Weekly Countdown (cont.)
4 Questions rescued from the spam
4. Do you think Portland can now enter the playoffs? A young team sometimes needs veteran leadership. As of now, Portland has no veteran.
What's the current status of Greg Oden? Is he on schedule to play in the NBA's summer league? Also, how do you see the Trail Blazers using Oden's unique talents this coming year?
Health permitting, the Blazers will add two ready-to-play rookies to a rotation that managed 41 wins last season. Oden will improve the team defensively at the very least, and the Euroleague experience of Rudy Fernandez will enable him to contribute on the wing next season. While it will be difficult for a young team like the Blazers to reach the 50-win threshold of the Western Conference playoffs, at least they continue to add talent while rivals like the Warriors and Clippers were weakened by free-agent departures this week. Plus, Brandon Roy plays like an experienced star. One way or another, they'll acquire an older difference-maker to round out the team in a year or two.
As for Oden, he has never been planning to participate in summer league. He is on target to return to the court in September and to participate in training camp. The Blazers have so much young talent already that they won't need him to be a scorer as a rookie, and so he'll be allowed to work his way into the team at his own pace.
3. What do you think of the NBA's hiring of a retired U.S. Army Major General to head its officials? The guy has no experience with the NBA or officiating, and his qualifications go as far as leading in the reconstruction of Iraq. This looks like a PR move at best to make the NBA look like it's trying to get a handle on the officiating situation. I don't see the fit.
The hiring of Ronald Johnson to the new position of senior VP for referee operations is a welcome admission that the NBA has mismanaged its referees. My impression, based on the league's response to the Tim Donaghy scandal, was that the league had been treating the news of a referee's unlawful relationship with sports gamblers as a public-relations scandal more so than as a symptom of deep problems. This is a league that had been bragging about how it had improved its authority over the referees, only to learn from the FBI that one of its more highly ranked referees was a crook ... after which the NBA too quickly tried to assure us that Donaghy was the only felon among the referees. The only verifiable truth therein was that the league had no credibility to make such a claim.
It's good news that the NBA hired an outsider to inspect its organization of referees from top to bottom. To bring in another basketball guy for this job would have been a superficial response to a potentially mortal issue.
It's going to be interesting to watch for wholesale changes in the NBA's administration of the referees. The hiring of Johnson suggests that the league was seeking an entirely new perspective on officiating. Will that perspective lead to a new structure? It should, but don't take for granted that it will. And, in all fairness, don't expect improvements to be made quickly, either. Johnson has to be given time to learn the good and the bad of the current system before he can formulate and -- hardest of all -- execute a new relationship between the NBA and its referees.
2. As a Sixers fan, I'm thrilled by the acquisition of Elton Brand. My question is how the Sixers can fill their other hole (a shooter off the bench). Who could the Sixers go after to fill this role?
They have no space to sign another free agent, so they'll have to trade for one. But it needs to be a shooter who has the makings of other skills -- defense especially.
The next phase for the 76ers will be to change the way they defend. They like to scramble the game to create turnovers and a quickened tempo, but the elite playoff teams will always defeat that strategy. The Sixers need to establish a strong man-to-man defense with an ability to play half-court offense if they ever want the signing of Brand to lead to real contention. While they need shooting, the shooter they acquire must be able to contribute athletically at both ends of the floor.
Anyway you look at it, whether it's adding perimeter shooting, developing their young players or improving their fundamentals defensively and in the half court, the 76ers need to be given at least a couple of years to turn the acquisition of Brand into a deep playoff run.
1. Do we yet understand what thorn drove Baron Davis to bolt the Warriors as he did? And didn't he learn anything from KG? Being a big fish in a stagnant pond is a draaaag, man.
He wanted the security of a guaranteed five-year deal (which the Warriors weren't going to give him), he wanted to play with an All-Star in Brand and he wanted to return to his hometown of Los Angeles, where he'd be in the mix of the movie business in which he is dabbling as a young producer. (I shake my head at some of the facts I find myself typing about this league.) Davis still has two of those three attributes working for him. Brand will be missed, but Davis has the five lucrative years in his pocket, and it isn't his fault that Brand bolted. The laudable intention was to join a team that had a chance to contend, before Philadelphia lured Brand away.