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2014 MAMBINO NBA All-Stars

The 2013-2014 NBA All-Stars have been fully unveiled as of last night, with the reserves being named alongside the fan-voted starters. Just for those of you too lazy to punch in “NBA All-Stars” into Google, here they are:
Eastern Conference
Starters: PG Kyrie Irving, Cleveland; SG Dwyane Wade, Miami; F LeBron James, Miami; F Carmelo Anthony, NYK; F Paul George, Indiana
Reserves: F Chris Bosh, Miami; G/F DeMar DeRozan, Toronto; C Roy Hibbert, Indiana; SG Joe Johnson, Brooklyn; PF Paul Millsap, Atlanta; C Joakim Noah, Chicago; PG John Wall, Washington
Western Conference
Starters: PG Stephen Curry, Golden State; SG Kobe Bryant, Lakers; SF Kevin Durant, OKC; PF Blake Griffin , Clippers; PF Kevin Love, Minnesota
Reserves: PF LaMarcus Aldridge. Portland; SG James Harden, Houston; C Dwight Howard, Houston; PG Damian Lillard, Portland; PF Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas; PG Tony Parker, San Antonio; PG Chris Paul, Clippers
A great list to be sure…but not necessarily the right one.
The illustrious MAMBINO crew came together over the past week and threw down their All-Star picks because we’re smarter, savvier and just better than you, dammit. The following are the consensus group picks, as well as some pithy little commentary on how we reached our conclusions, including the snubbiest snubs (those that didn’t even get “snub” votes on MAMBINO). Read on!… Read more...

The NBA’s biggest surprises, halfway through the season–Part 2

Yesterday, we took a look at some of the biggest surprises for this half-NBA season, including the surprising mediocrity of the Charlotte Bobcats and Minnesota Timberwolves (but perhaps not in the same context) and just how terrible the Brooklyn Nets are. Peep the second half right here!
Portland’s excellence despite their defensive shortcomings
Under almost any metric you can interpret, the Portland Trail Blazers are the best offense in the NBA. Led by Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge, they can beat you in almost any fashion. They are willing and accurate three-point shooters, deadly from mid-range and potent in almost every rotation with guys like Mo Williams, Dorell Wright and now C.J. McCollum. The numbers are all there—they have the most offensively versatile starting five in the NBA and a very good bench behind them. In that sense, it’s no surprise they have the fifth best record in the NBA.
But defensively they’re not very good. They allow the 4th most points per game, coming in 22nd in defensive efficiency. They are the worst squad in the NBA at forcing turnovers and 22nd in opponent’s offensive rebounding numbers. Luckily, this team scores so well that they’re not often penalized for their defensive lapses. In many ways, they’re the lucky versions of the Minnesota Timberwolves—high scoring, efficient but with two closers at the end of games instead of Minny’s one. Portland could very well continue to thrive during the regular season, but I’m not sure how well they’ll fare during the playoffs with such mediocre to poor defensive scheme.
The completeness of Lance Stephenson
“Born Ready” Lance Stephenson was a Brooklyn, NY playground prospect, whose legend and skillset earned him a spot as one of the most highly recruited teenagers in the country. After spending one very mediocre season at the University of Cincinnati that was marred with rumors of him being difficult to coach, Stephenson made the jump to the NBA. Unsurprisingly, he was drafted 40th overall in the 2009 NBA Draft by Larry Bird and the Indiana Pacers. His per game numbers in his first two NBA seasons were extremely uninspiring (just 54 total games played with averages of 2.6/1.3/1.2), especially for two decent, but unspectacular NBA squads. There was no doubt that he could be a very good pro defender, but it seemed that a player like Tony Allen was his comparative ceiling.… Read more...

