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View Full Version : "Angry Man" Rosen grades East at quarter-point


JMarkJohns
12-12-2004, 08:36 PM
Eastern Conference grades
Charley Rosen

As the season races past the quarter-pole, it's time to evaluate each team's performance thus far.

Bear in mind that the season still has a long, long way to run, and while some teams will dramatically improve and even peak as the playoffs draw nigh, some teams will just as inevitably disintegrate. The grades are not absolute, and are meant to measure each ball club's accomplishments (or lack thereof) against its expectations and capabilities.

ATLANTA: F

The Hawks were supposed to be bad, but not this bad. The point guard position is a mess — Kenny Anderson's wheels are about to fall off, and Travis Best only has eyes for the hoop. Antoine Walker is a selfish pig, who can't shoot free throws, and averages as many turnovers as assists. Their best center, Kevin Willis, has played in NCAA and NBA competition longer than five of his teammates have been alive. Since they have nobody to trade that anybody else wants, the only way to improve the horrendous hand they hold would be to active coach Mike Woodson, and two of his assistants, Larry Drew and Greg Ballard.

BOSTON: C

Paul Pierce has had to carry a big load for the Celtics this season. (Rocky Widner / GettyImages)

The Celtics are just about where they should be. Although Paul Pierce is forced to carry too heavy a load, Boston has a potent offense (to go with a middling defense). Ricky Davis is undisciplined and Gary Payton is ready for the glue factory. Raef LaFrentz is strictly a finesse player, but has successfully resurrected his career. Mark Blount is having close to a career-year, but is likewise somewhat soft around the edges. What Boston needs is a mean-spirited bully boy to roam the paint—and either Marcus Banks to get older in a hurry, or GP to get younger.

CHARLOTTE: B

The Bobcats are on track for a 16-win season—yet belying their win total is the fact that they're almost always competitive. Emeka Okafor is clearly the gem of the current crop of rookies.

Brevin Knight has proved to be surprisingly adept at caretaking and initiating the Bobcats' offense. Primoz Balzac ... er, Brezec can almost score enough to balance his defensive deficiencies. Gerald Wallace will improve—even though this may take as long as it takes for Charlotte to win a road game. Kareem Rush was a terrific pick-up—this guy sees the floor, can shoot and defend, and has already delivered under big-time pressure. What the Bobcats need is a time machine so their promising youngsters can quickly become seasoned veterans.

CHICAGO: D-

Don't hold your breath waiting for Eddie Curry to become a legitimate force in the middle. Until their center position is consistently productive, the Bulls other young players will have a long and painful apprenticeship. As it is, there's too much pressure on Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Chris Duhon, and Kirk Hinrich. (When, if ever, was the last time that Duhon hit two jumpers in succession?) All of these guys can hoop, but the grind of losing night-after-night can deflate a neophyte's self-confidence and wear out his chops. Tyson Chandler is quietly developing into an excellent complementary big man. Antonio Davis' seat on the bench should be a rocking chair.

Because the Bulls can neither score nor defend, they need a major trade. How about everybody but the rookies, Chandler and Hinrich in exchange for all the living members of the Hall of Fame?

CLEVELAND: B+

The Cavaliers are almost there. To become a serious playoff contender LeBron James needs to take better care of the ball, and also to focus more of his energy on defense. Zydrunas Ilgauskus needs feet transplants. Drew Gooden needs ballet lessons to increase his agility. Lucious Harris needs to find his lost jump shot. Eric Snow needs to find his lost youth. The Cavs need another scorer who can create defensive confusion, as well as a dead-eye shooter. Meanwhile, kudos to Paul Silas for nurturing James and elevating the performances of all his players.

DETROIT: C+

Okay, Big Ben is back and ticking as ever before, so the Pistons' defense will soon be clockwork smooth and efficient. With no further injuries, suspension, and/or jail sentences, Detroit has three major concerns: Getting up for each and every game. Having Rasheed Wallace play with more passion and consistency—not to mention avoiding technical fouls (he's currently tied for second in total T's with six). And, most importantly, Chauncey Billups must improve his overall shooting--currently, he's close to 40% from 3-point range, but only 42.5% from everywhere. Without Billups' pull-up shots putting sweat-free points on the board, Detroit simply has to work too hard to score.

INDIANA: D-

Injuries are an unavoidable part of the game. The number of players on the IL depends upon how the ball bounces and how the bodies fall. As for the consequences of The Brawl--that's what happens when you hire children to carry the basket that contains all of your eggs. Can anything save Indiana's season? Perhaps they can still challenge for the championship if Ron Artest is pardoned on the condition that he undergoes either intensive psychological counseling or at least a partial lobotomy.

