Boston-Brooklyn Brawl

Last night in Boston, a hard foul from Kris Humphries on Kevin Garnett resulted in a brawl that will likely result in fines and/or suspensions for Rajon Rondo and Gerald Wallace as well as Humphries and Garnett. Garnett was going up for a shot in the second quarter when Humphries fouled him. On KG’s way down to the floor, it seemed as though Humphries extended his arm and gave him a push with his hand to send him down harder. Rondo quickly took issue with the foul, getting in Humphries face and pushing him out of bounds. A brawl soon erupted with Rondo swinging and Humphries doing his best not to get run over as the aggressor Rondo drove him back into the stands. As the two were jostling in the crowd, Wallace and KG stepped into the fray as well. The brawl ended pretty soon after Wallace entered the mix because, well, who wants to get into it with Gerald Wallace? Once the players were separated, Boston’s so-called leader emerged without his jersey. He probably won’t be needing it for a while.

Rondo, Humphries and Wallace were all ejected from the game and Garnett received a technical foul. Rondo’s ejection meant his consecutive games streak with 10 or more assists came to an end at 37, which is tied with John Stockton for second on the all-time list (Magic Johnson holds the record at 46). Although Humphries’ foul was uncalled for and likely would have resulted in a flagrant foul or a technical foul, Rondo’s actions call for harsh punishment from the league and deservedly so.

Rajon Rondo immediately went after Kris Humphries after his hard foul on Garnett.

Not only was it Rondo’s fault that the fight carried into the stand, but this brawl in Boston wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t taken such issue issue with the hard foul. Wanting to protect your teammate is understandable, especially since such a foul could have hurt an older guy like KG, but Rondo has to learn that his actions and his bad attitude are unacceptable. There’s a difference between sticking up for your teammates and hurting the team by being a punk. If this were a first-time offense it wouldn’t be so bad but Rondo’s been subject to these outbursts of bad behavior before. The league will (and should) suspend Rondo for multiple games, with Wallace, Humphries and KG all potential targets for fines and/or suspension as well.

We’ve heard for years about how intelligent Rajon Rondo is and we’ve seen it on the court too. We understand how competitive this young point guard is and without that competitive fire and leadership, the Celtics would probably just be another aging team. But as some point in time, Rondo will need to step up and be a real leader of this Boston group. Doc Rivers said it best, but this kind of tough guy routine isn’t actual toughness. If anything, Rondo’s overreaction shows how soft he is and how easy it is to bother him if something like a hard foul can get that far under his skin. There’s nothing wrong with being competitive, but a guy who shoves referees, gets in regular spats with guys like Dwyane Wade and now has multiple ejections under his belt, he should know better. I personally miss the days when NBA rivalries got a little nasty and when players didn’t back down from anybody, but it’s a different league now. Players get technical fouls just for looking at a referee wrong. And because of this changing culture of referee control and league reviews, Rondo needs to cut the tough guy routine and be the leader Boston needs. And staying on the floor is a good place to start.

If the Celtics want to challenge anyone in the East this year, Rondo will need to fix his attitude.

2012-13 NBA Preseason Rankings

With the new NBA season starting in just six days, here’s a look at my preseason rankings for the 2012-13 season. Here’s the article covering the lower half of the NBA and here’s the article on the league’s top 15 teams.

NBA Free Agency Update – July 20

Here’s an update on the latest NBA free agency news via Reup Sports, including analysis on Jeremy Lin becoming a Rocket, updated Dwight Howard trade rumors and recent signings in Los Angeles. Check out the article here.

NBA Free Agency Roundup – 7/4/12

Another day, another hundred rumors and moves of NBA free agency. Here’s everything that went down today to keep you up to speed heading into Independence Day:

Deron Williams Staying With Nets:

Deron Williams came to his ultimate decision today, choosing to stay in Brooklyn over leaving for his hometown of Dallas to play for the Mavericks. Williams’ contract is a five-year, $98 million deal that will team him up with Joe Johnson for the time being. Williams coming back is great news for the Nets, but for now, he is just a piece of the puzzle that is still missing Dwight Howard.

D-Will decided to stay in Brooklyn in the hopes the Nets continue to brighten their future.

Trade Could Still Bring Dwight Howard to Brooklyn:

According to league sources, the trade for Joe Johnson didn’t quite put the Nets out of contention for Orlando superstar Dwight Howard. A possible trade that would send Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, and first-round picks in 2013, 2015 and 2017 to Orlando in exchange for D-12 is being discussed although nothing is set in stone. The Nets are looking for a third party to facilitate the trade, but the Magic are also looking into possible trades with the Lakers, Hawks and Rockets. The Mavericks are also in the running to get Howard, but only if he waits to explore free agency next year. If the Nets were able to swing Howard down to Brooklyn, they would be giving up a lot, but they’d be looking at a potential nucleus of Howard, Deron Williams and Johnson as well as Gerald Wallace, who signed a four-year extension for $40 million, according to league sources.

Is this still a possibility for the on-the-rise Brooklyn Nets?

Eric Gordon Wants to be a Sun:

The Suns have offered Eric Gordon a four-year deal for $58 million and after visiting Phoxenix, New Orleans’ star point guard feels that it is the place for him. The Hornets can easily match the offer as they have been saying they would if Gordon received any max offers, but Gordon’s comments about wanting to play in Phoenix might mean that New Orleans chooses to let him go. Gordon was supposed to form a solid nucleus with rookies Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers, but it remains to be seen what the Hornets’ plan of action will be.

The Hornets could match Phoenix’s offer, but will they do it now that Eric Gordon made his desire to be a Sun clear?

Jason Terry Agrees to Three-Year Deal with Celtics:

Jason Terry and the Celtics reached an agreement to a three-year deal worth $5 million annually. Although the deal certainly strengthened the bench with a wily veteran sixth man, Boston remains adamant about their desire to resign Ray Allen and Brandon Bass. The Mavericks can match Boston’s offer, but might not do so if they continue to look into point guards and the possibility of Dwight Howard next year.

Unless the Mavericks match the Celtics’ offer, the Jet will be landing in Boston.

Ray Allen to Visit Miami, LA Clippers:

Boston free agent Ray Allen will be visiting the Miami Heat this week as he continues to take his time with his options. The Celtics are committed to resigning their 3-point shooting veteran and can offer him a two-year, $12 million deal. However, the lure of winning another championship is certainly going Miami’s way after LeBron James and the Heat defeated Boston in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals before winning the title. Allen will also visit Los Angeles this week to hear offers from the Clippers, who view him as a starter. A few other teams are also still pursuing Allen, including the Grizzlies, Mavericks, Timberwolves and Hawks.

Ray Allen is still exploring his options between Boston, Miami and Los Angeles.

Jeremy Lin to Visit Houston Rockets:

A few weeks ago, it was very likely that Jeremy Lin would be returning to the New York Knicks. Now, the breakout star point guard is heading to Houston for a visit. The Knicks are certainly looking to resign Lin, but were unsure they’d be able to match other teams’ high offers and said they planned on playing it by ear. Other teams interested in Lin include the Raptors, Nets and Mavericks, although he is seen as a backup for each of these teams.

Jeremy Lin and the Knicks want to stay together, but Lin is still checking into his options.

More Point Guard Activity:

Now that the Mavericks failed to get their hands on Deron Williams, Dallas is looking for quality point guards, turning their sights on Steve Nash and Jeremy Lin. The Mavericks still haven’t made up their minds about Goran Dragic, who is reportedly having problems working out a contract with the Rockets and visited the Phoenix Suns Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Lakers have also taken an interest in Nash, while free agent Jason Kidd has narrowed his decision down to either Dallas or the New York Knicks.

Goran Dragic and Steve Nash are still on the market as point guards for multiple teams.

Raptors Offer Landry Fields Three-Year Deal:

The Toronto Raptors have verbally agreed with Knicks’ guard Landry Fields to a three-year deal for nearly $20 million. Fields cannot sign a new contract until July 11 (when all free agents can sign new contracts), but the Knicks can still hold on to him if they match Toronto’s offer. It remains to be seen whether or not New York would spend that kind of money on a role player with Carmelo Anthony, Jeremy Lin, Amare Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and J.R. Smith all potentially coming back, however.