Vise Grip: Indiana Pacers Season Preview

(Posting on behalf of MAMBINO contributor AO)

Starting Five: PG George Hill, SG Lance Stephenson, SF Paul George, PF David West, C Roy Hibbert
Key Bench Players: SF Danny Granger, PF Luis Scola, PG CJ Watson
Notable offseason additions: Scola, Watson, F Chris Copeland
Notable offseason subtractions: PF Tyler Hansborough, PG DJ Augustin, SF Gerald Green
FACT OR FICTION: The Pacers are the biggest threat to the Miami Heat 3-peat, East OR West.
FACT. In consecutive seasons the Pacers have gone out swinging, pushing the Heat harder than any team not from San Antonio, TX. In 2012 they lost 4-2 in the Conference semifinals and this year the upstarts boxed their way to a 4-3 bloodbath. Those were also Frank Vogel’s first two full years as head coach and he has undoubtedly established one of the most consistent character teams in the league. A ‘character team’ is one that has an identity. Indiana plays a physical, wear-you-out style night in and night out. They don’t waver. Think of the Chicago Bulls on the defensive end, but with legitimate scoring options on the offensive end.… Read more...

Los Angeles Lakers fans must root for LeBron James and the Miami Heat

No playbooks, no advanced metrics, no salary cap. Just pure, unadulterated, Lakers fandom.
And the fan in me knows that for the sake of the Lakers and Kobe Bryant, I cannot, under any circumstances, root for the San Antonio Spurs.
Even if that means pulling for LeBron James and his Miami Heat.
Lakers fans everywhere have been without a horse in the playoff picture since the first round. The Show met its end with a quiet, anonymous sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, but even the team’s foremost nemese have been vanquished for weeks. Their STAPLES Center hallmate Clippers were manhandled by the Memphis Grizzlies in the last four games of a six game series. Their eternal foes from Boston had a prideful 4-2 exit against the New York Knicks. Even recent Lakers killers like Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder had their championship hopes effectively killed in the first round, with Russ going down with a torn meniscus. With the exception of everyone’s most despised enemy in the Miami Heat, Lakers fans haven’t had much to cheer for–or against–lately.
However, as painful and disgusting as it may sound, Lakers Nation has to be rooting for LeBron in Game 7 tonight.
The primary reason? Legacy.
In the NBA, it’s all about heritage and rings, career achievements and leadership. Every player is responsible for defense and offense, staying healthy and trying to contribute on the court whenever possible. Unlike the NFL, where it’s extremely difficult to compare offensive and defensive players, or MLB in regards to pitchers versus hitters, comparing centers to guards isn’t as much of a stretch. Every NBA player has the same responsibility, no matter who we’re talking about: score points and prevent your opponents from doing the same.

(Read on at Silver Screen & Roll!)

MAMBINO’s Eastern Conference Finals Preview

1) Miami Heat vs. 3) Indiana Pacers
Why do the Miami Heat take this in 5 games?
It was damn near impossible to find a consensus pick amongst the MAMBINO crew—we got votes for anywhere from a clean sweep to a 7 game slugfest. But the overwhelming sentiment was that a Pacers-Heat series couldn’t end in anything besides a NBA Finals beginning in South Beach.
But why? And how? Those are the questions that we seek to divine here on MAMBINO.
The Eastern Conference Finals seems to be a rare case in which the team with the best defense isn’t favored. Head coach Frank Vogel has organized the league’s best D, anchored inside-out by the massive 7’2” inside presence of Roy Hibbert and the wing excellence of Paul George and Lance Stephenson. Like the Chicago Bulls and Memphis Grizzlies, the Pacers rarely leave an open man, thanks to a minimal amount of inept one-on-one defenders, elite shot blockers and fantastic pick and roll coverage. Indiana led the league in defensive efficiency this year, including 5th in forced turnovers and 1st in opponents’ three-point makes and percentage. Even after all that, if the other team DID happen to get off a shot, they’d have to contend with the Pacers’ number one ranked rebounding. In short, if any team is going to score on Indiana, they’re going to have to hit a difficult shot, make their free throws and do all of that without second chance points.
So how could a team like this only win 49 games? Simple—they can’t score.… Read more...