If Shaq could stay out of foul trouble, the Heat would be a more dominant team. (Jonathan Daniel / GettyImages)

MIAMI: B

They're good, but not dominant. That's because Eddie Jones, Miami's resident Mr. Softee, is missing nearly 65% of his shots. Because, despite his weight loss, Shaq is still somewhat heavy-footed and prone to committing charges and other fouls that he was able to avoid in his younger days. Because, between them, Shaq and Dwyane Wade average seven turnovers per game.

Also, since Shaq is still a brick-layer from the foul line, Wade is the Heat's only viable go-to candidate. Trouble is, Wade's still a mere hoopling and his jumper remains suspect. In fact, it's the unexpected and largely unheralded defense and rebounding of Udonis Haslem that's picked up the shortcomings of his teammates. But not to worry—come the playoffs and Shaq's interest will be piqued to the point where he'll be quicker, more intense, and even a better free throw shooter.

MILWAUKEE: D-

Defense is the Bucks' problem area. Of their starters, only Desmond Mason is an accomplished defender. Since 6-foot-11 Dan Gadzuric weighs only 240 pounds, Milwaukee also lacks bulk (and shot-blocking as well) in the middle. Joe Smith is an adequate power forward, the currently injured Keith Van Horn is renowned throughout the league as being adverse to physical contact, Desmond has become an explosive point-maker, and Michael Redd is a first-rate quick-shooting scorer. For sure, the Bucks need T.J. Ford to experience a miraculous healing—but even should that occur, their inability to guard limits their possibilities to challenge for a playoff spot.

NEW JERSEY: C-

Without Lucious Harris, Kerry Kittles, and Kenyon Martin, and with Jason Kidd down-and-out for so long, the Nets are exactly as bad as they're supposed to be. Their placement at the bottom of the league's points-per-game ranking is no accident. Richard Jefferson is their only viable go-to scorer, but his production is diminished by his penchant for committing turnovers.

Alonzo Mourning is a credible force in the paint, as long as he doesn't get the opportunity to shoot whenever a game is on the line. Credit the Nets' scrappy defense for keeping them half-way competitive. The return of Kidd will help, of course, on offense as well as defense—and J-Kidd's fiery will to win will prove even more helpful.

Even so, the Nets need more shooters, scorers and rebounders. They also need Mourning to stop yapping and complaining. In fact, if Zo-Mo no longer wants to play in the Swampland, why shouldn't he be required to pay the Nets (instead of the other way around) for the privilege of becoming a free agent?

NEW YORK: C-

The Knicks are a classic .500 outfit—up one game, down the next. Tim Thomas and Jamal Crawford are their most erratic players, with Stephon Marbury not far behind. Meanwhile, New York has been waiting for Allan Houston longer than Vladimir and Estragon waited for Godot. If Houston's sharp-shooting might stabilize the Knicks' offense, he certainly won't improve their porous defense. The only thing that's keeping the Knicks' playoff hopes alive is the pitiful lack of competition in the Atlantic Division. To try and salvage the season, Isiah Thomas is sure to resort to some outrageous wheelings and dealings. Alas, nothing foreseeable can prevent New York's profound mediocrity from being terminal.

ORLANDO: B+

The Magic can score, rebound, and block shots with anybody. Defense is another matter. Most of their fire-power comes from the three "skill" positions—Steve Francis at point guard, Cuttino Mobley at scoring guard, and Grant Hill at small forward. Still, if Francis and Mobley are routinely quick on the draw, it's Hill who scores the lion's share of the tough points. Dwight Howard mostly rebounds and stays out of everybody's way.

Until Kelvin Cato recuperates from his latest stint on the IL, however, the Magic have nobody to bang and bully opponents in the paint. Another big-chested, mean-spirited lane-prowler with NBA experience would certainly boost the Magic's fortunes. As it is, Hill has the magic wand and his teammates will go as far as he can transport them.

PHILADELPHIA: D

The only reason the Sixers aren't awarded the red flag is because Jim O'Brien had the guts to grant Glenn Robinson permanent residence in the dog house. With Allen Iverson already ensconced in the lead position, Philly didn't need another ball-hogging, defenseless, and over-hyped less-than-super-star.

So what can't this team do? Shoot, score, block shots, and play defense. What can they do? Stand around and watch Iverson take and miss far too many shots (he shoots a paltry 38 percent), turn the ball over (4.1 per game), and try to stay alert in the event A.I. feels moved to pass them the ball (he's also good for 7.1 assists). As long as a shooting-impaired 5-foot-9 guard is given license to totally dominate the Sixers' game plan, Philadelphia will remain a dysfunctional ball club. What's the solution? Iverson is virtually untradeable, yet the front office should accept any deal that's put on the table and get him out of town ASAP.

TORONTO: D-

The only redeeming feature of this sad-sack outfit is that they've surprisingly competitive—thanks, no doubt, to Sam Mitchell. But as long as Vince Carter is an obvious lame duck, the Raptors will be fair game for any team that can sustain its intensity from tip to buzzer. Jalen Rose is, and always has been, only looking out for himself. Rafer Alston has too much style and not enough substance. Loren Woods lacks sufficient bulk.

Vince Carter's game is less than meets the eye. The only keepers are Chris Bosh, Matt Bonner, and Donyell Marshall. It's not only understandable but also quite necessary that Toronto send both Carter and Rose elsewhere. That makes the next few weeks the most critical period in the history of the franchise. In exchange for these broken-winged All-Stars, Toronto should take special pains to import only those players who have the skills to fit smoothly into Mitchell's game plan—but even more important, they must be mature and totally unselfish.

WASHINGTON: B+

Gilbert Arenas is one of the reasons why the Wizards are the NBA's second-best offensive team. (Fernando Medina / GettyImages)

"Hurry up and score so we can score"—that seems to be the Wizards' motto. It's no surprise, then, that Washington is the NBA's second-best offensive team (102.5 ppg) and third worst defenders (99.3). Despite this even-handed game plan, the Wizards' are only one of three Eastern Conference teams that sport a winning record on the road (Orlando and Miami are the others).

The bulk of the points are recorded by Gilbert Arenas (who tends to be selfish), Larry Hughes (who's more of a scorer than a shooter), and a surprisingly consistent Antawn Jamison. Brendan Heywood is man-enough in the middle. Kwame Brown remains an underachieving spoiled brat. And Jared Jeffries is the most defensive-minded player on the squad. Since both Arenas and Hughes would rather shoot than pass, Washington could use a tough, savvy point guard. Also another ruthless, glass-eating big man. Meanwhile, credit Eddie Jordan for getting the most out of his one-trick ponies.

JMarkJohns
12-12-2004, 08:43 PM
Eastern Conference grades
Charley Rosen

DETROIT: C+

Okay, Big Ben is back and ticking as ever before, so the Pistons' defense will soon be clockwork smooth and efficient. With no further injuries, suspension, and/or jail sentences, Detroit has three major concerns: Getting up for each and every game. Having Rasheed Wallace play with more passion and consistency—not to mention avoiding technical fouls (he's currently tied for second in total T's with six). And, most importantly, Chauncey Billups must improve his overall shooting--currently, he's close to 40% from 3-point range, but only 42.5% from everywhere. Without Billups' pull-up shots putting sweat-free points on the board, Detroit simply has to work too hard to score.

INDIANA: D-

Injuries are an unavoidable part of the game. The number of players on the IL depends upon how the ball bounces and how the bodies fall. As for the consequences of The Brawl--that's what happens when you hire children to carry the basket that contains all of your eggs. Can anything save Indiana's season? Perhaps they can still challenge for the championship if Ron Artest is pardoned on the condition that he undergoes either intensive psychological counseling or at least a partial lobotomy.

I have no prollem with any of the grades, 'cept these two.

First off, Detroit has played like crap from jump-start this season. Full-strength, undermanned...doesn't matter, they have been horrible.

Indiana was like 7-2 when the Brawl occured and 3-8 since. Thing is, they have competed very hard with benchwarmers as starters and scrubs as their bench.

I'd gave Detroit: D+
I'd give Indiana: B-

They are both 10-10 and Detroit has been near-full strenth for all but 7 games...Indiana has been undermanned due to injury and suspensions the entire season, yet they're tied, yet Indiana is graded D- and Detroit is graded C+???

I know Rosen is a fan of Larry Brown and all, but he needs to stop catching the 'stons spunk and watch some games...

GlobalCat
12-12-2004, 08:46 PM
Even if he is negative, he is by far my favorite NBA writer.

JMarkJohns
12-12-2004, 08:48 PM
He's always well informed, but does tend to come across as angry and lets his own personal bias overly-influence his writing.

Though, I agree. He's a very good writer and has some very good thoughts.

I like Kerr much better, but read each and every article of the two.

DCCat
12-12-2004, 09:46 PM
I don't think these grades are that great, and it's hard to determine what his criteria are. For some teams, he seems to be grading relative to expectations or relative to mishaps and misfortunes that have already happened this season, and in other cases he seems to be using some absolute, mean-spirited set of criteria that probably reflect some kind of grudge.

I agree with both your criticisms, JMark, and I also think it's pretty clear that the Bulls, who started predictably slowly, are steadily improving and have now become a consistently (well, more or less) competitive and dangerous team. Yes, they've got some dysfunctional things to fix, but considering their youth, giving them a D- is unwarranted.

Also, I'd like to know how Travis Best "only has eyes for the hoop" in Atlanta when he's actually playing for New Jersey.