The Indiana Pacers, Golden State Warriors, and Memphis Grizzlies All Got It Right

This year’s NBA playoffs has brought a handful of pleasant surprises. The Golden State Warriors and the Memphis Grizzlies are putting up great fights against the perennial powerhouses in the Western Conference known as the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder. In the East, the Indiana Pacers are shocking the New York Knicks who were favored to be the team with the best chance to defeat the Miami Heat. What’s more amazing is that these three teams are still playing in the month of May despite not having one or more superstars. Sure, the Warriors have Stephen Curry and the Memphis Grizzlies have Marc Gasol, but they can’t be compared to the Chris Paul’s or Tim Duncan’s of the NBA.

Indiana Pacers

Out of the teams mentioned above, the Indiana Pacers have to be one of the best rosters still remaining in this year’s postseason. Paul George, Roy Hibbert, David West, and George Hill have lead this team throughout the season, and with the depth coming off the bench, the Pacers may have the roster to contend with and possibly defeat the Heat. Indiana has size, a group of players who know their roles and play them to perfection, and they have a great combination of youth and experienced veterans.

Paul George and Roy Hibbert aren’t exactly household names or players you look at as superstars, but they are becoming a new breed in the NBA. When they were drafted, there was no expectations of them being stars, but because the team they are surrounded by compliments their games so well, Hibbert and George have been given the chance to thrive and be successful. It also helps that the Pacers have David West, who can mentor these two rising stars for their respective team.

But more importantly, Indiana has a deep bench with feisty players like Tyler Hansbrough and Lance Stevenson who have provided the team with energy and points at crucial moments during games. When looking at this roster, most of the players were drafted by the Pacers, with a few being acquired via small trades. This team was assembled correctly and was built from the ground up. As we look into how the Golden State Warriors got deep into this year’s playoffs, they also took the same road as the Pacers, but went about building their team a little differently.

Golden State Warriors

Who hasn’t enjoyed watching this Cinderella story? The Warriors surprised everyone by defeating the Denver Nuggets in the first round, despite losing David Lee to a torn hip flexor. Now, Golden State is giving the San Antonio Spurs a run for their money, and are in a position to surpass them and advance to the Western Conference Finals. No one expected a young team like the Warriors, who aren’t overly experienced, to be playing like veterans. To illustrate how young they are, rookies Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green have been part of the Warriors main rotation in the postseason. Not only is this a testament to the players themselves, but Marc Jackson has had confidence in them from the beginning.

Just like the Pacers, the Warriors don’t exactly have a superstar. Stephen Curry is a rising star and starting to come into his own, but again, he hasn’t reached the status of being a household name. Although after this postseason, he deserves to be in the same conversation as Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, and Deron Williams.

Golden State’s playoff run and emergence as a tough team wouldn’t have come had the Warriors held on to Monte Ellis. Changes needed to be made, ushering in a new era with a new attitude. With a combination of trades, drafting right in the past NBA drafts, and signing decent free agents, Golden State became a better team almost overnight.

Again, the Warriors don’t have players who you’d see in TV commercials or in All-Star games every year, but they do have a collection of very talented role players who play together as a team instead of individuals. Jarrett Jack and Andrew Bogut bring veteran leadership that add the necessary ingredient to becoming a good basketball team.

Lastly let’s take a look at the Memphis Grizzlies, who unlike the Pacers and Warriors, rebuilt on the fly via trades and free agency.

Memphis Grizzlies

Out of these three teams, the Grizzlies success in the second half of the season has been a surprise, especially since Memphis traded Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors. Many analysts believed that Memphis was going to be directionless without their general on the floor, but Marc Gasol, Tayshaun Prince, Tony Allen, Mike Conley and Zach Randolph took control of the team that now finds themselves two games away from the Western Conference Finals.

The way Memphis built this team was through trades and free agency, but two of their main contributors were players they drafted. Just like the Pacers and Warriors, the Grizzlies are yet another team in this year’s playoffs that does not have that LeBron James or Dwight Howard type player. Unlike the past few years, the remaining teams that are in the postseason are playing together as one and not looking up to one or two individuals to win games for them. Teams are beginning to dominate, not individuals, and the Grizzlies are proving that.

Overall

As this postseason has proven, teams don’t need a whole team of superstars to be championship contenders. They also don’t need to go out and sign or trade for the best players and overpay for them. The Pacers, Warriors, and Grizzlies all drafted either future stars and decent role players, signed or traded for smaller pieces that fit the puzzle, and have become vital parts to their team’s success.

If these teams fail to make it to the Conference or NBA Finals, it’s because they’re either too young or one or two pieces away. The way these organizations built these teams, they’ve allowed them to be competitive for years to come and possibly have multiple chances at winning a title. As these teams get older, it’s real important that they stay together or could find themselves from whence they came, rebuilding and struggling to compete in their respective conferences. The Pacers, Warriors, and Grizzlies aren’t big market teams, but if they continue being successful under their great coaching, there is a chance they could become a destination for future free agents.

These three teams got it right. For an organization like the Boston Celtics, who are on the cusp of entering a rebuilding period, they have three blueprints that they can follow. The only question is, will they?

Russell Westbrook’s Season Is Done, Needs Knee Surgery

Russell Westbrook will miss the rest of the season after he has surgery to repair a lateral meniscus tear in the knee. While this is a major blow to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team might actually benefit in his absence. It’s now up to Kevin Durant to prove that he is one of the elite players in the NBA and lead his team back to the Finals. It has been debated that Westbrook takes away from Durant’s game, and now it’s time to see if Durant needs the all-star point guard.

The Thunder still have a very good team that is deep enough to get by the San Antonio Spurs and get another shot at redemption to winning their first title in franchise history. Personally, I believe Oklahoma will do just fine without Westbrook. This is Durant’s moment to shine and have the offense completely run through him. He has the ability to take over games like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, but because of Westbrook, Durant hasn’t been given the chance to show what he can do in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.

This may seem like a critical blow to the young, experienced squad, but with the pieces they have like Derek Fisher, Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka, and Kevin Martin, there is still a good chance that they’ll get far. Without Westbrook, it’s also an opportunity for these players to step their games up and show that it’s not just two superstars and a bunch of role players. This is when we find out what teams are made of. Is the Oklahoma City Thunder a sponge that when dry, will break easily, or are they a rock that won’t be broken in the time of extreme adversity. If Durant truly is one of the best players in the NBA today, he’ll carry this team back to the Finals and get a shot at his first championship ring.

 

Danilo Gallinari’s Season Is Over And So Is Denver’s

It’s official, Danilo Gallinari’s season is over after tearing his ACL against the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday. This is a crippling blow to the Nuggets who were everyone’s dark horse in the Western Conference. Denver is currently third in the standings, and was one of few teams who could upset the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder. Gallinari has averaged 16 ppg this season and is a vital piece to the Nuggets success along with Andre Iguodala and Kenneth Faried. According to the team, the MRI didn’t show any signs of ligament or meniscus damage which is a huge sigh of relief.

“We’re extremely disappointed for Gallo. He was having a career year in scoring and rebounding and was a huge reason for our success,” said Masai Ujiri, Nuggets executive vice president of basketball operations. “We will obviously support him and be there for him throughout his recovery.

“Knowing his work ethic and commitment to getting back on the floor, we are confident he will come back stronger than ever next season.”

Now that Gallinari’s season is done, it’s very likely that the same can be said for Denver’s. Losing 16 points a game is hard to replace, and now without one of their main scoring threats, they will have to rely upon veterans like Iguodala, Andre Miller, and rising star Kenneth Faried. With those three players there is still the chance that the Nuggets can make it to the second round, but to face the Spurs or Thunder without Gallinari is a completely different story that would require every ounce of heart and energy to overcome such an obstacle.

Denver was one of my favorites in the West to make some noise and possibly get to the Western Conference Finals. Unfortunately, the injury bug bit at the wrong time for the Nuggets and they’ll have to face some of their biggest challenges without one of their leaders.

Is It Possible That The Celtics Could Make One More Title Run?

With the first week of April in the books and the Celtics going 3-2 versus playoff opponents, things are looking very good for the once down and out Celtics.

In one month, the Celtics have gone from nearly not making the playoffs to being 2.5 games behind 3rd place in the Eastern Conference. While there has been renewed confidence in the team, the question still has to be asked. Is this team good enough to make one last title run?

After beating the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, and Philadelphia 76ers by double-digits, my answer would be yes. Even though the Celtics couldn’t beat the Spurs or Bulls, they had a legit chance of winning either or both games.

This week was very telling to me. The Celtics for the first time in maybe 2 years played at a championship caliber level consistently. They could have gone 5 and 0 if the team didn’t go back to bad habits by not putting teams away when they had the chance.

Unlike the past 2 seasons, the Celtics aren’t coasting into the playoffs and maybe with this momentum they can make a deep playoff run.

As crazy as it sounds, the Celtics really have a good chance of coming out of East this year. In a way, I feel like 2010 is repeating itself because of where the Celtics are in the standings and the teams that are ahead of us, leading the conference.

Its very possible that the Celtics could beat Chicago and Miami in the playoffs. In my opinion, due to injuries the Bulls may not be a bad 2nd round matchup. If the Celtics can stay healthy that series could get interesting.

When it comes to the Heat, I don’t think they have the bench that can help carry the team in the playoffs. Much like last year’s Celtics team, there is no real threat coming off bench for the Heat. After Sunday’s beat-down, I have a lot more confidence in taking on this year’s Heat team than last season’s.

While I may just be completely biased, I really think the Celtics could make one more title run. They have the experience, the Big 3 are healthy, and the team is playing with a lot of momentum. If they can keep playing at such a high level, they could be a very dangerous opponent to anyone.

NBA Trade Rumors 6/23

With the NBA draft tonight, some major trades could happen. Just within the last few hours, more trade rumors have popped up.

Lakers, Timberwolves, and 76ers discussing A Possible Trade Involving Iguodala

According to Sports Illustrated, the Lakers, Wolves, and 76ers have been discussing a 3 way trade. There is no word as to who is going where. It’s seems like it’s all up in the air right now. The article mentioned that Lamar Odom could be part of the deal, but the Lakers would need to package another player because of salary cap rules. Ron Artest could be that other player who could get the deal done.

It’s not clear as to where Iguodala could go. One league source thinks he’s going to L.A, while a rival GM says Iguodala could go to Minnesota. The GM also said that its likely Philadelphia could get the 2nd pick from the Timberwolves.

There is no news at to whether this rumor is still alive or the possibility that it could even happen.

The Spurs and Blazers Discussing A Tony Parker, Andre Miller Swap

 According to Alex Kennedy of HOOPSWORLD, the Spurs and Blazers almost completed the first blockbuster trade before the draft. The Spurs would have sent Tony Parker and the 29th pick to the Blazers for Andre Miller, Nicolas Batum, and the 21st pick. According to Kennedy there would have been other players involved to make the salary cap work.

The trade died when the Spurs offered Richard Jefferson in the deal. Trade talks could fire back up between the two teams before or during the draft tonight.

Spurs Offering George Hill for a Lottery Pick

According to Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress, the Spurs are offering George Hill to Milwaukee, Golden State, and Utah. There has been no word if any of the teams are willing to give up their lottery picks for just George Hill.

Mid-Lottery Teams Getting Offers from teams Higher Up In the Draft.

According to Chad Ford of ESPN, the Pistons, Bobcats, Bucks, and Warriors are all getting offers for their lottery picks. The teams who have made offers are the Rockets, Pacers, Knicks, and Spurs.

The Rockets are offering their 14th and 23rd picks. The Pacers are offering their 15th pick and Brandon Rush. The Knicks are offering their 17th pick and Tony Douglas. And as reported earlier, the Spurs are offering George Hill.

Bulls Looking to Move Up In the Draft

According to Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated, the Bulls are willing to trade their 28th and 30th draft picks. The Bulls have been calling multiple teams to see if they can get higher in the draft. Amick said if the Bulls can’t get higher they might draft Point Guard Shelvin Mack, who in their eyes believe he could be a good backup to Derrick Rose.

UPDATE # 1

Portland and Orlando Discussing Andre Miller, Jameer Nelson Swap?

According to Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress, the Blazers and Magic are discussing a trade that would send Andre Miller and the 21st pick to Orlando for Jameer Nelson.

This may not make much sense on paper, but Miller is an expiring contract. Then the Magic can sign Howard for more money.

UPDATE # 2

Atlanta Offering Josh Smith to the T-Wolves for 2nd Pick?

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, there is a rumor that the Hawks are offering Josh Smith for the 2nd overall pick. Supposedly, the Hawks have a lot of interest in Enas Kanter.

UPDATE # 3

Monta Ellis to T-Wolves?

According to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, the T-Wolves and Warriors are discussing a trade that would send Monta Ellis to Minnesota for the 2nd overall pick. No word if this will happen, but both teams are in discussions.

Shaq Could Return Tonight vs Pistons

According to NESN.com’s Evan Clinchy, Shaquille O’Neal could return tonight against the Pistons. With both O’Neal’s back, now is the time to get into a good rhythm before the playoffs. Since there is only 2 weeks left in the regular season, the Celtics don’t have much time to integrate everyone into the rotation. But with the limited time the Celtics have, they must get everyone on the same page. Shaq and Jeramine O’Neal, will be a big part of our championship run in the playoffs. It’s great to see them coming back healthy, and with 2 weeks to spare.

Also, Nenad Krstic had an MRI yesterday on his right knee. The results were negative and he is listed day-to-day with a bone bruise in the right knee.

Another player who has made a return is Von Wafer. He returned against the San Antonio Spurs, but his performance didn’t make any noise.

I’m beginning to get confident with our chances, now that all these players are returning. As a Celtics fan, this is what I was hoping for. To get everyone healthy for the playoffs. When the Celtics are healthy, no one can beat them.

Here is some more bit of optimism. The Celtics may be in 3rd place right now, but if they end up being tied with the Heat for 2nd, they will get the 2nd seed since they have the tie-breaker. Also, the Celtics don’t play well on the 2nd night of a back to back, but in the playoffs there is a day to 2 days off in between games.

Celtics Give Spurs 5th Straight Loss

Before I get into last night’s game, I’d like to apologize to my viewers. Due to a family matter, I haven’t been able to post the Celtics recaps and news. This recap will be short since I couldn’t see the whole game, but I at least got to see them win. By next week I will be able to post more often.

The way the Celtics have been playing lately, many people have asked the question. Has the trade killed the Celtics chances of winning the title this year? After the last few weeks, I almost joined the doubters. But the Celtics played like this last year.

Last night the Celtics took on a battle tested San Antonio Spurs, and proved to all the doubters that the Celtics can still play at a championship level. Rajon Rondo who has not been himself, had a big game in the Celtics win. If there is one thing to take from this game, the Celtics are fine and there is no reason for concern.

In the first half the Celtics and Spurs went back and forth, exchanging leads. Everytime the Spurs would get out to a lead, the Celtics came back to tie or retake the lead. The game remained close through out the first half and both teams went into half tied at 49.

The 2nd half was just an enjoyment to watch if you’re a Celtics fan. The ball movement was fantastic, and most of the time there was a wide open shot. The Celtics offense and defense was at a really high level, and the Spurs couldn’t do anything to stop it. The Celtics took an 7 point lead into the 4th quarter 77-70.

In the last few weeks, the 4th quarter has been when the Celtics just completely fall apart. Most of their losses this year have come in the 4th quarter. Last night was a bit different. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, and Glen Davis took over the 4th quarter. The Spurs were simply overwhelmed by the Celtics offensive fire power. KG knocked down almost every 18 foot jump shot he attempted in the 4th. Rajon Rondo played huge in the 2nd half, and had a total of 22 points and 14 assists. Paul Pierce was being Mr.Clutch like always, and Glen Davis had a solid game off the bench.

Unlike in the last few games, the Celtics maintained the lead in the 4th. Everytime the Spurs tried to cut the lead, the Celtics would just bring the lead back up to 10.

The Celtics defense down the stretch was just encouraging to watch. The Spurs had no answers in the 2nd half. The Celtics won the game 107-97.

If the Celtics can play like that for the rest of the season, they could possibly catch the Bulls for the 1st seed in the East.

The Celtics play tonight at Atlanta vs the Hawks. The game can be seen on Comcast Sports Net New England and ESPN at 8:00pm.

Celtics Players Stats.

Kevin Garnett – 20 points 9 rebounds

Paul Pierce – 21 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists

Ray Allen – 13 points and 3 assists

Rajon Rondo – 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 14 assists

Jermaine O’Neal – 5 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist

Glen Davis – 16 points 8 rebounds and 1 assist

Big 3′s Across the NBA?

Since the Celtics new Big 3 (Garnett, Pierce, Allen) came to the Celtics, ESPN seems to have a “big 3″ for every team. While watching the Miami vs Oklahoma City game, one of the announcers said Westbrook was one of the Thunder’s “big 3.” Other than Durant who else could be in a “big 3″ for the Thunder? I can barely name the starting 5. Another example, when the Spurs were winning championships, ESPN never referred to Duncan, Ginobli, and Parker as a “big 3.” Since the Celtics real Big 3 came, all of sudden the Spurs and some other teams somehow had a “big 3″ and it kind of ruined the uniqueness of Boston. Shouldn’t a “big 3″ be, a group of players who have already won a championship together? Ok, San Antonio has already done that. To say the Thunder or even Miami has a “big 3″ seems to be a little premature at this stage, especially when we have seen teams with all-stars crumble or not win a championship. The Magic have had some great players, but other than their brief Finals appearance what have they won? I hate to say it but the Lakers have had many “big 3′s” last decade and same with Michael Jordan’s Bulls. I don’t know how most of you think about the over usage of the word “big 3″ and if you have an example of one, I would like to know. It just makes me laugh, everyone hates the Celtics but they want to be exactly like us.