Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Lovable Ballers (Pt II.) ... Training Camp’s In The Air, Can You Smell It?

When you check the NBA’s team rosters out, on every squad there’s a player you like the most out of that respective bunch. Here are my choices:

Sacramento Kings
Bobby Jackson
Bobby “The-Sixth-Man-Of-Those-Bibby-Christie-Peja-Webber-Divac-Kings” Jackson is a lovable man on the Kings. Almost everyone associated with the Kings in some capacity (fan, coach, executive, janitor, etc.) is excited about the return of Bobby Jackson. A leader and fan favorite, Jackson comes back into Sacramento as a savvy veteran capable of helping a collection of youth really grow into professionals that find success in the NBA. Oh, and he's still a darn good basketball player, too. The 08-09 Kings only have one go-to scorer in Kevin Martin and when the game is on the line, he's likely to be the one with the ball in his hands... but it's possible Bobby J., who has hit some clutch shots in his career, might be a go-to scorer as well.

Philadelphia 76ers
Andre Iguodala
I can’t hide my affection for AI 2.0. Regardless if he was deserving of his large contract or not, he was the 76ers' best playmaker last season. With his ability to post small guards and blow by small forwards, Iguodala established himself as one of the NBA's young stars and Sixers' top playmaker. Now with Elton Brand controlling the post, Iguodala will have plenty of chances to expand his game even more this upcoming season. Remember, after turning down $57 million dollars just before the start of last season, Andre played through the 07-08 season knowing he might have passed up a lot of money, but he knew something no one else did. He had his best season as pro, which earned a bigger contract offer this time around in the amount of $80 million. With all that money comes great expectations, and with his continuous progression expect Iguodala to have a monstrous year that could earn him his first All-Star selection.

Toronto Raptors
Jamario Moon
On the Moon and back... last NBA season, we discovered Moon. Raptors’ top defensive ace, Jamario was a revelation in 07-08. After bouncing around the NBDL and everywhere in the world, J-Moon led Toronto in blocks and was a close third in steals. For less than $800,000 the Raps have this generation's Bo Outlaw: a 6-8 gym rat with boundless energy, defensive intensity and a legendary vertical.

Portland Trail Blazers
LaMarcus Aldridge
He knows exactly what he is capable of. Now, it's time for the rest of the league to find out how legit Aldridge really is. He was the best second-year player in the league. He put up some big numbers. And this summer he put up some big weight (he’s really huge now). Word is, Aldridge - who averaged 17.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, after posting 9 points and 5 rebounds his rookie year - has spent a lot of time in the weight room this offseason, and added some muscle and definition to his 6-11 frame. Aldridge's third year should be something to behold. Oden + Aldridge... I’m scared.

Washington Wizards
Gilbert Arenas
Yes, he’s cocky... but he’s funny, knowledgeable and opinionated, as well. Agent Zero is back for the long run. Gilbert Arenas will return to take the Wizards leading scorer's role away from Antawn Jamison season. Expect another All-Star campaign from this max contract player (if he’s healthy, which is no small if). Even though the Wizards had a better record without Gil last season, his monster deal says he is still "the man" and will run this team. Considering the Wizs were one of the worst ball handling teams in the league, Arenas will be welcomed in the backcourt with open arms. (Note: There are times when Arenas bites off more than he can chew. Then again, that is just part of his persona. Arenas, a self-proclaimed "entertainer," may not always be right but at least he is always exciting to watch (and read).)

Cleveland Cavaliers
Boobie Gibson
Don’t ever call him Daniel! He’s Boobie! Gibson, the second-round pick out of Texas University, exploded on the scene as a rookie during the famous 2007 Eastern Conference Finals versus Detroit. He does an excellent job of stretching the floor when he’s knocking down his outside shot, which makes LeBron's life easier. Gibson was named the team's starting point guard at the start of the 07-08 season, but succumbed to injuries and struggled through the second half of the season and the playoffs. With Delonte West still in the mix and Mo Williams the new starter at point, Gibson will go back to a role he has proven he can be effective in - instant offense off the bench. With Williams running the show, Gibson may see some time as an off-guard, if the Cavs choose to play small ball.

