NBA 2012-13 Preview

The SEVEN
by Mack Williams
30 October 2012

The World Series is over, and the re-election…I mean the election…is next week – so that means it’s time for The SEVEN’s NBA Preview 2012-13, specifically featuring the playoff teams we will see come April.  We’ll start with the Eastern Conference.

I.  Could Be Winners

1) Miami Heat
Any championship team with, when healthy, arguably the two best players in the world is a threat to repeat.  Still don’t love their bench…but with LeBron, D-Wade and Bosh, they don’t need much from them outside of basic contributions.

2) Boston Celtics
They aren’t returning as champs, but think of themselves as such, and know they were quite possibly a quarter away from being such.  Even without the departed Ray Allen (to the hated Heat, no less), the C’s may be better than last season, and will be heard from this spring.

3) Indiana Pacers
They complained about having the fourth or fifth best record last season and not being featured on TV.  They’ll make it onto national TV this year, and with a group of improving young players, may make some noise in the playoffs.

4) Chicago Bulls
The Bulls stand a great chance to make it out of the conference one year…and would stand to get a better seed were Derrick Rose available all season.

II.   Contenders

5) Brooklyn Nets
It would have been a Hard-Knock Life for Jay-Z’s bunch in their first year in Brooklyn had they not retooled and put a competitive product on the floor.  Starting five of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, and Gerald Wallace is the best Nets five since the Eastern Conference champs of a decade ago…but they may be a step behind the top seeds.

6) New York Knicks
If experience is what counts in the NBA, let’s move the Knicks up to the top.  They have a lot of veteran talent, now quarterbacked by Jason Kidd – which may be the key, in that they will again need a point guard that can put the pieces together again once Amare returns to the lineup.  The questions about whether he can co-exist with Carmelo Anthony will re-surface upon the first loss, and it will be incumbent upon Kidd to make it happen.

III.  Pretenders

Fighting it out for the last two playoff spots will be the Philadelphia 76ers,  the Toronto Raptors, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Orlando Magic.  Should new center Andrew Bynum blossom away from Kobe and Gasol, the Sixers could be more of a force…but as of now, I see them making it in along with Toronto.

Western Conference

IV.   Could Be Winners

1) San Antonio Spurs
Like Ol’ Man River, the Spurs just keep rolling along.  And while several other Western powers deal with and acclimate themselves to their new rosters, the Spurs will get the top seed and begin to stake their claim for a fifth ring in the last fifteen years.

2) Los Angeles Lakers
On paper, the starting five of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard is one of the all-time greatest…or at least definitely would be were this two or three years ago.  Still very formidable – and once they get it together, they may be the favorites to come out of the West.

3) Denver Nuggets
I continue to be intrigued by the Nuggets, an excellent team without a full-fledged superstar, but with a roster full of very good players.  The continued improvement of Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee may be what could put them over the top.

V.  Contenders

4) Oklahoma City Thunder
For years I have said that in the near future the Larry O’Brien championship trophy was going to be making a stop in Oklahoma…but now, with the trade of James Harden to Houston, I think that time may be a little further off.

5) Los Angeles Clippers
The other team in the Staples Center has a bunch of young and talented players, but their playoff hopes may be determined in large part by the veteran play of the 36-year-old Lamar Odom and the 40-year-old Grant Hill.

6) Memphis Grizzlies
I’m not totally in love with their roster, but each year coach Lionel Hollins has them in the hunt, and they are generally the team that “no one wants to face.”

VI.  Pretenders

While the Rockets, Warriors, T-Wolves, and Mavericks compete for the final two spots, it should be interesting to see how Linsanity translates into success in Texas.  I would be giving an edge to the Wolves and Mavs, but they each have key players (Rubio and Love in Minnesota, Nowitzki in Dallas) beginning the season on the injured list…so I’m going to go with the Rockets and Warriors.

VII.  The Finals

I generally don’t make finals predictions before the season starts, and am not really going to do so now…but I will say that in what is to be commissioner David Stern’s last full year (as he is retiring in February of 2014), it would almost be fitting if the finals matchup were to be Boston vs. Lakers.  And it could very well happen.