The signing of Landry Fields in Toronto may be a play to get Steve Nash to join the Raptors as well.

Pacers Agree to Five-Year Deal with George Hill:

Indiana point guard George Hill signed a five-year extension to stay with the Pacers, though details of the deal were not disclosed. The Pacers will also be looking to keep Roy Hibbert, who was offered $58 million in a four-year deal with the Blazers. Indiana will have to match that offer to retain their All-Star center. However, if they don’t match, league sources say the Pacers will pursue Denver’s JaVale McGee and New Orleans’ Chris Kaman.

George Hill signed an extension with the Indiana Pacers, ruling out any possibility they had for Nash or Dragic

Nets Add Bosnian Forward Teletovic and Reggie Evans:

The Nets have verbally agreed to a three-year deal with Mirza Teletovic worth just under $16 million. Teletovic, a Bosnian forward at 6’9″, averaged 22 ppg and six rpg in the Euroleague this season. Since the Nets gave away almost their entire bench to get Joe Johnson and would have to give up even more for Dwight Howard, this signing could prove to be a very helpful addition if his game can translate decently into the NBA. The Nets also acquired the Clippers’ Reggie Evans from the Clippers in exchange for a future second-round pick. Evans was signed to a three-year, $5 million deal.

The Nets added LAC’s Reggie Evans and the Bosnian Mirza Teletovic.

Trade Impact: Gerald Wallace to the New Jersey Nets

The Nets and Trailblazers negotiated a deal that will send Gerald Wallace to New Jersey in exchange for Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams and a protected first-round pick. The deal seems to have been made for the Nets to convince Deron Williams to stay while the Blazers look to build next year around LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum.

The deal is a bit of a head-scratcher for the Nets, who just traded a possible future franchise player away for the 29-year-old Wallace, whose numbers have seen a steady decline over the past four seasons. Wallace is currently averaging 13.3 ppg for a struggling Blazers squad, coming nowhere near living up to the city’s expectations. However, you can see the potential for this year. A starting line up of Deron Williams, MarShon Brooks, Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez is a pretty sound starting five. Unfortunately, Lopez is not expected to return for at least three weeks and the team has considered shutting him down for the rest of the season. Perhaps Wallace playing with a quality point guard in New Jersey will help revitalize his career, but for now, this move may have hurt the Nets in the long run.

On the other side of the coin, the Blazers seem to have accepted their failures this season and are ready to look to the future by building around Aldridge and Batum. A first-round pick in a loaded 2012 draft will allow them to get a solid contributor to fill whatever role they deem most important (there are quite a few holes to fill for the Blazers at the moment). The future looks wide open for Portland, so long as they finally draft someone who won’t be injured for his entire career.

Gerald Wallace has been traded to the New Jersey Nets

Kobe Bryant’s Legacy

Kobe Bryant should go down in history as the second-greatest NBA player of all time. Although I don’t think he’ll finish his career as accomplished as the best of the best like Michael Jordan or Bill Russell, Kobe has singlehandedly kept the Lakers relevant throughout the years, even when the rest of his team has been lackluster. A player this talented and important to the game should be respected and admired, but why is it that so many people hate on Kobe Bryant?

Admittedly, Kobe is no longer the primary target of the basketball world’s scrutiny. LeBron James has easily taken that title since “The Decision.” Still, Kobe Bryant was the third-most hated NBA player according to Forbes’ list, falling behind only Kris Humphries and LeBron. So why is it, after all his success and becoming easily identifiable as the best player we’ve seen since MJ, that a majority of people still don’t like Kobe Bryant?

Four games with the mask and we're already hearing Hannibal Lecter jokes.

