalists. They are the crux to both the Heat defensive scheme and offensive attack, changing the game with their incredible energy and skill on both sides of the floor. Night in and night out, these two guys have to play like the two best players in the league to win ball games. Luckily for Miami, they’ve been just that in victories. Bad games, like Game 3 in Indiana, mean losses. It’s a very, very simple formula.

I cannot possibly overstate the importance towards LeBron and Wade having great games, every game for the Heat to win. Their supporting players are giving them next to nothing and I see no reason for that to change. For as much as everyone gets on both these guys for being such weak characters, they’ve risen to the challenge that the Heat’s roster has presented them with. Every coach knows that they have to stop these guys to win the game. It’s just that no one can do it. Amazing.
Thus, a game Boston Celtics team could actually have a decently easy time of beating up on a limited Heat squad that leans so much on trascendant performances from just two guys. However, Avery Bradley (their best perimeter defender) is out for the rest of the postseason with a shoulder injury and stars Ray Allen and Paul Pierce are playing with only one leg a piece. The C’s have suffered so many personnel losses over the season that even a win over an extremely limited Sixers team took seven games. This isn’t real… Read more...

MAMBINO NBA Playoffs Roundtable

Look, we know you guys get sick of just me and BockerKnocker dominating the page. We get it. Handsome doesn’t translate on the internet, otherwise you’d probably want more of us. But technology being the way it is, we’re going to share the MAMBINO wealth and open up a NBA Playoffs roundtable to our stable of fine friends and writers – AO, El Miz, Thunderstolt, The King and of course, us two idiots. We’re going to ask a few key questions in any series, and give our aficionados room to answer. Let’s go!

1) CHICAGO BULLS vs. 8) PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Q: Can the Sixers win this series now? Seriously?

BockerKnocker: This is unfortunate. The Philadelphia Lucky Charms didn’t just “steal” Game 2 from the Chicago Bulls. They looked them dead in the eye, smelled the blood left in the water by Derrick Rose’s torn ACL, told Chicago they would win, and then did just that. So it can’t be called “stealing” if Chicago essentially gave their apartment keys to Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams and watched while they ransacked the place. And it must have been tough to see Chicago native Evan Turner take one game back to Philly after Turner told the world that he preferred to play Chicago over Miami. Oh, and I almost forgot that Scottie Pippen sent a pre-game letter to the team trying to rally the troops. So if one of the game’s best players of all-time can’t get you psyched up to beat a freaking 8-seed at home, then YES, the Sixers can definitely win this series.

Q: What do the Bulls have to do to turn this around? Who has to step up just to beat Philly?
BockerKnocker: The obvious answer is first-time All-Star Luol Deng, who must shoulder most of the scoring load that Rose would have gladly taken. Luol, I get that you’re hurting, but if you’re gonna suit up, this team won’t win if you score 8 points.

But I think the real answer is Carlos Boozer. It’s one thing to make superstar-level money and not back up your contract with superstar-level play, but it’s another to put up the same numbers when a key player goes down for the count. If he can’t contribute more than 9 points and 5 rebounds in a game that the team so desperately needed to shake off the stink of Rose’s injury, then Boozer has fully earned the nickname “Beach Muscles.” And that would be extra fitting, because the way things are going, he’ll have an early start to the summer.

I just read that part over again. 9 points and 5 rebounds in Game 2!? The guy is owed approximately 47 million dollars (!!!) through 2015. He needs to be Amnestied. And not after the playoffs. NOW.

2) MIAMI HEAT vs. 7) NEW YORK KNICKERBOCKERS

Q:  Other than the obvious injuries to STAT & Shump, what has gone wrong?

If this wasn’t digital, you’d see BockerKnocker’s tears on the page

El Miz:  Everything. Newly minted DPOY by the NBA and the Great Mambino, Tyson Chandler got the freakin’ flu in April.  I’ve never heard of this happening before — I thought there was global warming or something. Should anybody get the flu after winter?  Coming into this series (and coming into this season), the front court was clearly the strength.  Chandler has been huge all year; he’s been awesome on the defensive end, has come up with a number of huge rebounds and defensive plays, is so efficient offensively, and is really the one guy the Knicks have that the Heat don’t really have an answer for.  Without him at 100%, the Knicks had to play essentially perfe… Read more...