The Worst Sports Decisions in New York History

The SEVEN
by Mack Williams
28 October 2012

I.  New York Mets, 1990
Decision:  not to re-sign free agent Darryl Strawberry

In 1990 Strawberry, the greatest position player in Met history, had an MVP-caliber season – just as he had had in 1987 and 1988, years in which he could easily have won the award (especially 1988, where a particularly less-deserving Kirk Gibson was gifted the MVP).  After virtually carrying the team on his back down the stretch, it seemed that the Mets – a franchise that some felt had a shaky past with respect to African-American players – would have no option but to sign Darryl…but no, they went on and low-balled him, and off to L.A. he went.

At that point there would have been many that would have equated his talent with that of Barry Bonds.  Unfortunately, the balance of his career, for the most part, did not meet with the same success he had with the Mets…but his 1990 departure effectively removed the Mets from playoff contention for the better part of a decade.

II.   New York Nets, 1976
Decision:  trading Brian Taylor for Nate Archibald

Brian “The BT Express” Taylor, the super-fast point guard of the 1974 and 1976 ABA championship teams, was traded for the quintessential NBA point guard, Nate Archibald, the only man to have led the NBA in both scoring and assists in the same season.  On the surface…as great as Taylor had been with the Nets…not a bad deal.  But…

As the team prepared for its’ first NBA season after the NBA-ABA merger, the Archibald trade highlighted the fact that Julius “Dr. J” Erving, the biggest and most legendary star of the ABA and the most exciting player in the game, was underpaid – as Tiny Archibald was slated to make substantially more than Erving.  Erving’s desire for fairer compensation – on top of the fact that Nets’ owner Roy Boe had to pay an additional fee to the Knicks – led Boe to trade the Doctor to the 76ers for cash.

In retrospect, the Nets would have been fine entering the NBA with the team they won the ABA title with in May.  The Denver Nuggets, with virtually the same team they competed with against the Nets in the ABA Finals,  had the best regular season record in the league – and the Sixers went to the 1977 NBA Finals with Erving.

III.   New York Knicks, 1987
Decision:  not to re-sign free-agent Bernard King.

Upon joining the Knicks in the 1982-83 season, King quickly established himself as the greatest frontcourt player in team history, and arguably should have been the 1984 MVP.  That season King dropped 50 points on consecutive nights against the Spurs and Mavericks, and in the playoffs he averaged 42 points per game in defeating the Pistons.  He then led the severely talent-challenged Knicks team to a Game 7 in the conference final against the Hall Of Fame-bound Celtics.  King’s work throughout the playoffs that season was among the greatest ever, leading some veteran fans to reference it in the midst of LeBron James’ great play in the Eastern Conference playoffs last season.

Two thirds through the 1984-85 season, in which he led the league in scoring, King suffered a torn ACL – which forced him to miss the entire 1985-86 season and all but 6 games of the 1986-87 season.  That said, he had guaranteed he would be back, and in the final game of the 1987 season, he scored 30 points.  Enough evidence to warrant bringing him back?

Not for new head coach Rick Pitino.  Bad move…especially considering that in King’s absence, the Knicks had been horrible and were thus able to draft a dominant center, Patrick Ewing, along with point guard Mark Jackson, who finished his career among the all-time leaders in assists.  With King, the Knicks may then have won a title.  Without King, Knick fans in large part rejoiced when Bernard returned a few years later in a Washington uniform to drop 49 points against the Knicks in the Garden.

IV.   New York Mets, 1977
Decision: to trade Tom Seaver.

A few highlights from the career of Tom Seaver…Rookie of the Year, 1967; three-time Cy Young award winner; highest voting percentage in election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  But in 1977 salary disputes and a beef with the conservative and influential Daily News sportswriter Dick Young led Met management to trade Tom Terrific to the Cincinnati Reds for four young players.

While those guys did a decent job, none was a superstar along the lines of a Tom Seaver, clearly one of the best pitchers in the game and someone who would have probably been able to keep the Mets in contention for a few more years. 

V.   New York Mets, 1971
Decision:  to trade Nolan Ryan

That’s right…Nolan Ryan began his career in Queens with the Mets.  Although he showed flashes of brilliance, his control was erratic – as evidenced by the fact that he was unable to complete a game in which the Mets scored 20 runs – and as such, he was unable to get a regular spot in the Met starting rotation.  Frustrated, he asked for a trade – and the Mets accommodated his request, trading him to the Angels for Jim Fregosi, a fine player who had probably passed the peak in his career.

Ryan ended his career with 5,714 strikeouts and 7 no-hitters.