There are three main reasons for this. The first reason is something I like to call “The MJ Effect.” Kobe has won five championships, including a threepeat. He’s won an MVP award, two NBA Finals MVP awards and he continues to dazzle us with his ability to take over games in the fourth quarter and hit gamewinners. Like Michael Jordan before him, some people resent Kobe because he continues to be the best and we get sick of the monotony, no matter how great he continues to play. Basically, we’ve gotten sick of Kobe and the Lakers winning championships and we’re ready for something new. There are always haters when it comes to success, as we began to see with Michael Jordan as he neared the end of his career with the Bulls. But whereas the majority of people recognized that they were witnessing the greatest of all time make history with Michael Jordan’s accomplishments, most knowledgable basketball fans know that Kobe will never measure up to MJ, so why be interested in watching him win more championships? It’s an easy point to back up, all people have to do is remind Kobe fanatics that Shaq was the Finals MVP the first three times he won a title with the Lakers, basically saying that it wouldn’t have been possible without Shaq (Phil Jackson too). Kobe isn’t even the best player in the league anymore (sorry but LeBron is better, even if he can’t hit a gamewinner) and we’ve seen him win before. So unless you’re a Lakers fan, you’re ready for someone new to be dominant.

We've seen Kobe win. Most people want to see something new.

The second reason people generally dislike Kobe Bryant goes back to the rape allegations back in 2003, when a young hotel employee, Katelyn Faber, filed a sexual assault complaint. Whether or not he actually raped the 19-year-old Faber was never proven because the case never went to court, but he did admit to having an adulterous sexual encounter with her. The worst part of all of this however, was his ambiguous and questionable apology to Faber after the charges were dropped, which left a lot of room for doubt as to whether or not the sexual encounter was consensual. So despite the charges being dropped, it’s not easy to forget a serious and scandalous accusation like that.

But probably the biggest reason why people dislike Kobe Bryant is his general demeanor and confidence that borderlines (and often crosses into) cockiness. Kobe is a winner. Kobe is a fierce competitor. But nowhere in those descriptions does it say Kobe has to be a nice guy. And that works for him, because he can be a downright dick sometimes. We see plenty of Kobe Bryant; whether it’s in postgame interviews or funny commercials with Aziz Ansari, the NBA’s audience gets plenty of exposure to him. But no matter how entertaining some of those commercials may be and no matter how many gamewinners he continues to hit, most people just don’t have a good impression of Kobe Bryant. It might be that ugly, jaw-clenched face he has when he’s at his competitive high. Maybe it’s his tendency to be a sore loser in how he handles defeat in press conferences and interviews with such a condescending and short attitude. It may even be something as small as the anti-gay slur incident that he was fined $100K for. But whatever the case, that fire and extremely competitive nature Kobe Bryant carries around with him is the same quality that prevents his commercials from being too endearing and makes him such an unlikable person in society’s eyes, in victory and defeat.

Here is the biggest reason we dislike Kobe: his demeanor. Exhibit A - Kobe's Game Face.

All Lakers fans adore Kobe Bryant, and rightfully so after all he’s given the franchise. Some Lakers fans foolishly look at him as the greatest of all time. The smartest ones acknowledge that he isn’t the nicest guy around and that he’s not MJ, but also recognize that he’s a one-of-a-kind competitor and winner with a legacy of his own. So what is that legacy? When his time is done, he will go down as the greatest Laker of all time. Perhaps not the most loved (no one will take that away from Magic Johnson), but Kobe’s ability to make big plays at the most critical moment of a game and win championships will secure his place in history as the second greatest basketball player we’ve ever seen, regardless of what we think of him as a person.

As a Suns fan, I can’t stand Kobe Bryant. But as a basketball fan, player and student, I can’t deny the respect I have for his talent, competitive fire and ability to win. I absolutely hate watching Kobe with his game face on when he’s singlehandedly taking over a game or dominating my Suns. Yes, Michael Jordan had a similar game face when it came down to crunch time, but his was purely inspiring unless you were a diehard fan of the other team. Kobe’s game face, like his entire persona, is one that largely inspires disgust and dislike from the majority of people who aren’t Lakers fans. So go ahead and hate on Kobe’s success. Mock his overly competitive attitude and make fun of him for his postgame interviews. But whether or not you like him and his game face doesn’t matter, because at the end of his career, people had damn well better respect Kobe Bryant and the ugly face he made on the way to becoming the second-greatest NBA player we’ve ever seen.

Like him or not, Kobe Bryant should be remembered as the second greatest player to ever play the game