Friday, November 10, 2006

"It's Floodin' Down In Texas"

"...all the telephone lines are down." With a nod to Stevie Ray Vaughn, a bottle of Vitamin Water and a crappy cup of office coffee, a quick look around the league:

What is wrong with the Dallas Mavericks?

Or for that matter, the Suns and Nuggets? Three teams we all thought would contend in West are sporting a combined 2-12 record. That's a .142 win% between the three. I'll give some credit to the Suns and Mavericks, they've both played awfully tough schedules for the first week and a half of the season. But the Nuggets ... losing to Minnesota and New York at home? Come on fellas. It's far too early to make any judgements, but I do think there are minor reasons for concern. Phoenix is clearly still adjusting to having Amare Stoudemire back, and Mike D'Antoni has been jerking around with the starting lineup, switching around Boris Diaw, Raja Bell and Leandro Barbosa. Denver got some bad news about Kenyon Martin, and despite strong starts from Carmelo and Camby they simply need more production from the backcourt. As for the Mavs, I'm sure they'll be fine, but it's been a bizarre start for a few of the Western Conference heavyweights.

Darius Miles' knee: insurance ploy?

Three things occurred to me as the news came down yesterday that Darius Miles would be undergoing another knee surgery.

1. Why didn't they figure this out sooner?
The team had the entire offseason so get his knee looked at; what exactly took so long? Did they simply assume he'd be okay and when he showed up with swelling and pain it was a big shock? We've all heard the "he might have played his last game ever for Portland" rumors -- which are just weird -- and all of this just doesn't make a ton of sense right now.

2. Do we really want him back?
I don't think we do. He's supposedly a clubhouse cancer; he'd be taking minutes away from Udoka, Martell, and Outlaw; Nate doesn't like him; the team is doing well without him, and he doesn't try very hard. It's not like Portland is winning a championship this year and his contributions will help push them over the edge. I see more negative than positive to Darius' rejoining the team.

3. Could this be an insurance play by Portland?
You can't help but wonder. Why delay this second surgery until the season has already started? Some of the quotes from Darius ... "the team knows whats going on, it's up to them" ... "I'm just waiting on their decision" ...etc, imply that the Blazers took their sweet time with addressing this situation. Now clearly the players' union would file a grievance if Portland were deliberately doing anything to prevent Darius from playing or from getting the medical attention he needs, but I'm merely pointing out that if Darius doesn't play at all this season, the it's possible that Portland could get an insurance cash windfall to cover part or most of his salary. And given that they may not want him back that badly anyway, it's certainly possible that they'd rather just collect the insurance payout and keep him away from the team.

What a bizarre situation this whole Darius thing is. Stay tuned.

The Thomas Watch

Isaiah's Knicks are 2-3, with wins over Memphis and Denver, and losses to Atlanta, Indiana and San Antonio. And let me say this: they're in for a huge downturn. Not because of anything that Isaih is specifically doing, but rather because of their schedule. They've got games @ Houston, @ San Antonio and @ Miami, with home games against Cleveland, Washington and Houston again -- all in the next 11 days. Following this recent 1-6 stretch I expect they'll be something like 3-9 and not looking good, and we'll see the real heat start to come down on Isaiah.

The Pacers Watch

You all know that Indiana is my big sleeper pick this year to make it out of the East. How are they doing so far? Let's take a look. They're 3-2, with wins over New York, Charlotte and Philly, and losses to NO/OKC and Washington. So they've essentially beaten up on the crappy teams and lost to the decent teams. We'll check back in in a few weeks.

The Bargnani Watch

How's the #1 overall pick doing? He's played in all four games for Toronto thus far, averaging 3.5 points and 2.3 rebounds in 9 minutes of play. I know it doesn't work this way, but at that rate if you give him 30 minutes per game he's a 10-and-7 player. Not too shabby for a rookie. He's a project, and Toronto acknowledged this when they drafted him. Going further down the draft list, we all know how LaMarcus Aldridge is doing ... move along, nothing to see here ... how about Adam Morrison? 15 points, 2 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 33 minutes per game -- or, exactly what we thought he'd do. He's not really rebounding or defending or distributing, but he is scoring. I can't say I'm terribly impressed with the 37% FG shooting, or 1.18 points-per-shot, but he's stroking it okay from 3pt (35%) and he's delivering some much-needed offense to the Bobcats.

Two other quick check-ins: Tyrus Thomas is averaging 5 points and 3 rebounds in 11 minutes per game for the Bulls, and Shelden Williams is averaging 3 points and 4.5 rebounds in nearly 20 minutes per game. Thomas is a project (he's the guy we should be watching compared to Aldridge, not Morrison) and I think Williams is commonly regarded as a disappointment so far -- but clearly too early to tell on both.

That's all for now. Fantastic post by The Lochi on forgiving Brandon Roy; pultizer material there. Any of us who grew up as Blazer and Duck fans -- and there are a lot of us -- can certainly relate to that. Two more tests for Portland this weekend as the Hornets and Mavs come to town. Enjoy the weekend, and Go Blazers.

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