VI.   New York Mets, 2011
Decision:  not to re-sign free agent Jose Reyes

During 2011 Alex Rodriguez described Jose Reyes – one of the most exciting players ever to play for the Mets – as “the greatest player on the planet,” and his teammate Derek Jeter did not disagree.  As in the case of Darryl Strawberry, my thought was that Reyes’ season – in which he won the National League batting title – and total body of work with the Mets would make it virtually impossible for them to let him walk, even taking into consideration the team’s financial issues following the Bernie Madoff scandal.  Wrong again; as it turns out, they failed to make him any kind of offer, and he left to go to the Marlins.

Given that we’re only one year out from that decision, we don’t know the long-term effects of this move, although I must admit that Reyes’ replacement at short, Ruben Tejada, had a nice season.  Nonetheless, it states to the fan base that they are not a financial competitor in the town with the Yankees.

VII.  Plaxico Burress, 2008
Decision: to take his unlicensed gun into the club. 
(Honorable Mention- New York City citizens, 2003.  Decision: to elect Rudy Guiliani mayor.)

In November of 2008 Plaxico Burress – one of the heroes of the New York Giants’ Super Bowl victory – accidentally shot himself with his own gun that he took to a club in New York City.  And although it seems strange that he would get jail time for injuring no one but himself, he may have been lucky to escape with under two years behind bars, given the strict New York State laws with respect to gun possession.

Of course, he actually did hurt some other people…because when he shot himself in the foot, he shot his team in the behind as well.

As for Guiliani, one of the worst things – aside from his horrible tenure as mayor during which he was masterful at taking full credit for things initiated by David Dinkins – is that we were forced to see him sitting down in front for all those years at Yankee playoff games.

Take A Swing

The SEVEN

25 October 2012

I.  The Straw That Stirs The Drink

The San Francisco Giants’ Pablo Sandoval really went off like “Mr. October” (Reggie Jackson-1977) or “King Albert” (Pujols-2011) in smacking three home runs in the Giants’ 8-3 Game 1 World Series win over the Detroit Tigers. “Kung Fu Panda” teed off on the American League reigning Cy Young/MVP Justin Verlander the way Tagg Romney said he wanted to do on President Obama. 

To Tagg’s credit, he has apparently apologized.  

II.   The Last Word

With that said, if you haven’t seen Lawrence O’Donnell challenging Tagg to a fight, google it!  Those that like hiring people – as opposed to firing people – should bear in mind that that temp employee, if hired, may really make that position his or her own in a way you might not initially realize.  One such example is that of O’Donnell, whom I must admit I was wrong about in stating I wasn’t in love with him as a substitute host for Keith Olbermann. He is totally The Man on “The Last Word!”

III.   Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Apparently not…because on January 20th, 2009, while the world rejoiced and the Obamas danced to Beyonce’s “At Last,” Republican members of the House and Senate – including the current vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan – plotted their obstructionist strategy to lead to what they hoped would be Obama’s last days in office in 2012.  Of course, their strategy was to do whatever was necessary to block almost everything from happening, and then blame Obama for not making things happen.

Given that the nation was in the midst of the worst recession in decades at that time, could it be said that that strategy was on the borderline of being treasonous?

IV.   Brooklyn In Da House, Pt. 1

After 55 years without a professional sports franchise (not counting the minor league Cyclones) since the departure of the Dodgers, the borough of Brooklyn will soon have two, as the NHL’s New York Islanders will move from Long Island to Brooklyn in the 2015-2016 season to join Beyonce’s husband’s Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center.  It was stated that these two franchises – which shared the Nassau Coliseum for several years – will finally be united again.

Hope it’s not exactly like the last time…when the-then cellar-dwelling Islanders often out-drew the two-time ABA champion Nets…which probably led in part to owner Roy Boe’s trade/sale of Julius “Dr. J” Erving to the Philadelphia 76ers, a move which led to  the Nets’ largely wilderness experience in New Jersey.

V.    Brooklyn In Da House, Pt. 2

Among the great opening games of the 2012-13 NBA season will be the first Battle of the Boroughs, as the New York Knicks meet up with the new look/new state Brooklyn Nets.  Other intriguing opening matchups include the Denver Nuggets (with longtime Sixer Andre Iguodala) visiting Philadelphia, as well as the Miami Heat welcoming the Boston Celtics…on the night they will probably get their championship rings.  The next edition of The SEVEN will feature the NBA Preview. 
Spoiler Alert:  The Nets will not be the favorites. 

