NBA Going Global…At Least Trying To

International stars Andrea Bargnani and Sasha Vujacic battled it out at the O2 arena in London

The Toronto Raptors lost their franchise player in the off-season. The New Jersey Nets set the record for the worst start to an NBA season last year going 0-18 before getting their first victory. With that in mind, you have to ask why the NBA would choose those 2 teams to play the first ever regular season game in Europe. Why would the NBA ever think that this would be best way to build their brand overseas?

On Friday, the NBA played its first ever regular season game in Europe at the O2 arena in London, England. This endeavour is all part of Commissioner David Stern’s attempt to make the NBA a more global phenomenon. However, like the NFL, the NBA is going about this all wrong.

You think they would have learned from the majority of terrible games that the NFL has showcased internationally. Of the 5 games that the NFL has played outside of North America, only 1 of those games has been worthy of spending 3 hours of a Sunday watching. The Bronco-49er game this past season may have ended up being a good game, but the sound of Kyle Orton and Troy Smith facing off against each other doesn’t really make me jump for joy.

I can see why the Raptors were picked to play this game. They have a serious international flavour to their team. Most notably Andrea Bargnani (Italy), Jose Calderon (Spain), and Leandro Barbosa (Brazil). Not to mention the natural connection that many Englanders could possibly feel towards their commonwealth nephews. Still, with Bosh departing for South Beach there was no doubt that the Raptors would struggle this season.

The Nets, on the other hand, are just a confusing choice. The NBA was incredibly lucky that the Nets front office pulled off the unthinkable by acquiring Deron Williams because without him these past two games in London would have lost whatever small amount of lustre that it had.

It’s never a good sign when the biggest story of your team’s season is Kim Kardashian.

If the NBA wants to continue with this global expansion they have to fully commit to it because otherwise there’s no point. It’s obvious that they don’t want to burden possible contending teams like Boston or LA with a mid-season trip overseas. Seriously, you think Phil Jackson wouldn’t be mouthing off about the distraction of a London trip in March?

The atmosphere in London for the Raptors and Nets was comparable to a College atmosphere. Fans were chanting and doing the wave, but imagine what the atmosphere could have been like if the games had held any actual significance.

Sure, the two games’s sold out but that really isn’t that big of an accomplishment for a stadium that holds just under 19,000. Some fans are just so desperate to see NBA ball in person that it doesn’t matter who is playing. When exhibition games come to town in Vancouver the games sell out in a flash simply because there are a lot of people who need their fix of real basketball, not that an exhibition game exactly qualifies as real basketball. At least the games in London were both regular season games.

The NBA was bailed out this weekend. Fans at the O2 arena were treated to one good game and another exhilarating one, possibly the best of the year. You can thank the Raptors run and gun style as well as their 105 plus points allowed per game defence for that. The Raptors have put up some real stinkers this year, hence the 17-46 record. However, the Raptors shot very well this weekend and displayed lots of energy while the Nets were up for the challenge.

Very fortunate because I’m pretty sure the goal of this London trip wasn’t to showcase what the majority of the NBA really is. An overabundance of perennial bottom feeders that are unable to compete with the elite teams.

If the NBA wants to do this again next season they need implement a couple of games that mean something. If international is what the NBA wants it then meaningless basketball is not what the NBA should give.

The NBA was let off the hook this weekend by two teams energized at the idea of making history but if they try to pull this again next year the result probably won’t be as favourable.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. You can also follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favor.

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Whatever Happened to Good Ol’ Rebuilding?

Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony may be on their way out of Denver

In this modern age of internet, smart phones and high definition TV the idea of immediate gratification is one that can be achieved on so many different levels. Up to the minute stats, highlights and scores all in the palm of our hand seem to be leaving people with shorter attention spans and a want for that instant satisfaction.

What we are seeing in professional sports is the thought of building your team through scouting, drafting, developing and shrewd moves now turning into thing of the past.

Of course in all sports, the New York Yankees over the past 30 years have been the leading proponent in this regard, but in light of the Carmelo Anthony trade rumours once again surfacing, we can see that the NBA may be the league that has made the greatest transition to the hope of instant success.

With the best teams around the league sporting star-studded roster through big free agent signings and blockbuster trades the proof is in the pudding that rebuilding is not the road to take if you want to compete in today’s NBA.

However, for team’s putting all their eggs in one superstar’s basket, there is no doubt in my mind that creating the recipe for success from scratch would also allow them to compete with the NBA’s best.

These days franchise front offices are not willing to be patient enough to execute a solid 5-7 year rebuilding process.

Too often we see team’s overpaying for talent that could be found through other means. Very rarely do we see trades occurring without the transfer of expensive expiring contracts that at one point were given prematurely to these players.

After failing to acquire Lebron James this off-season, the New Jersey Nets, with their new billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov, are not willing to wait any extended period of time for their players to develop.

Currently, they are close to executing one of the biggest trades in NBA history where they would give up some of their best young talent in exchange for a fringe franchise player in Carmelo Anthony and a couple of aging, albeit, proven veterans in Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups.

If this trade does indeed go through, the Nets would sport a pretty decent roster, but it won’t be at quite the level that it needs to be in order to win, much less, contend for a championship. Although Brook Lopez is a very solid NBA center, for whatever reason his numbers have somewhat declined from last season, and by giving up Derrick Favors and Anthony Morrow they would be losing two potentially important role players down the road.

Prior to the season Chris Paul had expressed his desire to leave New Orleans

Even if the idea behind the deal is to a certain extent future focused, with the theory that getting Carmelo to sign an extension could possibly lead to acquiring one of Chris Paul or Dwight Howard in a couple of years, this school of thought is very wishful thinking and in my eyes is not the best method to go about in building a contending franchise.

The New York Knicks wasted/spent 2 full seasons clearing up cap space just at a chance to obtain the great Lebron James.

They had to settle for Amare Stoudemire. Granted, Amare has been a better acquisition that most people, including myself, had thought he would be. However, the Knicks do not have a roster that is going to contend for an NBA championship anytime soon. What’s even worse is that they do not have a first round pick until the year 2014.

If you don’t lay down a solid foundation then there is no way that you can build a great house.

It really is as straightforward as spending more energy on scouting, drafting and developing.

Just ask the Seattle Sonics/Oklahoma City Thunder who have built contending team primarily out of guys from within their system who they committed to developing. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, James Harden and Serge Ibaka are all players that have been with the franchise since day one.

Despite these prime examples, GM’s continually focus on spending ill-advised big bucks on certain players when it is clear that their team is not ready to compete.

With his failed Allen Iverson experiment, Joe Dumars decided that paying a lot of money for Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva was going to take his team’s aging roster, with the exception of Rodney Stuckey, to the next level. Good move Joe, good move.

The patience of the Chicago Bulls has paid off as they have built around emerging superstar Derrick Rose. They did sign a marquee free agent this past season in Carlos Boozer, but the signing was warranted because they had the necessary pieces in place. Boozer has only played a bit over half of the season for the Bulls because of injury. Nevertheless they still sit at 25-12, no doubt due to the play of Rose but also his fellow Chicago Bull developed teammates Joakim Noah and Luol Deng.

There is no need for every team to feel like they have to follow in the footsteps of the Boston Celtics or Miami Heat.

Obviously, there is no guarantee that patience, commitment and dedication will be rewarded in a rebuilding process, but then again when are there ever any guarantees in sports?

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Lebron and sidekick will be dominant, but will it translate to a championship?

Fellow all-stars Lebron James and Chris Bosh could be playing together next season

This past weekend the New York Times reported that a team executive from one of the clubs going after Lebron James said the free agent to be is strongly leaning towards the Chicago Bulls, along with fellow USA teammate Chris Bosh. The source said that he gathered as much from discussions with his fellow NBA executives, saying, “I think it’s a done deal.” The source also stated that the other major teams attempting to lure Lebron and Co. are the Miami Heat, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks, and the Los Angeles Clippers. Now we all know that Lebron James can carry a team to the top of the NBA standings and adding a guy like Chris Bosh to his team would make it that much more dominant. However, the question arises of whether bringing in Lebron and another max player will translate into an NBA championship.

If the New York Times report does indeed happen to be correct, and the Bulls are able to lure Lebron and Bosh to the windy city, they will be joining probably the best supporting cast, of the teams that have the cap space to acquire 2 max free agents. Of the 5 players that the Bulls have under contract next year, 4 of those guys are all productive players. The 4 include Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, and Taj Gibson. Derrick Rose is turning into one of the elite point guards in the league and Joakim Noah has made a name for himself with his rebounding, hustle, and determination. Although Luol Deng has not lived up to the big contract he signed a couple of years ago, he did have a strong comeback season last year averaging 17.6 points and 7.3 rebounds. Taj Gibson, who plays the same position as Chris Bosh also had a solid rookie season and would be a very adequate backup.

I think that there is virtually no doubt that the Bulls, with Lebron and Bosh, would be a dominate regular season team. However, come playoff time, they are going to have some issues if they are unable to bring in the role palyers that would best complement their lineup. First off, as of right now the Bulls are missing a shooting guard/quality stand-still shooter. If you have Derrick Rose, Chris Bosh, Lebron James and Joakim Noah in your starting lineup, LBJ is the only “consistent” 3-point shooter (33%). The offensive end is seriously contracted with those 4 guys on the floor. If the Bulls cannot add a couple quality shooters it will be tough to call them legitimate contenders for the NBA Championship.

J.J. Redick is looking at a raise this offseason

For the Chicago Bulls, cash is going to be an issue for bringing in quality players, but there are a couple potential guys on the market that could fit nicely onto their roster. J.J. Reddick is a restricted free agent who proved that he can be a real solid bench player for the Orlando Magic this year, as he has expanded his game and improved his defence. Also, former USA National team player Mike Miller is an unrestricted free agent and could be what the Bulls need. Although Miller has stopped shooting the ball in recent years, he still shoots it at a high percentage, and maybe getting open looks from a star-studded Bulls cast could change that. Nate Robinson could also be an option as a guy coming off the bench. Robinson showed that he can keep his mouth shut and put the team above his own needs while he was in Boston. Let’s not forget the aging Anthony Parker who is a smart veteran that knows his role and will not be seeking a whole lot of money.

It should be noted that Luol Deng has shot the 3 ball at around 38% the past three years, but only took 1.2 three-pointers a game last season, which was the most in his career.

The thing is, it is hard enough to find good role players for your team under normal circumstances. But when you are hoping to sign top flight free agents the salary cap becomes even more of an issue. It is going to be a big problem for these teams that have shed so much salary specifically for the 2010 free agent class because they have virtually no one on their rosters. The Chicago Bulls currently seem to be the best equipped of the teams in contention for Lebron and friends.

Right now, the Knicks have Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, as well as the developing Toney Douglas and Bill Walker. They also have Eddy Curry, but he is just most likely going to sit on the bench and count his millions. New York is not looking like the most viable option for any top tier free agent.

The Miami Heat, assuming Wade comes back, have only 3 guys on their roster after waiving James Jones today. The other two would be Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers. Again, like other teams in their situation, they are looking to find a number of quality bench/role players.

People like to talk about the weakness of Lebron James’ supporting cast in Cleveland, but when you look those guys compared to these other teams, was it really that bad? The Cavs had Mo Williams who is a very good shooter from the outside and although he isn’t a playmaking point guard you have to wonder if Lebron would work well with a point guard who dominates the ball and can’t shoot from the outside at a high percentage. Anderson Varejao and Joakim Noah are very similar players. It is obvious that Antawn Jamison underachieved but he has been a 20-10 guy throughout his career. Moreover, you add on Delonte West and J.J. Hickson, and suddenly you think that maybe these teams aren’t much better off than the Cavs.

Don’t get me wrong, adding an all-star power forward will make a world of difference for Lebron James, but in the end you need the proper role players to get the job done. It also has to be said that having Bosh or Stoudemire as a sidekick is not a very solid intimidating presence in the paint for opposing big men. Bosh isn’t strong enough to be a true force inside and Stoudemire doesn’t seem to care on the boards sometimes. That’s why the situation in Chicago would be great because Joakim Noah can be that force in the inside even though he is more of a power forward.

Brook Lopez is turning into one of the best center\'s in the NBA

One team that isn’t talked about nearly as much as the Knicks, Heat, and Bulls, are the lowly New Jersey Nets. In terms of supporting cast, the Nets are arguably in the second best position among the teams involved in the Lebron sweepstakes. New Jersey currently has 8 guys under contract and soon to be 9 with Derrick Favours coming to town. As we have seen with the LA Lakers the past two years, having a big team makes a big difference. If Derrick Favours can live up to his potential, he would give the Nets a two headed monster up front along with Brook Lopez. You also have an all-star calibre point guard in Devin Harris, who is looking to rebound after a poor injury plagued season. Then add to the mix good role players in Courtney Lee and sophmore Terrence Williams. All of the sudden you’re looking at an upper echelon team if you can acquire Lebron James. However unlike Chicago or Miami, the sidekick needed here would not be Chris Bosh or Amare, rather someone like Joe Johnson would probably be the best fit if Lebron were to flock to New Jersey considering they would already have two starting big men. It was also reported today that Yi JianLian has been traded to the Wizards for Quinton Ross and cash, which leaves even more cap room for the New Jersey Nets.

It looks as though Lebron James is going to leave Cleveland and bring a sidekick with him wherever he goes. There is no denying that a team with Lebron James is immediately a playoff team, but without the right pieces it will not be a championship team.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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