Kiki’s NBA cuts (Dec. 4)
It is a luxury to have two of the best leaders in the NBA on one team. That is exactly what the Clippers have in guards Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups. CP3 was voted by the general managers in 2012 as the best point guard and leader in the NBA – the previous winner of the award – was his current teammate, Chauncey Billups.
Billups is the sage voice of reason, usually found in the retired great players. The only difference here is, Billups still plays and at a very high level. Everybody understood how mentally tough Billups was – becoming the finals MVP – as he led the Detroit Pistons to a championship. But that does not compare to the challenge he faced at 36-years old, coming back from a torn Achilles tendon in less than a year.
When Billups stepped onto the court last week, the whole arena, especially head coach Vinny Del Negro and the rest of the Clipper players were visibly uplifted. He got the team really excited to play basketball again after a four-game skid.
His contribution far exceeds his basketball playing ability, by just being on the court he makes everyone around him better. And the Clippers are undefeated with Billups back in uniform and have improved their assist to turnover ratio. Their once feared fast-break attack is back, because their defense is now back to where it should be.
Paul looks more confident and rested. He has an additional point guard to help shoulder the load and also as an additional shooter to help spread the court. Even though Billups is only playing a limited 20 minutes, the rest he will provide Paul for the postseason is invaluable.
Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan perhaps benefit the most from Billups being back. They are the most talented and athletic four and five combination in the NBA, but still young and emotional. It takes a special voice – with knowledge and respect – to communicate in the heat of a game. These are two guys with the biggest upside and stand to gain the most from Billups’ return.
What causes a talented team to be so inconsistent? To soundly beat the a strong Western Conference team in the Denver Nuggets, and then turn around and lose to the Orlando Magic, a cellar dweller in the East. It is frustrating and confusing at best.
The Lakers have one of the best starting fives in the league, but they do have issues – they are without their two point guards and they have a new coach and a new system.
Mike D’Antoni points to the fact that things will be different when Steve Nash is back. Everyone has acknowledged that the Lakers bench is weak. The team itself has questioned whether Pau Gasol is playing at his best. When a hugely talented team is inconsistent and underachieving, it almost always comes back to energy and effort. The Lakers are playing without a sense of urgency on both ends of the court. It is not important enough yet. They do not have the killer instinct that makes a championship team.
Don’t expect Nash to come back and save the day. Without the will to make every minute count, this is going to be a very long season.
San Antonio fine
The San Antonio Spurs were fined $250,000 for not bringing their top four players to play against the Miami Heat in a nationally televised game. This is San Antonio’s only visit to Miami. The great fans of the Miami will not get to see Tim Duncan, Tony Parker or Manu Ginobli at any other point in person. The Spurs are also one of the best teams in the West and a great rival of the Heat.
This was a nationally televised game. Networks and their advertisers pay a great deal of money for the rights to these games, not to mention the fans that plan ahead to watch them.
The Spurs did not notify anybody about sitting the players – including the Heat, the NBA or anybody else.
I know that this was a difficult decision and there are many sides to this story. The Spurs are one of the best organizations in all of sports and Gregg Popovich is the best coach in the game today.
But the bottom line is, the fans, whether they are watching in person or on television, pay a great deal of money to see their favorite players and teams.
The fans pay for all the players’ salaries and make the NBA the great brand that it is. They deserve the best product and David Stern is going to make sure that they get it.
Nene of the Washington Wizards has been hurt most of the season. He recently returned to the lineup and looked like the Nene of old. As he rounds into form, he could be a great bargain.
New York Knicks 6-3 rookie guard Pablo Prigioni from Argentina added to consecutive great games against Washington and Milwaukee. He averaged 26.5 minutes, 9.5 points, six assists and two rebounds while shooting a blistering 78% from the field and going 4-for-5 from three-point range. With Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton hurt and possibly out for a while, Prigioni looks like he will get more playing time, is a good bet to up his stats.