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.

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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.

Free Agency News: 7/3/12 Roundup

As is the case with free agency every year, it’s been a busy week filled with headlines for numerous stars and the smaller pieces that might go unnoticed. Here’s a quick recap of the major deals and rumors that have gone down in the past week.

Hawks Trade Joe Johnson to Brooklyn Nets:

I already covered this one earlier today, but the Hawks sent their All-Star guard and his not-so-All-Star contract to Brooklyn in exchange for the majority of the Nets’ bench and a future first round pick. Atlanta finally accepted Johnson and Josh Smith weren’t working out and the overpaid Johnson left for Brooklyn in exchange for Jordan Farmar, Anthony Morrow, Johan Petro, Jordan Williams and DeStawn Stevenson. The Hawks are looking like they’ll struggle during the 2012-13 season, but their next acquisition might help a little bit.

The Nets didn’t get the All-Star they wanted (Dwight Howard), but got Joe Johnson instead. Now they need to hope Deron Wiliams stays on.

Hawks Acquire Devin Harris from Utah Jazz Trade:

Don’t get too excited, Atlanta. You’re still going to be sorry next season, but at least the acquisition of Devin Harris from Utah will ease the incredible burden that’s been placed on Josh Smith’s shoulders. The Hawks sent Marvin Williams to the Jazz in exchange for Utah’s inconsistent point guard as Atlanta’s new GM Danny Ferry has wasted no time making his intentions clear: getting rid of the the organization’s two peskiest (and overpriced) contracts in Johnson and Williams. With so much money being cleared out, the Hawks are clearly trying to make room to make big moves, possibly for Dwight Howard or Chris Paul should he not resign with the Clippers. Whether high-caliber moves such as these happen this offseason or the next remains to be seen, but Ferry has done an excellent job with these two moves to ensure the Hawks see long term growth. Plus, Harris isn’t a shabby point guard and can certainly help a team out with 3-point shooting when his shot is on. His streaky shooting and overall inconsistent play makes him a bit of a gamble from week to week, but the Hawks need a revival and certainly got the upper hand of this trade with Utah. The move is particularly curious for the Jazz, who gain little from shopping their starting point guard for a former number two draft pick who hasn’t ever lived up to expectations.

The Hawks certainly improved by trading Marvin Williams for Utah’s Devin Harris.

Deron Williams Still Undecided:

At first, Brooklyn’s trade with Atlanta for Joe Johnson was contingent upon whether or not Williams resigned with the Nets. However, the deal went through anyway, leaving the Nets in limbo waiting for their All-Star point guard to decide between resigning or heading to his hometown of Dallas to play with Dirk Nowitzki on the Mavericks. Williams is likely to make his decision known within the next one or two days, either liberating Brooklyn from the ever-growing concern they might only be left with Joe Johnson’s ridiculous contract or turning Dallas into a much more dangerous force in the West. We’ve already been over what the Nets would look like in the backcourt with Johnson and D-Will, but if the Mavericks get their hands on Brooklyn’s star point guard, the combination of Williams and Dirk could get interesting.

Will D-Will stay with Joe Johnson in Brooklyn? Or will he join Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas?

Lamar Odom Goes To Clippers:

A few days ago, the LA Clippers and Dallas Mavericks worked out a deal that sends Lamar Odom back to his former team in exchange for Mo Williams. As part of a four-team trade, Odom will try to restart his career where it began in Los Angeles as Williams moves on to the Utah Jazz. I don’t see the move as a good one for the Clippers for the time being, but if Odom can play more like the Sixth Man of the Year that he once was, it could prove to be beneficial in the long run. The acquisition of Williams for the Jazz meant they had an extra guard, which might help explain why Devin Harris was shopped for Marvin Williams.

Lamar will get to revitalize his career where it all began in Los Angeles.

Bulls Looking for Veteran Guards:

With Derrick Rose likely missing a significant chunk of the next NBA season, it’s no surprise the Bulls are looking for veteran guards who won’t eat up too much money and can step in to take over while their star point guard recuperates. The Bulls have already reached out to Derek Fisher and Brandon Roy and while there are no solid deals to report on yet, keep your eye on this one. Fisher is also being pursued by the Thunder, Heat and Mavericks while Roy is fielding offers from several teams as well.

With Derrick Rose recovering on the sidelines, the Bulls will need to add another point guard.

Celtics Hoping to Resign Allen, Bass, Green:

Despite the popular opinion that Ray Allen will be in a Miami Heat uniform next season, Danny Ainge has said that the Celtics are making resigning Allen a priority, along with Brandon Bass and Jeff Green, who may be able to return to Boston as a free agent. While the possibility of resigning all three of these Boston regulars may be difficult, I wouldn’t doubt that they get their hands on at least two of those three. Allen has been offered deals with Miami and the Memphis Grizzlies, but would make the most money if he stayed in Boston. It will come down to whether or not he believes he can win with Miami and whether or not he’d be willing to take a pay cut to do so, but for the time being, nothing has been decided regarding Allen, Bass or Green yet.

Will Ray Allen choose the Celtics and more money over the lure of a championship in Miami?

Dwight Howard Drama Continues:

Dwight Howard came out and said there’s only one team on his list earlier this week, and although he wouldn’t say outright that it was the Nets, no one else seemed capable of being that team if not Brooklyn. Until yesterday, that is, when the Nets basically took their names out of the Howard sweepstakes with an ill-advised trade for Johnson, who will take up a considerable chunk of cap space. The Mavericks and Hawks are both clearing room for big offseason acquisitions, so Howard might want to think about adding more teams to his stubbornly short list. Howard said if he doesn’t get traded to the one team on his list, he would play the season out and then explore free agency, although the choice is not his to make if the Magic decide to shop him.

Dwight Howard continues to ruin his legacy by running his mouth about his trade demands.

Steve Nash’s Future Still Unclear:

The Toronto Raptors made Nash a 3-year offer, which Phoenix seems unwilling to do at this point. The Suns are leaning toward a 2-year deal if their All-Star point guard stays, but with the drafting of Kendall Marshall, they seem to be preparing for the worst. Nash says he is keeping his options open, which is a smart decision considering his large number of suitors, which includes the Knicks, Mavericks, Raptors and Suns. At this point it seems more and more unlikely Nash will stay in Phoenix, but to leave one non-contender for another doesn’t seem like something an aging veteran in search of his first title would do (ruling out Toronto).

Nash’s future in Phoenix seems unlikely, but no one else has put a great offer on the table yet.

Roy Hibbert Offered Deal by Portland:

The Portland Trail Blazers are looking to strengthen their frontcourt even further after offering All-Star center Roy Hibbert a four-year deal for $58 million. The Blazers went through a major upheaval last season and had a disappointing year but adding Hibbert to LaMarcus Aldridge would form a formidable team in the paint, especially with rookie Meyers Leonard likely coming off the bench. However, if Hibbert is smart (and not motivated primarily by money), he’ll stay in Indiana. After such a disappointing playoff performance with the Pacers, Hibbert definitely has something to prove to his team, a squad that can actually contend in the East if they continue to mature.

Hibbert has unfinished business in Indiana. It’d be a shame for him to leave for the weaker Blazers just for the money.

That’s all for now, but keep checking back for the latest free agency news and analysis.

“World Peace” and Lakers Haters

A highly anticipated Sunday matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder turned ugly pretty quick after Metta World Peace got so excited from a dunk he felt the need to elbow James Harden in the head as hard as he could. Watching it live, it didn’t look particularly severe or intentional; watching the dozens of replays that followed immediately proved otherwise. The irony of “Metta World Peace” making such an idiotic and downright despicable play was immediately clear as everyone hammered him and the Lakers on Twitter and Facebook while LA fans tried to come up with some clever response to what had just happened.

Now I’ve never liked Ron Artest (from here on out I don’t care what his name is, I’m never referring to him as “World Peace” again) because I’m a Phoenix Suns fan. His buzzer-beater changed momentum in a playoff series that ended my favorite team’s hopes of going to the Finals. And as an ASU student, I love James Harden and his epic beard, especially since he’s having such a breakout year. So I’m sure any Lakers fans reading this are going to accuse me of being biased. But let me assure that when I wrote this post, I considered both sides and wrote it in a fair and strictly professional way. With that being said, there are times in sports when it’s acceptable for there to be haters because of the actions of some players, and this is certainly one of those moments.

Artest’s elbow on James Harden was a disgrace to the game and if he isn’t banned for more than 10 games, I will be disgusted. You can say all you want that maybe it wasn’t intentional because he wasn’t looking at Harden when he threw the elbow, but even if he just felt the presence of someone next to him, how does it make sense that he maliciously threw the elbow and followed through? He knew what he was doing, whether he was looking at him or not. He tried to explain to the referee that he was just pumped up and beating his chest, but I don’t recall the last time someone in the NBA beat their chest and threw an elbow while doing it. So there’s no question that after such an awful play, Laker haters were in heaven. They had another valid reason to hate on the team they previously could only resent because of their success.

To be fair, Lakers fans have to deal with a lot of hating. And until last year, it was mostly because Kobe Bryant and his team were so successful (although it’s also true a lot of fans dislike Kobe because of the rape allegations a few years ago). But whatever the case, sports fans will be sports fans; Laker haters make comments about the integrity of the organization and Kobe any chance they get and LA fans respond with generic comments reminding everyone about how historically successful their franchise has been. I admit, I’ve hated on the Lakers before just because of how long they’ve been successful and how great Kobe Bryant has been in his career (especially on my poor Phoenix Suns). And that may seem two-faced of me considering how one of my team’s former players, Raja Bell, was responsible for one of the biggest cheap shots in NBA history on Kobe Bryant. But Raja Bell doesn’t play for Phoenix anymore and found no love in my heard for that horrendous excuse for a foul; in fact, I condemned him after that play and wanted him out of my team’s uniform immediately, something I had no problem telling anyone who would listen. But I didn’t hear anything like that from Laker fans yesterday.

To all my Lakers fans, I have to say this: While it’s been unfair for most people to hate on the Lakers in the past for the reason of resenting success, there’s a legitimate reason to do so now. Artest’s blatant elbow to Harden’s head was a disgrace to the game and he should be fined and suspended for at least 10 games. But what a lot of people should remember is that this isn’t the first time this kind of crap has happened with the Lakers. There was Andrew Bynum’s ridiculous body check on J.J. Barea in the playoffs last year, followed by him taking his shirt off in an immediate ejection. Lamar Odom’s hit on Dirk Nowitzki was completely disrespectful and got him ejected in the same game. And who could forget the fact that Ron Artest is a repeat offender after the infamous Pacers-Pistons brawl in 2004? So is there any question that Laker haters actually have a legitimate reason now?

Artest is a repeat offender. A ban of no less than 10 games should happen here.

It’s wrong to hate on a team because of their success, and at some point in our sports-loving lives, we’ve all been guilty of it. But the fact is, it still happens and that’s never going to change. Lakers fans, Steelers fans, Yankees fans and a lot of other great teams know this already. But after things like this happen, I don’t blame fans for jumping on the “HATE L.A.” bandwagon. And something else to consider is that Lakers fans aren’t making things any easier on themselves with their sarcastic, anti-Laker hater tweets defending such an indefensible act. A few of them admitted how disgusted they were with what he did, but the majority were already on the defensive because of the barrage of Artest-hating sentiments that were raining down. Rightfully so, and I’m not saying Lakers fans should go choose another team to support just because of what Artest did. But when your first move as a “true fan” is to go on the offensive to defend your team and ignore what happened after such an egregious act, you (and your team by extension) don’t deserve the rest of the league’s respect.

The Thunder losing the game and Kevin Durant disappearing like that was absolutely disturbing. They had a reason to win and someone to play for and completely choked. But it’s not inexplicable; after that elbow, OKC lost their third best player and all the Lakers lost was Artest. LA was actually better off without him, as Jordan Hill had a terrific game. And sure, LA took the lead, won it in double overtime and got everyone in the Staples Center fired up, but anyone who wasn’t a Laker fan wanted them to lose, especially after Staples Center gave Artest a standing ovation as he left the court. It felt like injustice. I’ve never been more disgusted watching a team win a basketball game in my entire life, and seeing Laker fans jubilantly celebrating the win and Kobe’s clutch performance didn’t feel right, even if they had every reason to do so. Now it’s unfair to blame an entire organization for one idiot’s mistake, but after Bynum and Odom’s actions last year and now this, it’s hard to fault Lakers haters.

Ron Artest has always been a punk and changing his name to “Metta World Peace” might be one of the biggest ironies in NBA history. You can call me biased and you can call me a Laker hater, but when I watched that Oklahoma City Thunder-LA Lakers game on Sunday, I was cheering against the Lakers not as a James Harden fan and not as Laker hater. But I sure as hell cheered against the Lakers as a fan of the integrity of the game of basketball. So please, Lakers fans. Just this one time, can you stop being so damn defensive about Laker haters and admit that someone on your team did something wrong and just leave it at that? Because the rest of us would probably take it easier on you if you had the courage to say you’re just as disgusted with Ron Artest as we are. In fact, you’re doing a disservice to the very team you love so much, a team with a rich basketball history, by not doing so. You want Laker haters to stop? Show them you’re won’t tolerate any kind of behavior that tarnishes the image and reputation of your team. Then you will have my respect as a truly classy fanbase.

Support your team all you want. But when stuff like this happens, you should be ashamed if your first thought is to defend your team and not condemn this crap that makes your team look bad.

Lamar Odom Done in Dallas

After a season of mediocrity, disappointment and hurt feelings, Lamar Odom and the Dallas Mavericks have decided to go separate ways. Odom is not officially released, but will be listed as inactive and is not required to play for the Mavs for the rest of the year. Teams interested in Odom will have to pay Dallas for him, either $2.4 million to buy him out by the draft date or $8.2 million after that for the 2012-13 season.

Odom’s career low averages were a huge disappointment to a Dallas fanbase already regretting letting Tyson Chandler and JJ Barea go, but the situation with the former LA Laker forward reached a dramatic high when fans started booing Odom whenever he set foot on the floor. Odom’s sensitive feelings in being dealt by the Lakers (basically for free) and his poor conditioning at the beginning of the season proved to be his downfall in a lackluster season for a Dallas team that failed to utilize his skill set properly behind Dirk Nowitzki. It wasn’t a good fit, the fans knew it, and both parties have finally realized it and decided it was time to stop pretending Lamar Odom could contribute. Odom averaged 6.6 points and 4.4 rebounds this season with the Mavs, which were both career lows by a considerable margin.

Odom won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award and was a key contributor for two Lakers championship teams. This year, Odom was almost moved down to the D-League. Odom will be available for any team willing to pay, but at this point, it seems like the only teams that will be interested in taking this disappointing prospect are at the bottom of the league.

The Dallas Mavericks and Lamar Odom agreed it was time to stop pretending things would work out.