Hot Start for the Blazers

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Look, I know I'm a homer.  I realize I'm a die-hard Blazers fan.  But this winning streak they're on is something I can't just ignore right?  I can't just say "I'm a fan, therefore I shouldn't talk about it."  After all, Bill Simmons writes about the Celtics/Pats/Redsox constantly, so I should be able to give some love to my team when it's warranted, right?  I think so.

That being said... the Blazers are freakin' awesome!  I'm not delusional enough to think that less than a fifth of the way through the season, the Blazers second best record in the West is indicative of them being the second best team in the West.  Nor am I silly enough to proclaim that they are the third best team in the entire NBA, as their record places them right now.  But what I will say, unequivocally, is that this Blazers team is better than we thought they'd be.  A team that was originally supposed to compete for a playoff spot is now being considered a team that could potentially compete for a top-4 seed.

If I were betting on the Blazers playoff seeding, I'd say 5th or 6th is pretty likely.  But that's still very exciting for Portland fans who have experienced tremendous frustration, hope and heartbreak following their beloved team over the past decade.  But with success comes criticism and expectations, and some are not believers in Portland's success, for various reasons.  There are two main concerns brought up by national media outlets urging caution regarding the Blazers' hot streak.  Let's take them one-by-one.

Portland hasn't played anybody

Bullshit.  Portland has beaten the Spurs, Warriors, and Suns, who all currently have winning records.  Additionally, there are only 12 teams in the league right now with winning records, meaning of the winning teams, Portland has beaten 25% of them.  If you throw in Chicago, who had a winning record until they played the Blazers, then that's four teams, but we'll stick to 25%.  The only team with a winning record with a more impressive schedule this year is the Clippers, who have been playing fantastic this season.

Portland is making shots, what happens when they stop? 

Portland is making shots by design.  This is the difference between the Knicks (who jack up bad shots all game, but sometimes make enough of them to win), and the 2010 Orlando Magic, who used ball movement and an inside-outside game to give their shooters excellent looks at the basket.

Additionally, Portland has more than a couple shooters.  Damian Lillard has a dagger three from distance that he seems to drill every time the Blazers need it, and Wes Matthews is on pace to break the franchise record for three point percentage, so clearly there is talent outside.  But when these two players are having off nights (something we haven't really seen from Wes yet to be fair), Nicolas Batum and Dorell Wright step up and can make deep shots.  If they can't do it?  Mo Williams has shown a knack for making shots when the Blazers' offense stalls.  Yes, the Blazers are five deep when it comes to shooters, and this is not counting Will Barton at the end of the bench (who averaged 13 points a game down the stretch last season) and the injured rookie C.J. McCollum, first round pick out of Lehigh, who will be out another month or so.

And when the shots aren't falling?  LaMarcus Aldridge has demonstrated he can be a force inside, and Lillard definitely can penetrate.  Also, Batum has shown himself to be adept at racking up rebounds, steals, and assists, playing the utility knife role in the Blazers offense, helping others get shots while making plays on his own when he needs to.

And how about Aldridge?  Aldridge is playing as well as anyone right now, and he just won Western Conference Player of the Week following his 30 point, 21 rebound performance against the Warriors Saturday night.  Aldridge had a double-double in just the fourth quarter!

Long story short, the Blazers are making shots, but they're also doing a lot more too.

 

Behind a rapidly improving defense, newfound depth on the offensive and defensive ends, the improvement of players like Joel Freeland, and the star power you get from Aldridge and Lillard, there's reason to think the Blazers stay hot and finish with a high playoff seed.  It's hard to believe because of how they finished last season, and I remain cautious with them, knowing it'll take continued improvement and a luck in the injury department to do it, but I think that all signs point to this being a very good team, not unlike the Warriors and Pacers last year, who surprised everyone.  The thing all three teams have in common, a factor that I think is a pleasant surprise for the Blazers, is the fact that these guys love to play together.  This is something you can see in the eyes of every Blazers.  This team likes to be on the court together.  And that, as much as anything, should continue to fuel the fire and confidence that have the Portland Trailblazers playing excellent ball.

 

Weekly Roundup

Weekly Roundup

Hello everyone!  Here’s what 2 Guys are reading this week:

Things aren’t looking good for Aldon Smith.

Josh Freeman should eventually beat out the incumbents in Minnesota.

Magic Johnson leaves ESPN’s NBA Coverage show, amid rumors of dissatisfaction with Bill Simmons’ increased role on the show.

Bill Barnwell does a great job discussing the Panthers offense.

The injury to Julio Jones is devastating for the Falcons.

Our friend Chris Barnewall discusses Brendan Haywood’s injury.

Nice discussion of the Pirates looking toward next season after such a great Cinderella story in 2013.

Despite the Orioles’ woes, 2 Guys reminds everyone that Chris Davis had a fantastic season.

Oh Kanye

 

2 Guys are a little late on this podcast, but Welcome to Night Vale is fantastic!  A little comedy mixed with H.P. Lovecraft… check it!

 

Have a great weekend everyone!

Michael Jordan is Not Playing This Season

It's the time of the year wear everyone is giving out their previews for what to expect this upcoming season in the NBA. We here at 2 guys are no different. (Check out our Sunday Podcasts where we are previewing a different NBA division every week till the start of the season.) Over at Grantland.com, Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons are previewing all 30 teams over the next month.  So far they've been entertaining. Not very informative. But entertaining enough. (Check them out here.)

Today they put up a clip teasing their Charlotte Bobcats preview. In it, Jalen Rose dropped the jewel that I have linked in the video above. He predicts that Michael Jordan will come out of retirement and play one game for the Bobcats this season. Sigh. We're really gonna do this? Yeah? Fine. Lets do it.

This is idiotic. And not idiotic in an everyone is entitled to their own opinion type way. Idiotic as in do you even pay attention to basketball.  Michael Jordan is not playing for the Bobcats this season.  First of all, Michael Jordan is the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats. The NBA prohibits owners from playing for the team they own. So in order for Jordan to suit up for the Bobcats, he would have to sell his stake in the team then get the new ownership to put him on the roster. This is just simply not happening.

Also, Michael Jordan is 50 years old. 10 years younger than my mom. 10 years older than Grant Hill. Since he retired from the Wizards, he's had a heavy dose of steaks, wine and cigars. He is no where near basketball shape. 

And also, explain to me why the Bobcats would even want this to happen? For added jersey sales? Shoe sales? They are becoming the Charlotte Hornets next season. Merchandise sales are about to sky rocket. It all makes no damn sense. This was just a classic case of an NBA "analyst" not having anything informative to say about a team he knows nothing about and pulling something out his ass. Hey Jalen, do just a little research next time. Leave the dumb comments to us amateurs on the internet. 


 

Brandon Jennings and a Lesson in Overvaluing Yourself

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I'm a big proponent of being realistic. Particularly when it comes to yourself. Know what you are good at, work on the things you aren't good at and have goals and expectations that match those attributes. It can be a hard thing for some people to do.  But it's a necessary step we all must take if we expect to succeed.

If there has been one entity  that has been the biggest loser of this NBA Free Agency period, it has to be Brandon Jennings' ego.  The 4th year point guard expected a big pay day this offseason. And while he still may get a significant deal, the likelihood of a deal even remotely close to his expectations appears to be very slim.

Brandon Jennings is a good player. He is a slightly above average point guard in a league that has the most talent at point guard as it has ever had in it's history. Yeah, I said it. And I'm not taking it back. Chris Paul. Deron Williams. Tony Parker. Kyrie Irving. Rajon Rondo. Damian Lillard. Russell Westbrook. Stephen Curry. I challenge you to find a time where there was a deeper pool of elite point guards. I'll wait...

I'm sure Jennings thinks he belongs in the same class as those guys. And you could make an argument that he does. But I disagree. Brandon Jennings belongs in a tier below those elite point guards I mentioned above. Along with guys like Jrue Holiday, Mike Conley Jr, Ty Lawson and Kemba Walker. 

The reality for Brandon Jennings is that there just isn't a huge market for a shoot first point guard who isn't very efficient.  Most NBA teams are set at point guard. But there are several teams that could use an upgrade at PG:

  • Los Angeles Lakers - Steven Nash is old. And there isn't much else on that roster.  He'd be a good fit for that team. Next year. As it stands now, they don't have the money.
  • New York Knicks - This is the ideal spot for Jennings. But they can't afford him. 
  • Miami Heat -   Again, this would be a great landing spot for him but they also can't afford him.
  • There are also several bottom feeding teams that could use an upgrade at the PG position. But none of these teams make sense for Jennings and those teams don't need to overpay an inefficient shoot first point guard who's not a good defender. 

The reality for Jennings is this is just not a great year to try to cash in for him. He's not in high demand (this video does a great job of breaking down why) and he's not nearly as good as he'd like to think he is. There is a place for him in the league. He just needs to realize where that place is. And it's much lower down the totem pole than he wants to admit.