NBA Playoffs: Conference Semifinals Predictions

1) Miami Heat vs. 5) Chicago Bulls
How do the champs make this a clean sweep?
El Mariachi: LeBron James.
Can the beat-up Bulls push this to 5 or 6 games?
KOBEsh: There really isn’t any logical reasoning to this prediction. Everyone on the Bulls is either physically injured or seriously ill. Derrick Rose’s brother continues his rope-a-dope with the NBA fan base at large, a sentence which leaves me wondering “Why the fuck are we listening to Derrick Rose’s brother anyway?”
But the most salient point in defense of Joakim Noah and company? The Chicago Bulls have all the ingredients to beat the Heat–extremely physical defenders, capable shot-blocking bigs that can avoid foul trouble and enough three-point shooting to disrupt a usually sterling Heat perimeter defense. To push this to a 6 game series, Da Bulls must outrebound the Heat by double-digits every single game; after all, this sometimes offensively challenged Chicago unit simply doesn’t have the playmaker to outwit superior defenders like James, Wade and Mario Chalmers on game-to-game basis. More importantly, Jimmy Butler, Marco Bellinelli and Nate Robinson have to continue to shoot in the upper-30% on threes in order to open up the middle for Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. The Heat’s perimeter defense is completely predicated on their athletes moving inside-out so quickly, not on size alone. In order to counter-act that, those three perimeter players must hit shots.
Most importantly, the Bulls know they can beat Miami. Being the team that ended the 27-game streak in a raucous United Center, Chicago has that intangible confidence to combat a Heat squad that quite frankly, most oppositions are afraid of. … Read more...

NBA Playoffs: Eastern Conference First Round Predictions

It’s Christmas kids. Except instead of Jesus being born, we’re celebrating a bunch of overpaid athletes play a game we’d all happily do for a fraction of the money. It’s pretty much the same thing, right?
Let’s get right to it–MAMBINO official predictions and commentary from the whole team:
1) Miami Heat vs. 8) Milwaukee Bucks
Why is this a clean sweep for the Heat?

El Mariachi: LeBron James.  …

THE GREAT PODBINO – Episode #2, Part 2: NBA Eastern Conference Preview

Not only that, but about 20 minutes of Knicks chatter from two NY faithful, El Miz and Bockerknocker. Truly a series of can’t-miss rants and hopelessly hopeful musings. Ah, Knicks fans. You endlessly fascinate me.

Also, the PODBINO is now downloadable, so if for some reason you have the strange desire to take our voices on the road with you, you’re free to do so!

Check it!


Also, peep Part 1 if you missed it!…

Paul George Must Emerge – Indiana Pacers Preview

Starting Five: PG George Hill, SG Paul George, SF Danny Granger, PF David West, C Roy Hibbert

Key Bench Players: PG DJ Augustin, SF Gerald Green, PF Tyler Hansbrough, F Miles Plumlee, C Ian Mahinmi

Notable offseason additions:
PG DJ Augstin, G Sam Young, C Ian Mahinmi

Offseason subtractions: PG Darren Collison, SF Dahntay Jones

Which team is the Indiana Pacer squad you should be looking for in 2012-2013? The unglamorous, boring blue-collar team that you see laid out before you whose pedestrian roster is due for regression? Or the underrated team of scrappy young players where every player’s contribution hold equal weight of importance, a la the 2004 Detroit Pistons?

The answer is that this team is still really damn good. Shortly before when we last saw the Pacers, they were up 2-1 with a near 20 point blowout of the eventual champion Miami Heat. To make matters worse, their All-Star power forward Chris Bosh had gone down with an abdominal muscle injury on a team with a thin depth chart. Center Roy Hibbert dropped 19/18 on Erik Spoeltra’s boys, seemingly exposing their biggest weakness against a dominant big man attack. So what happened? LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. In the next three games, the two essentially took an R. Kelly-sized pee on the Pacers. Wade averaged 33 points, 7 rebounds and nearly 4 assists, while shooting 44%, and the future Finals MVP James somehow topped that performance with a completely unbelievable 33/8/11 on 55% shooting. The Heat won all of those contests, nearly vanquishing breakout young star Paul George and preventing any further double doubles from Roy Hibbert. Truth be told, the Pacers played fine basketball – the Heat just had two players perform at the peak of human performance. To put it lightly.

Quite simply, this season’s Pacers team’s success depends on two distinct factors: little to no regression from the main rotation players, and improvements from Paul George. Indy had a lot go right for them last year, including nearly zero major injuries to their key guys. George Hill hit the high water mark with 16 missed games, but only a shocking 5 games between West, Hibbert, Granger and Paul George. The Pacers can hope for another nearly flawless bill of health in 2012-2013, but I highly doubt they’ll get it.

More importantly, it feels like almost every player in coach Frank Vogel’s rotation has peaked. Hibbert enjoyed an All-Star campaign, but 13/9 with two blocks per contest seems in the neighborhood of his ceiling. Meanwhile, David West at age 31 is certainly declining and averages of 13/7 seem a bit low, but about in the right range. The Pacer with the longest tenure, Danny Granger, is a one-time former All-Star who everyone always spends four weeks before the season spouting about how this will finally be the year he makes the leap to superstardom. Well, it’s 2012 and I’m still writing about an overpaid small forward who hasn’t distanced himself from Luol Deng, Andre Iguodala, Josh Smith and Rudy Gay. On his best Pacers team of his career, Granger put up his worst numbers since 2007-2008, and at 28 might not ever be better than he was two years ago. Out of all the regulars, George Hill, 25,  is the only other candidate besides Paul George primed for any sort of breakout, but perhaps his lack of size and court vision could limit his growth.

Last winter, all the NBA hoopheads heard about was how Paul George had inexplicably grown two inches in the offseason. Now towering closer to 6’9″, Indy’s 20 year-old swingman supposedl… Read more...

Eastern Conference 2nd Round Preview

The first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs was…underwhelming to say the least, completely depressing to say the most. Not just in the games themselves, which were just a pitiful affair: 2 series were done in 5 games, while the other two weren’t terribly competitive for 6 games.

The second round won’t feature All-Stars Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Joe Johnson, and Luol Deng. But as long as this side of the NBA features LeBron James’ quest for his first Larry O’Brien trophy, the East will have all the must-see TV you we will need.

2) Miami Heat vs. 3) Indiana Pacers – MIAMI IN SIX

El Miz: By now, it is clear that in addition to training with Hakeem Olajuwon last summer, LeBron James also spent time studying Ric Flair’s bag of tricks.  The egregious flopping that went on during the first round matchup between the Knicks and Heat was unfortunate, as a playoff rivalry that used to be known for the tough fouls and physical play devolved into a whole lot of whistles, many of them rewarding the flops and calling the Knicks for questionable fouls.

Clearly, Indiana Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel is a student of the game.  Vogel pulled a move out straight of the old Phil Jackson Playbook on Gamesmanship, airing his ref grievances out in the press before the series even tips off.  “[The Heat] are the biggest flopping team in the NBA,” Vogel told the typical gaggle of reporters circled around him after the Pacers’ practice on Thursday, before wondering aloud how the refs would treat such dubious behavior in the Conference Semi’s.  
Even in a physical series where the refs “let them play,” the Heat will dispose of the Pacers, probably in 6 games.  The Pacers were only 1-3 against the Heat this year, and in the game the Pacers won they had a 49-33 rebounding advantage.  In order to hang with the Heat, Indiana will have to play physical, crash the boards, and hope for someone to get a hot hand to carry them in the 4th quarter.  The physicality will be key, and that is probably why Vogel decided to call the Heat out for their flopping before the series even started.  I expect a lot of contact in the paint, and a tough defensive series, with the tone set by Indiana.  Regardless, the Pacers do not have the offensive firepower to hang with LeBron & Co.  Pacers will get a game or two at best, but the Heat are going to the
Conference Finals for the second year in a row.

Could Miami show the killer instinct they’re capable of and finish Indy off in 4-5 games?

BockerKnocker: No. Let’s move on.

4) Boston Celtics vs. 8) Philadelphia 76ers – CELTICS IN FIVE

BockerKnocker: You see that “8” right by Philadelphia? Those giddy yolos don’t last too long in the NBA Playoffs, because the best teams win the vast majority of the time. The 76ers just. barely. beat a DEPLETED Chicago Bulls squad to move to the 2nd round. They have more holes in their game than the golf course on which Josh Beckett played last week. While Philadelphia can run the fast break efficiently and is well-coached by Doug Collins, they will need a ton of help to win more than two games in this series. Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes never had to worry about defending a hurt Joakim Noah, a hurt Taj Gibson, and a worthless Carlos Boozer, but Kevin Garnett proved last night that he’s still got it. 28 points on 10-19 shooting weren’t nearly as impressive as the 14 rebounds, 3 steals, and 5 blocks. It was a vintage Big Ticket performance. While A… Read more...