Golden State Warriors
Stephen Jackson
Make no mistake, S-Jax ain’t just shooter (both on and off the court...), he’s Warriors’ top defender. Remember what Stephen did to Nowitzki when the Ws beat the Mavs? That's the kind of defense the athletic and long Jackson can consistently lock down opponents with when he puts his mind to it. Jackson has the size and strength to go with that length and combines that all with solid lateral movement, making him a formidable defender. Jackson has a reputation around the league as being someone that is a bit difficult to coach at times, but he has been nothing but a model citizen so far in the Bay Area. A captain and veteran leader for Don Nelson's team, Jackson is one of the best teammates in the league (I like him so much cuz he was an important member of the title-winning Duncan-Robinson 2003 Spurs), really taking the idea of a team as a family and running with it. The Warriors' locker room is full of stories of things that Jackson has done for his teammates that have really helped them out. Oh, and he's a pretty darn good basketball player, too. Jackson is currently positioning himself for a contract extension, likely his last big deal in the NBA, so it'll be interesting to see how Jackson balances that personal goal with his team-oriented nature. I wish him well.

Denver Nuggets
Allen Iverson
This legendary blog started with a poem about A.I. - don’t be surprised he’s my fave Nugget. Iverson is best known for his scoring and with good reason given the fact he's one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history. However, he's also not bad at setting up his teammates. Last season he averaged 7.1 assists per-game, a number which might surprise some given his shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later reputation. Obviously, Iverson won't ever be confused with John Stockton or Magic Johnson. However, his playmaking ability is underrated, and due to the fact he has the ball in his hands so frequently, his teammates are going to count on him to be the primary creator again this season. (Long side note: It really is fun to watch this guy play. His small stature and fearless mentality makes him worth the price of admission on a nightly basis. Whether or not he will finish his career in the Mile High City and lead the Nuggets to the Promised Land remains to be been, but all basketball fans in Denver should feel fortunate they get the chance to watch this guy compete for at least one more season. After the 08-09 campaign, he’s an unrestricted free agent. (Okay, I think the Nuggets will trade him before the All-Star break (they need some lottery draft pick), because they have no chance this season with their roster in the wild West.) Given current projections, five teams - Thunder, Grizzlies, Blazers, Heat and Pacers - will have significant money under the cap to spend on FAs. ...at the age of 33, AI’s still great. Last year he shot his highest field-goal percentage and had his lowest turnover average in a decade. By all accounts he's still a dominant player... but several nagging questions hurt his case for a big deal in ‘09. One, with the exception of that one magical season in Philly under Larry Brown, is Iverson a winner? Two, at some point his amazing physical gifts have to start deteriorating. When he loses his speed, what will be left of his game? Three, who gives him the big paycheck? No in Miami, they need cap for 2010. No in OKC, MEM, IND, POR - all want to build teams with new generation of players. So where will he be in 2009-10? Shouldn’t he sign for less bucks with any legit contender? What about bolting for money in Russia? No matter where he ends up, Iverson has one thing going for him - he still sells tickets.)

Hey, most of the teams around the NBA are beginning to hold "unofficial" workouts and scrimmages. Mmmmm. Basketball season.

p.s.: The only semi-available player I'd trade Ginobili for would be Joe Johnson (27). Failing this, the Spurs would be advised to stand pat, hope that their elder statesmen can squeeze out another quality season, that Ginobili's rehab will be successful and that Roger Mason is a big surprise. (-Charley Rosen)
p.s.2: You can't beat three incompetent FIBA refs speaking different languages for providing an I-hope-this-doesn't-turn-out-like-the-last-three-seconds-of-the-'72-Olympic-gold-medal-game edge. Just when Spain was fading, Fernandez caught the on-fires from Navarro and YouTubed Howard with a hellacious dunk. But he fouled out on an egregious touch foul (Kobe's game-altering four-point play), and Spain cried conspiracy after. Problem is, those bozos called a whopping 55 fouls and looked more wobbly than a 93-year-old backing out of a driveway. Fun wrinkle, especially if you wanted to have a two-hour heart attack. (-Bill Simmons)

Posted by Foreigner in CS - Sep 16 2008 1:07PM

No comments: