Around the League

WEB-Around the League-Garnett-8OCT2013

Around the League

Dwight Howard Photo ShootThe Miami Heat held up the championship trophy on June 20th, and a week later the 2013 NBA Draft was held in Brooklyn. Since then some veteran stars have relocated while others chose to remain with their current squads. Here’s a quick hits edition of the five most influential signings of the past few weeks:

The most speculated upon player this off-season was Dwight Howard. Entering his 10th pro campaign, the 27-year old, 7X All-Star, 5X Rebounding champ and 3X Defensive Player of the Year chose to depart the glitz and glamour of the Lakers and hitch on with the Rockets and head coach Kevin McHale. Howard was never truly comfortable in LA and it showed. He griped about Mike D’Antoni’s offense and his misuse. Nonetheless, Howard still led the league in boards, and when motivated he’s easily the best 5-man in the league.

Mikhail Prokhorov promised a winner when he bought the Nets a few years ago. With the acquisition via trade of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from the rebuilding Celtics, Brooklyn now has the most talented first 5 in the league with PG Deron Williams, SG Joe Johnson and C Brook Lopez. KG and The Truth may not have much left in the tank, but they will bring leadership and championship pedigree to a franchise that has struggled in the standings for so many years. And come the 2014 playoffs, these two won’t back down from anyone, including LeBron.

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles ClippersThe Cleveland Cavaliers have the best young lead guard in the NBA in Kyrie Irving. And now they’ve gambled on the mercurial Andrew Bynum, who, when healthy, is one of the two or three best centers in the league. Only 6 million of Bynum’s two-year, 24-million-dollar contract with the Cavs is guaranteed, which is important in this case considering that Bynum played zero minutes last year for the 76ers due to knee issues. Entering his 9th year, Bynum is only 25 years old and has two championship rings from his time with Kobe and Co. If he can stay healthy this could be the best free agent signing of the summer.

The Golden State Warriors upset the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs and then a few weeks later signed free agent Andre Iguodala away from them. Entering his 10th year, the above-average defender Iguodala brings a toughness and well rounded game to coach Mark Jackson’s relatively young team. Iggy’s career averages are impressive:  15.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.9 apg and 1.7 spg. He is a strong, sturdy wing player who has played in all 82 games five times in his career.

I’m going to combine a player and coach for my final pick – Chris Paul and Doc Rivers. Paul is the best point guard in basketball and pushed hard for the Clippers to go out and get the respected Rivers. After 9 seasons in Boston, including a title and another trip to the Finals, Rivers expressed interest in departing the rebuilding C’s. He found the perfect landing spot with “LA’s second team.” The talented Clips are on the verge of making the jump to title contender. However, if CP3 had decided to leave via free agency, LA would have slipped back to average in the talent-heavy Western Conference.

Around the League


Gameday Dish: Celtics vs. Nets

The five-time defending Atlantic Division Champion Boston Celtics come to Brooklyn tonight to take on the Nets in the first regular season game between these two franchises.

Coach Doc Rivers’ guys beat the Utah Jazz in Boston last night, 98-93, taking their record to 5-3. PG Rajon Rondo left the contest in the third quarter with a right ankle injury and is listed as day-to-day.

Rondo still managed to dish 10 dimes in his 32nd straight game with at least 10 or more assists, and he currently leads the NBA with 12.5 apg.

First-year Celtic and 2007 6th Man of The Year combo-guard Leandro Barbosa stepped in for Rondo and scored 16 points in the victory. Both the Celts’ and Nets’ coaching staffs are still trying to figure out their starting units and how to use the bench players in their rotations.

Boston has a deep, veteran roster including Jeff Green, who’s back from heart surgery and added 16 points in Wednesday’s win. Bench play will have a significant impact on tonight’s results as well.

The 4-2 Brooklyn squad last played on Tuesday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers. They prevailed 114-101 with Joe Johnson and Deron Williams both scoring season highs of 25 and 26 respectively. First-year Net Johnson had his best game yet of the early season and will continue to improve as he adjusts to his new teammates, especially D-Will.

The C’s beat the Nets in all three matchups last season and have won 18 of the last 20 games. However, this Brooklyn incarnation is very different than the 2011-2012 NJ version.

Fifth-year center Brook Lopez is healthy, and he’s averaging 17.5 ppg and 2.3 bpg so far after missing 61 of 66 games last year due to various injuries. Unfortunately, do-everything forward Gerald Wallace will miss his sixth straight game due to a sprained left ankle.

Though it’s early in the season, tonight’s matchup could be a preview of the Eastern Conference Finals. Join me, Marv Albert, Steve Kerr and Craig Sager at 8PM ET on TNT to watch two top teams in the East ignite what is sure to be a long rivalry between these division foes.

Czar Star: Kevin Garnett

The Celtics stole Game 5 in Miami and will return to Beantown with a chance to close out the ECF on Thursday. Their anchor, on the floor and emotionally, has been the 17th-year ‘Big Ticket’ Kevin Garnett. Through a rough, up-and-down regular season and 18 postseason games thus far, future HOF’er Garnett has provided increased production on both ends of the court as well as the leadership that few in the NBA posses.

36-year-old KG is averaging 19.9 ppg, 10.8 rpg and 1.6 apg in 37.3 grueling minutes of competition each night. His intensity and consistency allow him to affect the game on almost every play. On Sunday in Boston, Garnett had 17 points, 14 boards, 5 blocks, 3 dimes and 2 steals in a game that the Celtics had to win in order to avoid going down 3-1 before heading to Miami for Game 5. After helping his teammates tie the series, Garnett followed up with a 26-point performance and 11 rebounds in Tuesday’s thrilling 94–90 coup on the Heat’s home turf, giving the Celts a 3-2 lead.

Garnett has surpassed his regular season high of 25 points four times in he playoffs, and he only failed to score in double digits once. In addition, his rebounding, shot-blocking and steals have all increased in the postseason, and Garnett is shooting 80% from the line and 50% from the field. While playing out of position at the 5, KG has yet to foul out in the playoffs. This is especially impressive in the Miami series considering two of the games went to OT.

The Boston fandom felt that there was a three-year championship window when C’s GM Danny Ainge traded to get Garnett in 2007. Well, this is year 5 of the new ‘Big 3’ + Rondo era, and the Celtics are one victory away from reaching the Finals for the third time (2008, 2010) with KG in the Green & White. His mental toughness, savvy and amazing athleticism have Boston in a position that few hoopsheads predicted at the start of the 2011-2012 season or when the playoffs began. If this is Garnett’s last year with the C’s (his contract is up) then he’s determined to leave it all on the floor and to hang another banner from the rafters before the end of his legendary career as a Celtic.