VI.   Picking A Winner

Once again, the almost-universally respected Gen. Colin Powell – a registered Republican – has publicly endorsed President Obama for re-election. Powell’s endorsement in 2008 was huge for Obama, and now on the heels of Gov. Romney’s less than stellar performance in the foreign policy debate, the blessing of a statesman such as Powell could once again be a key factor in the race. 

VII.  Governor, In Case You Thought We Forgot…

It’s a shame that you’ll never be able to convince 47 per cent of us to take personal responsibility for our lives…and it’s also a shame that it seems we’ll never be able to convince you to release more years worth of your tax returns.  We’ll see what happens on Nov. 6th.

Summer Madness

The Seven

2 October 2012 

I. Not Pretty As A Peacock 

Wherever you happen to live, you can almost be certain that each and every week someone gets fired from his or her job – which means that a firing in and of itself is no rarity. But to be left twisting in the media wind and subsequently unceremoniously thrown under the bus (google  Al Roker’s comments) and dismissed from the Today show anchor chair was most certainly not what Ann Curry deserved. Not that I feel the same way about Ms. Curry as I did about my all-time favorite athlete, Darryl Strawberry, but my initial thought was to take a break from NBC News for a minute. The only problem with that is that this is a presidential election year…and even without the departed Keith Olbermann on board, I need my MSNBC coverage. So I haven’t boycotted NBC networks…but what you guys – whoever is responsible – did was totally not cool. Best of luck to Ann wherever she lands (after the NBC suits finish paying off her contract). 

II.  Pretty Good Year 

Regular season MVP, Finals MVP, NBA championship, Olympic Gold Medal…that’s just about a year for the ages by LeBron James. Of course, there are always people who feel they must trash King James, the latest instance being those who took issue with him working out with Kevin Durant in Ohio. Who says people on different teams can’t be friends? Oh yeah…Kevin Garnett…who claims to have lost Ray Allen’s number after Ray jumped ship to join the Heat. By the way, Ray – speaking of “pretty good year” – you shot your highest percentage ever from three-point land last season…and I bet that most of those threes were courtesy of Rajon Rondo. Couldn’t you have patched up whatever differences you had? 

III. Bye Bye 

As enjoyable as so many of the Olympic events are, I found nothing as enjoyable as watching Usain Bolt leave the field in the dust in each event. And a shout out to his countryman and silver medalist Yohan Blake, who would have beaten anyone else in the world with his times but had to settle for the silver. See, rivals can train together!

IV. Marathon Man 

Shortly after the marathoners finished in London, newly-named Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan claimed to have run a marathon in under three hours, but then had to walk it back after Runners World magazine questioned that fact. Rep. Ryan blames his faulty memory on the twenty-two years that have passed since the race, which he completed in over four hours. First of all, as one who has never run more than six miles at any one time, I congratulate Rep. Ryan on his accomplishment; finishing a marathon is a great feat that most people cannot do. But with that said, if I had run a sub-3:00 marathon, I would be able to tell you date, exact time, location, the weather, number of participants, and anything else you might want to know about that day. Ryan obviously wanted to pump himself up in a setting where no one would be likely to know the true facts – such as when he told all of his untruths in his convention speech. If we can’t trust him to tell the truth about his marathon time, why should we believe him on anything else? 

V. NY/LA 

Should be interesting to watch the re-branded Brooklyn Nets on the east coast and the re-booted Los Angeles Lakers in the west. (Props to Jay-Z; Must be great to open the Barclay’s Center with 8 shows just minutes from where you grew up!) I have a feeling, though, that the New York Knicks and L.A. Clippers might not be among those enjoying the view. 

VI. Baltimore-Washington 

While giving out props, let’s not forget the Orioles and Nationals, the baseball teams in the Baltimore-Washington corridor that will both be in the playoffs this year for the first time in forever. Prediction: despite what has been said about care for the arm and innings limits, we may not have seen the last of the Nationals’ Steven Strasburg. If they need a win to get to the World Series – or win it, for that matter – I expect to see him warming up. 

VII. Don’t Think We Forgot 

So we have enjoyed our summer, the Olympics, and now the NFL is back…but we haven’t really forgotten, especially after your 47% comments were released, Governor Romney. You’ll never be able to convince 47 per cent of us to take personal responsibility for our lives…and it seems we’ll never be able to convince you to release those other years worth of tax returns. We’ll see what happens on November 6th.Image